Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

(Before you read ahead do know - this review is from a once die-hard fan turned neutral....ME!)

A two-part finale seems to be the new get go for Hollywood movie to whisk extra money out of fan-favorite young adult franchises – and an arguable way to give lengthier final book installments a bit more room to wrap everything up. While audiences were initially skeptical of the idea when it was introduced with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and Part 2, the success of the final two Potter films (both commercially and critically) seemingly justified the extra trip to the theater. But does Breaking Dawn Part 1 fit the standard.....definitely a big NO (and thats coming from a person who loved the concept behind the story....aka ME).

At least half of the film is dominated by one melodramatic scene after another – in place of either interesting character interactions or exciting action – essentially laying ground for the (presumably) more stimulating Part 2. The first half of Breaking Dawn is a mishmash of moments that fail to build tension or further develop any of the fan-favorite characters. The basic plot follows the marriage of the ever sparkly Edward Cullen and Bella Swan as they prepare for their nuptials. The wedding is a grand and joyous affair but not everyone is happy; queue in Jacob. As the wedding bells fall silent, the newlyweds unexpectedly threaten the tenuous alliance between Cullens and Jacob’s Werewolf clan – causing former friends, as well as reluctant allies, to choose sides.

Simply put, the events in Breaking Dawn – Part 1 are underwhelming. While die-hard fans may find the extended honeymoon sequence cathartic – since the films and books have often been criticized for being too “tame” when it comes to sexuality – all of the lustful looks and “passionate” make-out sessions entirely derail any momentum and charm the film had coming out of the opening act. While in previous movies, the fan favourite seemed well balanced with a bit of humor and seriousness here and there but at the end it was a mis-mash of scenes, now here the die hard fans would argue that the film-makers just wanted to stay true to the books....all good....but it is also up to the creative crew to take a big book and make it sing in two or most yet two and a half hours, where it fails. 
Instead for a more competent film experience, Breaking Dawn: Part 1 is simply pandering to the existing fan-base (aka teenage girls) with almost nothing of value to anyone who isn’t already in love with the characters. Where most competent directors would have found out a way to make the material interesting for both fan and non-fan bases but they did not and chose to go with smothering the fan-girls with what they want, i.e., more Edward and Bella action and a little bit of Jacob without his shirt and simply glossed over some of the interesting characters with only glances here and there.

The film looks cheap with bland CGI werewolves and vampire effects – and for a series that is raking in plenty of money with each release, it’s surprising to see such flat visuals at this point. Similarly, despite a stable of up-and-coming actors that includes Stewart, Pattinson and Lautner, as well as critical darlings like Anna Kendrick and Michael Sheen, none of the actors are given any room to deliver a stand-out performance. It’s unfortunate, because despite all the anti-Twilight detractors out there, the franchise leads have shown that they’re capable of offering strong performances when a director attempts to get something more interesting out of them (Stewart in Welcome to the Rileys and Pattinson in Water for Elephants). In that sense, it’s disappointing to see that capable performers and intriguing premises haven’t matured the Twilight series from film to film.
Die-hard fans of the book and movie series will no doubt enjoy watching the film – though, it’s still hard to imagine that they won’t, deep down, find a few of the book’s more decisive moments to be overly cheesy, or even downright laughable. Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is not a competent piece of filmmaking and stands as potentially the worst installment in the series to be made out of the most controversial book of the series. 

Hopefully, given the much more intriguing plot points saved for Part 2, the final installment will end the series on a high note.


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