THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN, PART I
Author: JoAnne Hyde
November 17, 2011
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SYNOPSIS: Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson), plus those they love, must deal with the chain of consequences brought on by a marriage, honeymoon, and the tumultuous birth of a child...which brings an unforeseen and shocking development for Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner).

The Twilight universe expands once again with the much-anticipated arrival of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I.

Fans will not be disappointed viewing the continuing adventures of Edward (Robert Pattinson), Bella (Kristen Stewart), and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) -- surely one of the most famous love triangles of all time. The triangle morphs completely for the characters in this film, however, as we witness the marriage and honeymoon of Edward and Bella. As a result, Jacob’s path changes in a completely unexpected way.

I’d say that 99.9% of the audiences for this film will have read the book -- several times -- but for those who haven’t, it’s not really a stand-alone film. To understand it, you must have some knowledge of the previous books or films. Even though flashbacks from the previous films are included, it wouldn’t be enough for anyone completely unfamiliar with the “saga.”

That being said, it hardly matters what I, or any other reviewer, say about it: it has a built-in audience of millions. Don’t believe me? Consider the thousand or so fans who camped out for five days before the Monday LA premiere to catch a glimpse of the young actors who have become idols in the eyes of their fans.

When the decision was made to split Stephenie Meyer’s final novel in her series of four into two films, the only suspense left was at what point director Bill Condon would choose to split it. It’s been a closely-guarded secret, and I must say that I agree with his decision. Personally, I would have preferred one film, but like the HARRY POTTER series, I’m sure that box office intake had something to do with making two movies instead of one. Also like the POTTER series, if you just pull the plot line out of all of the novels’ detailed description, one film would have sufficed. Dividing it makes it necessary to expand some parts of the story a bit too much, which slows the pace of the film as a whole. The pace does pick up in the second half of Breaking Dawn – Part I, as does the quality of the performances.

Unlike the POTTERseries, the script for Breaking Dawn does not follow the novel as closely. Because much of the story in the novel takes place in Bella’s mind, or Jacob’s mind, or in the wolves’ telepathic conversations, changes must be made to externalize conversation and action. Some of the changes were quite well done, but some will not set well with Twilight purists.

The trailer for the film revealed physical confrontation between the Cullens and the wolves, something that doesn’t happen in the novel. This seemed a bit strange to me because the same information could have been communicated just as well by sticking closer to the novel’s plot. One thing that was lost was the antagonistic, and entertaining, banter between Jacob and Rosalie (Nikki Reed), which was reduced to one line. Although necessary, the sequence when the actors are in wolf form communicating in voice-over is awkward and elicited some snickers from the preview audience. Since the information is pivotal, that was quite a distraction. Condon’s decision to have many of the wolf scenes done with the actors in human form was a good one. Those scenes worked much better.

The wedding scene is beautifully presented -- Bella’s stunning dress was designed by Vera Wang. The reception scene, however, suffered from the addition of an awkward “wedding toast” scene. The highly-anticipated wedding night scene had to be edited to avoid an R rating, and unfortunately, the result was a disappointing amount of “heat” between Bella and her vampire husband. In fact, I don’t think any of the films have been able to re-create the passion between Edward and Bella as well as the first film did.

Could that be because it was directed by a woman (Catherine Hardwicke)? I couldn’t help but wonder what this film might have looked like if she’d been the director. One thing the honeymoon sequence does give us is some breath-taking scenery. Esme’s island was faithfully re-created, and one of the authentically funny moments is the shot of the morning-after, completely demolished bed.

Most of the actual story centers on Bella’s unexpected pregnancy and its consequences. If you’re worried about the bloody birth scene, be assured that it’s not nearly as gruesome as described in the book. Again, sticking to the exact content of the novel for this scene would have necessitated an R rating.

One huge plus for this film was its musical score. In both New Moon and Eclipse, the music was overwhelming. Condon returned to the musical director from Twilight, Carter Burwell, and the result is a satisfyingly subtle score which includes some of the first film’s haunting motifs.

The preview audience was predominantly female -- very vocal females. In fact, I plan to see the film again after the initial excitement has died down so that I can actually hear all of the dialogue. This film is really for the ladies. I took my 30-year-old son along for a male point-of-view, and although he’s a big fan of the sci-fi, fantasy genre, and had read the book and seen the previous films, his reaction was lukewarm.

Overall, I liked the film, and I think it’s a shame that the fans have to wait a whole year to see Part II. Now that’s one thing the Potter people did right – they released the second half of the final film six months later.

Be advised: stick around after the credits to see a delicious little scene with the Volturri, headed by the brilliant Michael Sheen (Aro). About half of the audience had already left, and I was headed for the door when it stopped me in my tracks!

GRADE: B+

JoAnne Hyde Likes film.
She likes to write.
So she combines those two loves by reviewing films for BOF

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