November 11, 2011 at 3:40 pm #43026
First review from the Hollywood Reporter:
Big things happen in this penultimate
Twilight entry: Bella and Edward get married, she gets pregnant on
their Brazilian honeymoon and almost perishes before giving birth,
and finally, after four films and about 490 minutes of screen time
depicting simmering desire and superhuman restraint, she wakes up
with the red eyes of a vampire. (Spoiler? Hardly.) But so little else
occurs between these momentous events in Twilight: Breaking Dawn —
Part 1 that you can practically hear every second ticking by while
awaiting the payoff. Not that this will matter to the faithful who
have devoured all 754 pages of Stephenie Meyer’s series-climaxing
tome and want to see as many as possible re-created on the screen,
nor to those who have paid more than $1.8 billion worldwide to see
the previous three installments in theaters, nearly all of whom will
rush to see this one as soon as possible. Part 2 won’t follow until
Nov. 16, 2012.
When the decision was made to split
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into two films to bring that
blockbuster series to a close, there was cynical talk regarding
mercenary motives to milk as many dollars as possible out of the
franchise. Once the films came out, however, that talk stopped, so
emphatically did the massive narrative incident justify the extended
length. On the basis of Breaking Dawn — Part 1, though, the same
cannot be said of this series ender, which feels as bloated and
anemic as Bella becomes during her pregnancy. The film is like a crab
cake with three or four bits of crab surrounded by loads of bland
stuffing, but many can’t tell the difference or don’t care, which
will largely be true for its captive audience.
Taking place in a lovely woodsy setting
that could easily be the next estate over from the wedding-reception
site in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, the nuptials of Bella Swan
(Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) can plausibly
be termed the “wedding of the century” only in the sense
Edward means it when he tells his 18-year-old bride, “I’ve been
waiting a century to marry you.” Drawn out to last nearly a
half-hour onscreen, the gaiety of the preliminaries and ensuing event
is encumbered by a strong sense of foreboding, not only because the
world is coming to an end, as in Melancholia, but also because it
means Bella will soon pass over from human life to the vampire side.
Upon receiving the wedding invitation,
the first reaction of Bella’s friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) is
to go wolf and race into the forest in a snit, but he finally turns
up to wish her well before the happy couple jets off to Rio, which is
so little seen it scarcely seems worth the trip. At their lush
honeymoon villa, Edward is every inch the gentleman — too much so,
perhaps, for Bella. They skinny dip at night to some incredibly
insipid songs, they’re very tender and understanding with each other,
and then in the morning the bedroom is in total disarray; we never
see anything of what came between, no moment of surrender, which is
what the series has been building to all along. Where one
legitimately hopes to register what Bella feels upon finally giving
herself over to what she has so long desired but resisted, all we get
are languid and lax interludes of what still seems like puppy love.
Very lame, and very disappointing.
At about the film’s halfway point,
Bella finds she’s unexpectedly pregnant, prompting a quick return
home. When Jacob comes by and observes her already-obvious condition,
he gets to bellow an immortal accusation to Edward: “You did this!”
As Edward searches for a proper rejoinder, Jacob again scampers off,
whereupon the local werewolf tribe reacts with a lot of teeth-baring
and internal bickering over what to do. Meanwhile, Bella turns pale
and gaunt and seems in danger of wasting away; it appears the fetus
is taking all of the nutrients for itself and leaving nothing for
Mom, who can no longer eat normal food. There’s only one solution to
this state of affairs, the administering of which brings Bella back
to life as Part 1 pushes toward its end.
During the very slow scenes depicting
Bella’s deterioration, as Stewart appears progressively skeletal, so
little else is going on that one is obliged to muse over whether the
pounds came off digitally or the old-fashioned way. After the energy
and alertness evident in his previous work as helmer of Gods and
Monsters, Kinsey and Dreamgirls, it looks as though director Bill
Condon fell into a trance while making this film — so dirgelike is
the pacing, so banal is Melissa Rosenberg’s dutiful script on a
scene-by-scene, moment-to-moment basis. It truly feels that 40
minutes or so, not two hours, would have been plenty to convey all
that’s necessary in the material covered. Even the normally
first-rate film composer Carter Burwell is dragged down by the
occasion, though his score is marginally less watery than the songs
that dominate the soundtrack.
