Greed is an ugly emotion. It nearly caused the collapse of the global economy in 2008. Even worse, it caused producers to split the novel Breaking Dawn, the fourth in the Twilight “saga” into two films, despite not having enough plot for the cold open of an episode of Law & Order. So here we go, a review of Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1.
Tagline: Forever is only the beginning
More Accurate Tagline: Actually, considering this movie’s interminable run time, geologic pacing, and lack of anything approaching incident, that tagline is entirely accurate. Christ, even the marketing department at Summit hates this series.
Guilty Party: The marketing department at Summit. In a stunning reversal of my previous love letters to the Twilight series of films, I do not blame this film’s awfulness on Stephenie Meyer. Not because she suddenly developed the ability to write; on the contrary, her storytelling somehow manages to worsen with every installment. No, the fault here lies with the nameless and soulless void of all-consuming hate who chose to split this fucking thing in two. So we get almost two hours of pregnant pauses in which overmatched actors beg silently for a death that will never come.
Synopsis: Previously, on Twilight: Edward loves Bella. Bella loves Edward. Jacob loves Bella. Edward is a vampire. Jacob is a werewolf. Bella is a mouth-breather. Bella wants to be a vampire. Edward wants to be married. They agree to do both. The Volturi are mean. (I wish they connected more to the story, but seriously, that’s literally the only link they have to anything).
Bella and Edward get married. Jacob is sad. Bella and Edward have sex. Bella gets pregnant. The fetus has superpowers and slowly kills Bella. Jacob is sad. Edward is sad. The werewolves are mad because Bella is human and vampires aren’t allowed to kill humans.
Jacob leaves the werewolves to guard Bella. Bella gives birth and dies. Edward bites her a little. She still dies. The werewolves attack. Everyone fights. Jacob falls in love with the baby. The werewolves can’t attack now. Bella comes back to life as a vampire. Dr. Acula sends a birth announcement to the Volturi.
Life-Changing Subtext: Abortion is wrong, even in cases of rape, incest, and Alien-type situations. That xenomorph has a right to live!
Defining Quote: “Say the word, Alice. Baby. It’s just a little baby.” — Rosalie on the thing presently ripping Bella apart from the inside. It’s fun watching a movie that’s a Trojan Horse for the author’s far right wing insanity. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t go even farther with it. “You know, Bella, the only reason you’re dying is because of Obamacare!”
Standout Performance: The MVP of the series is Billy Burke as Bella’s dad, Charlie Swan. Burke knows exactly how fucking ridiculous this whole situation is and seems to be only marking time between tall glasses of bourbon, a wistful head shake, and a muttered, “How’d it come to this?” His acting choices all point to a man who has not only run out of fucks to give, but has forgotten what it was like to care about anything.
What’s Wrong: Normally my synopses are wildly digressive exercises in showing how much more I care more about what happens in terrible movies than their creators. The problem with applying that same attention to terrible, terrible detail with the Twilight series is that barely anything actually happens. Breaking Dawn Part 1 ratchets that up even further, giving us two hours of long pauses, halfhearted misunderstandings, the odd pro-life screed, and even longer pauses. The wedding alone is the first half hour of the film, the honeymoon the second half hour, and the rest is characters mostly staring at each other. You know how people go mad when put into solitary confinement for too long? Denied interaction, the brain cannibalizes itself in a desperate attempt to retain sanity. Breaking Dawn Part 1 plays as an avant-garde attempt to make the mind buckle in just under two hours.
Flash of Competence: Ashley Greene rocks an adorable pixie cut. Also, all the money the FX company saved with their awful wolf CGI pays off here with some nifty shots of the vampiric venom turning Bella’s insides into stone or whatever.
Best Scenes: During the interminable wedding scene, there is a toast montage. The best moments predictably come from Billy Burke and Anna Kendrick. In a defeated monotone, Burke enumerates all the ways he could murder Edward, inadvertently providing the wedding party with a glimpse into Charlie’s dark night of the soul. Kendrick gives a toast at turns bubbly and bitter, mentioning that she calls Edward “The Hair.” I briefly wondered if an actor with Kendrick’s skill and charisma could have saved the Bella role, but then was relieved she got out of the Twilight saga relatively unscathed.
The next fantastic moment occurs when Jacob shows up late to the wedding. He’s predictably emo about the whole thing, since Bella is getting turned into Jacob’s ancestral enemy in a couple hours. Bella mentions that no, she’s having a normal honeymoon, and then does not waggle her eyebrows and nudge Jake with her elbow in hopes he’ll get the point. Jacob then loses his shit, yelling at Edward that vampire sexing will kill Bella.
Edward grins and says, “Kill her? I’m gonna DESTROY her.”
No. No, he does not. He just looks sort of constipated.
Here’s the thing: Jacob is being a big old drama queen, but he’s kind of right. The sex manages to tear the bed apart, shred the pillows, and put giant Chris Brown bruises all over Bella. While the subtext of this is hilarious, it’s even funnier when the rest of the honeymoon is spent with Bella begging her possibly gay husband for more sex and him coldly rebuffing her.
The werewolves have a parliament, which I have come to refer as the Dog Park. Basically, a bunch of CG wolves converge on a lumber yard and snarl at each other, while some echoey dialogue is ADRed over the top to imply telepathy. They’re all mad about Bella’s fetus, but the bad werewolves want to abort it, while the good werewolves (Jacob and Seth) want to protect Bella. It somehow manages to be a step down from the abortion debate presently occurring in our country. It’s really hard to convey how funny this is until the next time you’re at a real dog park, and you imagine two dogs tussling are actually worried about Kristen Stewart’s vagina.
Transcendent Moment: There’s a moment in the Twilight series when you truly understand the turgid depths of Stephenie Meyer’s insanity and it happens at the end of this film.
As Jacob prepares to murder the newborn baby who just killed the girl he’s been stalking for two and a half movies, his eyes meet the infant’s. And it’s worth noting that there’s a creepy face CGed onto the baby’s mug. As the kid gives Jacob a look that would not be out of place in a singles bar, the hapless werewolf imprints all over the helpless infant. All over her little chubby cheeks, her wispy hair, her lower back…
And now, Jacob Black, heartthrob to millions of teenaged girls and a distressing number of middle aged women, is in love with a baby.
I write horror and could never come up with something that fucked up.
I know I say this every time, but Breaking Dawn Part 1 is the worst part of a terrible series. I must admit, there is a dark little part of me that wonders if Breaking Dawn Part 2 can’t top it.