So, another successful franchise is gearing up towards its end: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011) – directed by Bill Condon, starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner and released this Friday – is in fact the first, penultimate installment of the finale for the Twilight series, the love story that has redefined all criteria for romance and turned vampires from deadly mythical creatures to desirable boyfriends in the eyes of women of all ages.
The story picks up from where the previous chapter Eclipse (2010) left off, with the newly-engaged Edward and Bella getting ready for their fairytale wedding. While they might be an exceptional couple, tradition is tradition – they get married, have cake, say goodbye to their fairly puzzled guests, and then jet off on their honeymoon.
The fun and frolics are interrupted abruptly, though, when Bella realises she’s pregnant with Edward’s offspring – and this is no regular pregnancy by any means. After flying home, the two have to face some very difficult decisions: should Bella have the baby, even though it will surely kill her? And how to protect mother and baby from the wrath of the werewolves, who feel the vampires have breached their age-old treaty?
While the whole Twilight Saga might not be renowned for the complexity of its plot and depth of meanings, Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is probably the installment with the simplest storyline of all. It chronicles, with dreamy, almost surreal details, Bella and Edward’s wedding and first weeks of married life, and it does so in a way that almost feels, at first, as wrong and as uncomfortable as spying through a keyhole.
The focus is on the couple’s first sexual encounter, and then on the effects that the unexpected supernatural pregnancy has on Bella’s body – which require quite an impressive work of makeup and special effects to make Stewart look believably gaunt, malnourished and bruised.
Both she and Pattinson are then somehow set aside, waiting for events to unfold, and the attention shifts to the battle between werewolves and vampires and, particularly, to Taylor Lautner, who plays an emotionally conflicted Jacob in a way that is more convincing than any of Pattinson’s pained looks could ever be. Lautner’s confident performance is what keeps the movie grounded when it threatens to lose seriousness – for instance when we witness a telepathic exchange between oversized CGI wolves – and what keeps in motion the wheels of a story that could have proved to lack pace otherwise.
Once again, the movie concentrates on the clear opposition between good and evil, and love and hate – and no exciting twist or turn of events is in sight.
However, beyond Stewart and Pattinson’s eternally brooding expressions, a few naiveties in the plot and the unfortunate lack of that sense of humour so blessedly present in the previous chapters, Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is overall entertaining, and manages to maintain the audience’s attention up to the final cliffhanger.