Which is a long way of saying “Breaking Dawn” is a film for fans of the series and few others.
One entire film ago, ageless James Dean wannabe Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) gave up trying to run from his love for store mannequin wannabe Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and asked her to marry him. With all the impediments of the third film’s plot out of the way, they are now free to do exactly that. Which means story over and we can all get on with our mortal and immortal lives, right? Not quite, as the side effects of the honeymoon put Bella’s life in danger once again and bring her back to the attention of the vampire world’s immortal rulers, the Volturi.
It’s been said many times before, but never has it been so obvious why “Twilight” appeals to its core fanbase so much. Purposeful or not, it perfectly encapsulates a teenage girl’s idea of perfect love. The men are introspective and brooding and talk like Lifetime channel characters. They fall in love instantly and against their will, but it’s a love divorced from the physical because the good men don’t really want anything more than to hold hands. It’s also obvious why everyone else finds this insufferable.
“Breaking Dawn” takes much of that and pushes it as far as it can, luxuriating to the point of obsequiousness in the wedding and honeymoon of its formally star-crossed lovers and taking until halfway through to actually get going.
The franchise had previously dealt with that problem by adding in the tension of hiding the supernatural from humans and the politics and threats of that secret world, and the few points where “Breaking Dawn” does that are actually enjoyable, particularly the wedding itself as Bella’s human and vampire worlds interact for seemingly the last time.
That sort of thing has been reduced to largely an afterthought, however, with much of the rest given over to Bella’s competing lovers mooning over her sick bed. Much of the side character development which helped “Eclipse” has disappeared as well. The few times we get away from Bella and Edward to learn something about werewolf politics and characters are only moderately helpful due to the series continuing Achilles heel. The acting.
Some of that is due to inherent problems in the story which writer Melissa Rosenberg has remained far to loyal to. Bella remains, by design, the least interesting person on screen and Pattinson and Lautner have been reduced to trying to out brood one another. If it was hoped that new director Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”), easily the best director to take the series on, could fix that it was a hope in vain.
What he has managed to do is create one of the slickest looking installments. His in particular shows in the second half as the supernatural world rears its head again and he is given some real meat to play with. Bouncing back and forth between camp horror and understated dram while dealing with suitably strange subject matter like a vampire birth show that there is a good movie in there. And the serious missteps–like an inadvertently hilarious scene of the werewolves fighting amongst themselves while arguing telepathically–show that the main problem is staying to true to the source.
And that’s “Twilight’s” big problem. At its worst it’s not just bad but boring, mistaking angst for drama and mechanics for resolution. Never has this been as clear as the end of “Breaking Dawn” as Edward deals with the final conflict by spouting exposition of the ‘as you know’ variety at the audience.
Condon’s got a good enough grasp of his material that he doesn’t run into the problems of the earliest episodes, but he’s not the magician to turn this lead into gold. Maybe the second half will have what the first is missing but left on its own “Breaking Dawn – Part 1” is for fans only.