Looking back on my reviews of the previous films in this series, it’s hard to imagine that I actually enjoyed the original Twilight. There was, however, a kind of blissful innocence about that film (apart from the whole stalking thing), and Catherine Hardwicke’s direction really made the most of rather poor source material. Somewhere along the line, however, shit got serious. As the books evolve, they go about their romance in a strangely archaic fashion, kicking feminism in the shins as the story progresses. Breaking Dawn, then is the ultimate in conservative, pre-Suffragette views about women, sex and childbirth, and as such Meyer’s book is nothing short of offensive.
For those who don’t know but still care (if they exist), Breaking Dawn begins with the long awaited wedding of Bella and Edward. “Long” is a word that applies to the wedding also, which seemed to take up a good 30 minutes of the running time. I appreciate that the filmmakers wanted to get such an important moment “right”, but I haven’t seen such a slow, matrimonial start to a film since The Deer Hunter. There are some clever filmmaking skillz present here. For Bella’s walk down the aisle, the camera’s kept alternately on her and from her perspective, which really did hammer home the notion that it’s clearly the most nerve-wracking walk one can partake in this side of The Green Mile. Funnily enough, some of the best material during these scenes comes from dialogue that wasn’t written in the books. Telling, that.
Once we get to the honeymoon, everything starts to go wrong because, wouldn’t you know it, women can’t have sex without being punished. Once Bella’s bitten into that apple, everything goes pear-shaped (if you excuse my fruit salad metaphoring), and before you can say “sanguis bibimus, corpus edimus, toll corpus satani, ave”, she’s got a bellyful of demon baby.
Splitting the book up into two films makes a certain amount of sense, though we all know that the studios were thinking about cents instead. As it stands, Breaking Dawn manages to feel like its own film, even if it has to beef up the climax because Meyer couldn’t seem to manage such moments in any of the books. Unfortunately, said climax features a lot of CGI and a lot of darkness, so you can’t really tell what’s going on.
The visual effects aren’t bad, and are certainly much better than in the first film. The wolves look great in isolation, though they never appear to be sharing the same physical space as the actual actors. The score, however, is all over the place. During one of the supposedly heartfelt, quiet scenes near the start of the film, the orchestra seemed to think we were at the circus, and Carter Burwell’s work consistently disappoints.
When it comes to the performances, it’s a case of same old, same old. Kristen Stewart does a decent job as Bella, but Robert Pattinson looks as constipated as ever. Even Taylor Lautner out-performs this guy, which is pretty incredible when you think about it. The rest of the vamps/wolves get the job done to varying degrees, but everyone seems too distracted by their contact lenses/toplessness to really emote effectively.
Breaking Dawn is a film that’s alternately limp and offensive. The narrative saw all the main characters acting in ways that simply pissed me off, and the “big” moments, whether they were drama or action-related, fell flat. It’ll be interesting to see if the lacklustre audience response I’ve been reading about, coupled with the 12 month wait, will still result in Part 2 being a box office success.Rating: