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TBTS Reviews: The Twilight Saga, Part 4: Breaking Dawn, Part 1

November 14, 2012
Breaking Dawn, Part 1 poster

This is part 4 of a joint mini-review series featuring myself and fellow Tweedie Esquirette. Check out our reviews of Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse.

Paulthegeek: Surprisingly little happens for most of this movie. The wedding was an inevitability, as was the honeymoon. The latter had not one but TWO montages, neither of which were particularly necessary. Love scenes were boring, fight scenes were truncated. Really the only compelling stuff is toward the end, when Bella’s half-vampire fetus starts… well, sucking the life out of her. The special effects were pretty impressive. Kristen Stewart is probably a buck-oh-five sopping wet, but they made her look straight outta Auschwitz.
Esquirette: This movie is definitely the talkiest in the series, at least until the final 20 minutes. It’s all wedding, honeymoon, talktalktalk then OH MY GOD HORRIBLE BLOODY BIRTH SCENE. The “action” in this film is Bella’s decision to carry her vampire love spawn to term and try not to let it kill her in the process. There’s lots of people trying to talk her out of that: Alice, Jacob, Edward, even Carlisle. The only one on her side, the only one who gets what she’s trying to do, is Rosalie, who up to this point has pretty much hated Bella. So, we have lots of interpersonal conflict. Bella and Edward fighting over the baby, Bella and Jacob fighting over the baby, Edward and Jacob joining forces to talk Bella out of having the baby.

Paulthegeek: Still too damn much mopey teenage nonsense. I mean, literally the first scene is of Jacob running through the rain making sad-face because he received a wedding invitation in the mail. Except that he already knew they were getting married, and ostensibly knew that Bella cared enough about him to want him there. I mean, GEEEZ, cowboy up n’ quitcher whinin’, Nancy… Also, I question the purpose of splitting this 4th book into two separate movies. Oh wait… I don’t question it at all! I know exactly why they did it. The producers very quickly realized their little cash cow was going to dry up, so they’ve figured out how to squeeze a few million extra dollars from its sparkly teats. There is nothing about the story that requires it be told in two parts. A halfway decent screenwriter and director could have made a very compelling final chapter, perhaps with a slightly extended running time. I’m sure the filmmakers would argue that their “artistic vision” made the split necessary. In response I only have two words: “puh LEEZ!”
Esquirette: The film manages to mirror the storytelling style of the book. The book is divided into three parts: Part 1 is told from Bella’s perspective leading up to her and Edward’s return to Forks. Part 2 is told from Jacob’s perspective, from Bella’s return to Bella’s death. Part 3 is again told from Bella’s perspective, and covers her rebirth through the big confrontation with the Volturi. In the movie, it’s really just Bella and Edward for the first act, then they come home when they realize she’s pregnant. The next scene is Jacob finding out she’s back and going to the house. Act 2 is all about Jacob’s path: learning about the pregnancy, trying to talk her out of it, his conflict with the wolves over the pregnancy, his break from the pack, and his alliance with the Cullens to protect Bella. We see him grow to hate the child inside Bella because it is killing her, and then it does kill her, and he vows to kill it, until he imprints. The final act is the horrible birth/death scene.

Paulthegeek: This new director (4 for 4!) hasn’t shown us much, frankly. He’s got one decent movie under his belt (Kinsey), and some writing credits on a few third-tier horror jobs, but I see nothing here beyond a serviceable interpretation of the story.
Esquirette: I didn’t know much about Bill Condon when I heard he was directing the final films, but apparently he has a background in horror films and it definitely shows in BDP1. The birth/death scene is bloody and ghoulish, and probably would have been a lot worse if they weren’t aiming for a PG-13 rating. You really feel the sense of urgency, of Edward and Jacob trying to save the baby before it kills Bella, and then failing. You don’t know (unless you’ve read the book, obvs) that Bella will pull through. Condon really makes her death feel final… until it isn’t.

Esquirette: Visually, nothing really stands out in this film. You have some very pretty locales in the beginning, but this film is about the characters, not about sweeping landscape shots or dark chase scenes. The soundtrack is, of course, great. And Carter Burwell is back!
Paulthegeek: I was glad to see Carter Burwell’s name in the credits again, but it doesn’t sound like he contributed anything new. They just re-used his score and a few themes from the first movie, so they pretty much had to credit him.

Esquirette: The film does what it can, being a film, but the book does a great job of showing just how much Bella and Jacob grow and mature. They really become adults in this film; they realize their choices affect more than just themselves, but they make those choices and accept the consequences, for better or worse. Breaking Dawn Part 1 is really just the set-up for the second half. It’s all the character-development and storytelling you have to do before the action kicks in. I’m definitely looking forward to Bella becoming a badass in Part 2. After 3 1/2 books (and 4 films) of her being weak and whiny and passive, at the end of BDP1, you see the Phoenix rise from the ashes. And this Phoenix has really cool red eyes.
Paulthegeek: I don’t mean to be so cynical and curmudgeonly. I’m just sick of the whole ridiculous story at this point, and I’m well beyond ready for it to be over. The sheer obviousness of the cash-grab attempt to split the final book into two movies (a split that, in my opinion, is not at all justified by the weight or structure of the story) has really sealed it for me. This is not art, and it never was; shame on me for hoping that it would at least try to be.

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