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The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1

Album Review


Published November 23, 2011 at 1:09 p.m.

Let’s not mince words. I’m not the target audience for Twilight films. And, if you’re bothering to read this review rather than rushing off to the theater for an eyeful of Bella’s wedding dress, you’re probably not, either. Chances are, you’re reading this only because (a) You want some snide laughs at the expense of Twi-hards or (b) You suspect someone is going to drag you to Breaking Dawn, and you need to know what to expect.

Well, I can help. I’m an old hand at these films. I even kind of enjoyed the first one. I’m convinced the Twilight film pentalogy could have been a blast — a lurid, ludicrous, sparkly teen dream — if only Summit had condensed Stephenie Meyer’s four novels into just a movie or two. But that approach would have precluded making nearly $140 million last weekend from a film that mostly consists of two pretty young actors gazing moodily at each other.

Don’t get me wrong. Breaking Dawn: Part 1 is actually the most eventful Twilight movie since the series’ opener. When Edward the pure-hearted vampire (Robert Pattinson) finally proposed to his human love, Bella (Kristen Stewart), he put an end to most of that love-triangle nonsense. Jacob the pectorally over-endowed werewolf (Taylor Lautner) is still around, but his main function is to glower brutishly as he worries that Edward’s spousal attentions will endanger Bella’s life.

After a lavish wedding that seems to last an hour, enlivened only by the occasional dark omen, we finally get to the superhuman but totally morally approved sex that Meyer has been dangling in front of her readers since page one. As in the novel, fulfillment leaves our heroine bruised, blissful and quickly knocked up, at which point she decides that the life of her half-vampire child — which is literally devouring her — is more valuable than her own. Bella’s found a new family of gorgeous, fabulously wealthy, blood-sucking control freaks, and she is determined to add to it before becoming one of them herself.

And here’s where Breaking Dawn starts to confirm my theory that Twilight is just a tamer version of The Story of O, as the narrative leads us from honeymoon soft porn into nightmare visions of bodily degradation worthy of David Cronenberg. If you want to scare your daughter about teen pregnancy, the sight of Stewart’s digitally emaciated body might work.

The sheer perversity of it all is fun for jaded adult viewers, provided they aren’t too troubled by the parallels between Breaking Dawn and Martha Marcy May Marlene, a more self-aware tale of a wan young girl who surrenders her will to a man and his hermetic clan. The salient difference: Besides being totes hot, Bella’s cult leader is the most Boy-Scoutish vampire in all of gothic fiction.

Director Bill Condon (of Dreamgirls and Kinsey) doesn’t revolutionize the material. The northwestern vistas still give the saga a brooding beauty it doesn’t deserve, and the CGI wolves are still hilarious, particularly when they converse in echo-chambered human voices. When it’s time for the novel’s more outlandish moments, Condon gives them as tasteful a spin as he possibly can, disappointing those of us who might have preferred a John Waters treatment.

But if you’re looking for high camp in Twilight, Twilight isn’t for you. Sit down. Get comfortable. Let the moody gazing begin.