The actors have long since been set in
their performances, and there are no surprises here. In the end,
given how little goes on in Breaking Dawn — Part 1 despite the
major plot points, what you’re left with is to gaze at the three
leads, all of whom have their constituencies and reasons for being
eminently watchable. The only hope is they’ll have more to do next
time around.November 11, 2011 at 3:41 pm #43028
Non-encouraging review from Variety:
Bella Swan kisses abstinence and
mortality goodbye in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part
1,” in which the vampire-loving teen gets hitched, knocked up
and almost destroyed from within by her little bundle of joy. All the
more disappointing, then, that a story so pregnant with dramatic
possibilities should wind up feeling like such an unconsummated
opportunity. Drawn from Stephenie Meyer’s polarizing, weirdly
compelling fourth novel, the film is rich in surface pleasures but
lacks any palpable sense of darkness or danger, which is a roundabout
way of saying that Summit has protected its investment well.
Supernatural B.O. Awaits.
The guardians of this enormously
popular franchise ($1.8 billion in worldwide grosses) have in effect
followed the “Harry Potter” playbook by splitting the final
chapter into two parts, ensuring thorough plot retention and, more to
the point, maximum B.O. penetration. In what will seem cruel and
unusual punishment for fans, however, “Part 2,” with its
promise of a full-scale vampire war in which Bella will play a
crucial role, is slated to hit theaters Nov. 16, 2012, forcing auds
to wait nearly a year after “Part 1” to devour the second
half of the Bill Condon-directed double feature.
Certainly the highest-profile helmer
attached to the series so far, Condon takes the reins capably enough
here, though his approach suffers from a certain stylistic anonymity
that seems endemic to the material. Like any commercial behemoth,
“The Twilight Saga” by nature resists any attempt at
transcendence, experimentation or risk; that’s especially unfortunate
in the case of “Breaking Dawn,” which is by far the most
out-there novel in the series and would have benefited from a dash of
Cronenbergian body-horror and, commercial restraints notwithstanding,
a willingness to push past a PG-13 rating. Given the early fright
pics on his resume, the chameleonlike Condon would have been more
than up to the challenge if given the chance.
Things begin, happily enough, with a
wedding, as Bella (Kristen Stewart) says “I do” to Edward
Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and joins his family of shimmeringly
benevolent vampires. Still violently opposed to the union is Bella’s
lupine best friend and spurned suitor, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner),
especially when he learns the new Mrs. Cullen has decided to postpone
her bloodsucker transformation until after her Brazilian honeymoon.
Jacob is right to worry: Though filmed
with the utmost soft-focus, duvet-wrapped tastefulness, the couple’s
wedding night leaves Bella covered with bruises, the bed in tatters,
and the audience, presumably, in a puddle of ecstasy. Surely this
must be the first movie series so innately fearful of sex (and yet so
dependent on its leads’ sex appeal) that even proper conjugal
relations come with a note of caution, none more frightening than
when Bella suddenly finds herself with child — half-human,
half-vampire, a phenomenon with no biological precedent.
Up to this point, Condon and returning
series scribe Melissa Rosenberg have translated the material in
appreciably swoon-worthy fashion. Bella and Edward’s woodland wedding
may look like an Abercrombie & Fitch spread (their honeymoon
suite skews more Pottery Barn), but it’s an ardently, unabashedly
romantic setpiece. By now Stewart and Pattinson have merged so
completely with their roles and each other that the sight of the
duo’s matrimonial bliss — delicately shaded by that sense of
transience and loss that attends even happy life transitions —
delivers a genuine emotional payoff.
Woozy soft-rock montages and moonlit
skinny-dipping interludes come effortlessly to “Breaking Dawn —
Part 1.” The film is far less adept at conveying the requisite
mounting stakes once the newlyweds rush home to find themselves under
siege on multiple fronts. True to the spirit of masochistic
self-sacrifice that has defined the series, the now haggard-looking,
blood-sipping Bella insists on carrying her demon-child to term, not
only endangering her own life (and suggesting a potentially
fascinating medical debate), but also inciting a full-on war between
the Cullens and Jacob’s werewolf pack.
Every time the film shifts away from
Bella and Edward to address the larger group dynamics, the narrative
goes flat and the ensemble’s line readings turn to wood, in large
part because this style of dramatization is so at odds with the
thrust of the source material. Meyer, no great prose stylist but an
intuitive storyteller, places unusual emphasis on sensory and
extrasensory gifts; that various characters can read minds, smell
scents and hear heartbeats is of crucial importance to the advancing
narrative. These are tricky, fundamentally un-cinematic modes of
perception, and that they haven’t found their visual equivalents here
is hardly surprising.
