A feverish chill crept down my spine as I scrambled to find my cushiony seat in the dark screening room I frequent on Wednesday nights. It wasn’t the embarrassment of walking into the screening late (Been there, done that) but one of genuine excitement. Not the excitement of being able to review the film in question but the ability to experience it in a theater teeming with 200 of its most die-hard fans. Don’t snicker, I’m being serious! Call me insane or whatever you want but there’s no better way to watch a film like Breaking Dawn than with the people it was meant for. The shrilling, the cackling and the laughter, unintentional or not, all add to the experience. Hell, it may be the only reason I didn’t walk out thinking, “Wow that was a catastrophe!”
But since it’s my job as a reviewer to give my brutally honest take on the film in question and not detailing the sweaty atmosphere permeating through the theater, here’s the gist of it: Though Breaking Dawn Part 1, whose wafer-thin plot centers on Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella’s (Kristen Stewart) honeymoon in Rio (the best part of the film) and the subsequent Cuban Missile Crisis-like drama that envelopes Bella’s monstrosity of a pregnancy, continues the series’ tradition of delivering wildly inconsistent acting, sluggish pacing and unintentionally-hilarious scenes, the thin plot and uncomplicated drama is actually what makes it more tolerable than the abhorring Twilight, the agonizing New Moon and the inconsistent Eclipse. Moreover, for the first time, acute viewers will notice that a Twilight movie has been deliberately crafted to feed the series’ rabid fanbase but also crafted with a sly wink at the non-fans who know how utterly ridiculous the whole thing is. And God bless director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Dreamgirls) for pulling off that daunting task.
While none of the fans may give a flying flick about who directed the film, it’s obvious to me that Condon was the right man for the job. Known for tackling sensitive topics in his films, Condon unsurprisingly injects Breaking Dawn with the passion and maturity that had been sorely missing from the previously soulless courtship between the now newlywed Edward and Bella. It does help that the characters themselves are faced with more mature decisions this time around. For one, Bella isn’t moping about like a morphine addict for her absent Edward (New Moon) nor is she ridiculously baiting Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and Edward against each other (Eclipse) like an Olympian drama queen. As a matter of fact, for the first time in a Twilight movie, the silly love triangle isn’t the focus which to be honest, is a huge relief. Sure, wolf boy is still pissed that the love of his life is off knocking boots (and breaking beds) with paste-face in spicy Rio de Janeiro but compared to the pregnancy drama in this film, it’s merely a side note. The acting too isn’t as bad this time around either as it seems like Pattinson and Stewart have become comfortable in the skin of their characters. Lautner though, is still a joke better fit for pornos.
While Condon’s directional choices are a natural step up from what director David Slade accomplished by bolstering the mood and grit in Eclipse, like Slade, Chris Weitz and Catherine Hardwicke who directed the first two installments, he’s still not able to rise above the quality of Stephanie Meyers’ preposterous source material. As a result, it’s only a matter of time before his directional sensibilities are completely done in by the demands of Melissa Rosenberg’s awful script. Unfortunately, when Condon botches up a scene, he does it grandly. Breaking Dawn features not one, not two, not even three but four of the series’ most unintentionally hilarious scenes! The worst of them, a sequence (shot in Terminator-esque vision) where Jacob storms angrily through the forest (in wolf form) after finding out about Bella’s pregnancy as his relatives attempt to chase him down is one for the ages. It’s such a perfect storm of hilarious over-the-top acting, cheesy CGI, overbearing sound effects, and editing that it single-handedly buries the picture into a jambalaya of nonsense. There really is no recovering after that. While I won’t mention the details of the other scenes, I will say that the final one, which happens during the film’s last five minutes, is a pedophile’s wet dream come true. It seems like it really is impossible to watch a Twilight movie without at least one unintentionally hilarious or creepy scene after all. I doubt even Scorsese could save a story like this.
Like its predecessors, Breaking Dawn Part 1 is a film that can only be cherished and understood by those who swear by Stephanie Meyers’ insanely popular series (sort of like a mother’s love). Though it’s obvious that the series is getting better – this may be the best film of the series thus far – thanks to the efforts of director Bill Condon who gives a booster shot to the romance and approaches the drama with a sensitive and mature hand, there’s only so much one can do with the source material which elicits plenty of unintentional laughter that’s made all the more funnier with sub-par acting and an anorexic story.
As a final note, I will admit that I genuinely loved a mid-credits sequence featuring Michael Sheen as the head of the Volturi. It’s only about a minute long but the amount of scenery chewing Sheen does during it made me realize that he may be the only guy who knows he’s doing it only for the paycheck. Hell, it might be the best scene in the entire movie which for the first time, makes my excitement for the final film, which opens a year from now, genuine.