The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is a bad movie. Unfortunately, there is no more eloquent or sophisticated way to honestly assess a disaster of this magnitude. Before this review is written off as biased, note that Breaking Dawn is not a poor film simply because it’s part of the extremely successful movie and novel franchise which has legions of diehard fans; Twilight was a decent movie with many positive aspects, thanks largely to director Catherine Hardwicke. Similarly, the fact that the studio and filmmakers are willing to sacrifice quality for fan appreciation can be overlooked; at least they are transparent in their motives. No, Breaking Dawn is bad only because of its lack of any cinematic integrity whatsoever.
The film opens with the long-awaited wedding of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). After they are married, the two fly to South America to enjoy a romantic honeymoon before Edward turns Bella into a vampire like himself. Their time in paradise is cut short when Bella realizes that she is pregnant. The baby is growing quickly and Bella’s health is deteriorating, so the couple flies home to Forks, Washington where Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) is able to monitor her.
When he finds out that Bella is home, Jacob (Taylor Lautner) visits her and discovers she is pregnant. He knows that the baby is an abomination, but he cares too much for her to let anything happen. The baby violates the treaty between the werewolves and vampires so Jacob’s tribe decides they must destroy Bella and her unborn child. Jacob cannot allow any harm to come to Bella so he turns his back on his tribe and goes to protect Bella alongside the Cullen family.
Breaking Dawn starts at a severe disadvantage because of the ludicrous nature of the fourth book of Stephanie Meyer’s series. Audiences have come to accept vampires in film, books and television to the point where no one really questions the basic mythology. Meyer, though, has crafted a highly disturbing and morbid story which director Bill Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg struggle to make coherent in any way. Condon sets up the first act of the movie as a light-hearted romantic comedy but drastically shifts gears when Bella’s pregnancy is revealed. There is no consistent tone in the film which only draws attention to the fact that Condon is incapable of guiding the movie in any way.
The most distracting aspect of the film (aside from the acting, which will be addressed presently) is the unsophisticated digital effects used to create the werewolves and to make Stewart look like she suffered extreme weight loss. The wolves are cartoonish in nature and in no way terrifying. Worse than the visual component of the wolves is the telepathic conversations they are able to have with one another. While this tool likely worked well in Meyers’ books, on film it is embarrassingly corny and reminiscent of Look Who’s Talking Now!. In regards to Bella’s physical transformation, the effects specialists go to such great lengths to alter her appearance that Stewart is barely able to move during her scenes. Her immobility is made more noticeable by the heavy shadows and low lighting used to hide the poor CGI.
There is no excuse for the abysmal performances given in Breaking Dawn. The actors have had three previous films in which to build their characters and to become comfortable portraying them. Instead, every actor is hamming it up for the camera, constantly trying to steal every scene from the other performers. The best actors look like they aren’t acting and do their best to make their partners look good. They do not deliver every line of dialogue as if hoping it will be in their Oscar nomination reel or try to overpower the other actors by giving grandiose performances when it isn’t necessary. Pattinson and Lautner are most guilty of this, but they are not alone.
There are far too many reasons Breaking Dawn is terrible and a comprehensive list of shortcomings would take far too much time. Put simply, Breaking Dawn has no redeeming qualities and is not worth any audience member’s time or money, no matter how loyal a Twilight fan they may be.
This film is rated PG-13 and runs 117 minutes.