More trying is the fact that Lautner
plays the pivotal role of Jacob as such a softie; a more ferocious,
testosterone-fueled approach would have raised the temperature of
individual scenes and enabled the actor to hold his own better
opposite Stewart and Pattinson. On the action front, the otherwise
polished production reps a significant downgrade from the superior
“Eclipse”: Two nocturnal wolves-vs.-vamps combat scenes are
essentially thrill-free, and so underlit that one is inclined to
suspect slapdash CGI. With any luck, it’s a mere warm-up act for the
more epic supernatural showdown brewing a year from now.November 11, 2011 at 4:17 pm #43029
Seems that Bill Condon can’t even save this series… I knew it wouldn’t matter. It’ll still make bank, but it won’t touch ‘Harry Potter’ in worldwide gross or critical acclaim.November 11, 2011 at 9:15 pm #43030
This film should get a Razzie for its trailer alone.November 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm #43031
Philadelphia Inquirer: 3 out of 4 stars
Just before Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), tomboy romantic, trades her high-tops for high heels, she has a nightmare that bodes ill for her long-awaited union with Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), the courtly vampire who set her blood racing in the three prior installments of Twilight. But she forges ahead with the wedding, a fantasia of lacy wisteria, creamy chiffon, fondant icing, and premonitions of blood.
The fever dream that is Bill Condon’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1, swoony to the point of delirium, announces its intentions in an extended opening sequence in which Virgin weds Vampire. It is not overstating the case to say that what The Lord of the Rings represents to young men, Twilight represents for young women. One is a heroic quest, the other a heroinic one that links sex and death with undying love.
I enjoyed it immensely, even while occasionally snickering at dialogue so wheezy it should come with an inhaler.
Think of Breaking Dawn Part 1 as an extension of Condon’s Gods and Monsters, his haunting film about the erotic obsessions of filmmaker James Whale, who directed Frankenstein. Call this intoxicating brew, with equal parts Bride of Frankenstein and Rosemary’s Baby, Goddess and Monsters. The goddess, of course, is Bella. The monsters are Edward, her romantic and sexual soul mate, and Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the werewolf who runs platonic interference.
Shot mostly in extreme close-ups that caress the faces of its attractive, mortally conflicted characters, the film sympathetically details Bella’s journey from girlhood to womanhood, giving substance to her emotional turmoil. If by several lengths it is the best of the Twilight movies it is because it has the best story to tell.
What does it mean to leave her human family of origin for that of the Cullen family, an improvised vampire clan that preys on animals rather than people? How can she retain her own identity while merging body and soul with a most attractive specimen of the Undead? Will sex with the Other be dangerous or fun? (The PG-13 film suggests both the agony and the ecstasy: The morning after the four-poster resembles a pile of matchsticks and Bella the Mona Lisa.)
Is pregnancy a loss of self or a womanly fulfillment, even if the spawn is the demon seed? Will “changing” Bella into a vampire, a metamorphosis that Edward is reluctant to effect, alter what he most loves about her? In his work with the hugely gifted Stewart, Condon treats these questions without irony or shame, and with occasional humor.
“Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies,” muses Bella, quoting the poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, as she prepares to marry her vampire swain, to embark on the voyage to the adult kingdom of the Undead.
The film, haloed with fairy-tale light, woodlands, and forests (enchanted images courtesy of Pan’s Labyrinth cinematographer Guillermo Navarro), speaks directly to the unconscious.
Will Condon’s movie convert agnostics to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight cult? As with the later Harry Potter movies, Breaking Dawn’s backstory and conventions are so dense that penetrating them is a challenge to newbies. Still, the film’s tight focus on a young woman’s passage from pubescence to maturity is universal enough to be clear as Condon’s visual storytelling.
Worthy of mention is Carolina Herrera’s design for Bella’s wedding dress, sophisticated and demure in the front and Pippa Middleton sexy, and proper, in the back. Likewise composer Carter Burwell’s low-key score (similar to his soundtrack for Condon’s Kinsey), which eloquently communicates Bella’s exhilaration and her dread.
November 17, 2011 at 5:08 pm #43032
I’m willing to believe that the score and costumes are very good.
“Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies,”
Gach.November 17, 2011 at 5:27 pm #43033
I’m willing to believe that the score and costumes are very good.
“Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies,”
“Gach” indeed. My question is: What the hell is BILL CONDON doing directing this [EXPLETIVE]? After the glories of GODS AND MONSTERS and KINSEY, he’s been on a downward spiral. I hope he’s been paid handsomely… for wasting his talent.November 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm #43035
It would appear that some of us are prejudging this “film” before we’ve seen it.November 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm #43036
^Which is the only way I can judge it since I’ll never be seeing it.November 17, 2011 at 6:17 pm #43037
It would appear that some of us are prejudging this “film” before we’ve seen it.
Guilty as charged. But hey, it could be as great as CITIZEN KANE, right? And Steven Spielberg must be kicking himself right now for passing on the film rights, right? Little vampire baby–what could be more adorable or more worthwhile of such a massive investment of time, talent and money?
PS: Is “Vampirism” supposed to be a metaphor for “Mormonism”?November 17, 2011 at 8:34 pm #43039
Current boxoffice records to keep in mind as BD debuts in the east at the top of the hour (all held by Harry Potter 7.2):
Midnight shows only: $43.5 million
Opening day: $91.1m
Opening weekend: $169.2mNovember 17, 2011 at 8:42 pm #43040
Carrie Rickey’s counterpart at the Philadelphia Daily News doesn’t go that far, but still 2.5 out of 4 stars:
Edward may have gotten the girl, but it’s Jacob who is the shape-shifting spirit of the “Twilight” movie franchise.
A third of the audience views the movies as a wildly satisfying romance, a third views them as hilarious comedy, and another third is somehow content to see the movies jump back and forth between these opposing forms. Everybody seems deliriously happy.
To sit at a screening is to hear sighs and snickers occurring almost at once – something the filmmakers appear to understand, and to play without shame or adherence to rules of tone or internal logic.
The first thing you see in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1” is wolfboy Jake getting an invitation to the wedding of Bella and vampire groom Edward, and becoming so consumed by jealousy and rage that he tears off his shirt. Of course this permits Taylor Lautner to immediately fulfill his obligation (probably contractual) to display his ripped torso. It’s the movie’s way of saying: We get it.
Now, onto the wedding, a fairy tale of hanging blossoms, gowns, hairdressing and makeup application. Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella (Kristen Stewart) stand at an altar that looks like Rivendell, finally sharing passionate kisses with everyone’s approval. And why not? They’re married. The newlyweds jet off to Rio for an island honeymoon, and a story about chastity and longing becomes a story about satisfying conjugal activity. And what often arises from it. I’m fairly certain it’s not a spoiler to reveal that Bella gets pregnant. Thus does “Breaking Dawn” become a gigantic pop culture vehicle for examining what Jonah Hill described in “Knocked Up” as “smashmortion.”
The werewolves believe the pregnancy voids the werewolf vampire treaty, that the “demon” must be destroyed. The baby is a threat to Bella’s health, so Jake and even some of the vampires (including Edward!) want the pregnancy terminated. This leads to in-house debates over the terms “fetus” and “baby” and how they apply to the unborn child growing inside Bella at a supernatural rate.
You have to tip your hat to Stephenie Meyer for the unprecedented way that her “Twilight” series manages to weave love, sex, marriage, commitment, teen pregnancy and life/choice arguments into a lively and enormously popular narrative. Even so, it’s really hard to keep a straight moviegoer face during some of the late-stage developments in “Breaking Dawn” – if you thought pickles and ice cream were strange pregnancy cravings, wait till you get a load of Bella’s. And the movie makes a grave mistake by having werewolves carry on an angry debate while in wolf form. It’s a cross between “Anger Management” and “Milo and Otis.”
Also, the delivery-room scene is a little baroque; distraught vampires trying to save Bella with “Pulp Fiction” hypos and desperate biting. Good luck getting an HMO to pay for that.
Is the movie good? Surely not. Will you be sorry you watched it? Surely not.
It’s like “Roadhouse” for women. As irresistible as it is ridiculous.November 17, 2011 at 9:26 pm #43041
I really dont know what people see in this film franchise. Its quite terrible. I will say I enjoyed the books, but when I saw the first film on opening night, I was more than disappointed.
Its extremely overrated to me, since the whole cast and crew on there seem like total miscasts. I mean I have seen Brick Walls put out better performances than Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson isnt good looking at all, and the only thing Taylor Lautner has going for him is his abs.
Eh hopefully the series will be forgotten in years to come.