The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 Review
New viewers, don't start here, This film assunes you have seen its three predecessors, or at the very least have read the novels they are based on. After three films, Bella and Edward finally tie the knot, while the other point of the triangle, Jacob, looks on in disapproval. But the ceremony goes ahead, and the newlywed couple go off to their honeymoon in Brazil, where they experience sun and sea and have lots of 12A-certificate sex. And then Bella finds out she's pregnant, when no-one thought it possible that a vampire and a human could conceive a child. So what is growing rapidly inside Bella? And how long before it kills her?
For the fourth Twilight films (based on the one novel I have not read at the time of writing), the producers have gone down the Harry Potter route and split the source text into two films, with Part 2 due next year. I'm not sure if that was a good idea. While each (overlong) novel is longer than the one before, Breaking Dawn is not that much longer than Eclipse. This does have its effect on the film's pacing, which relies heavily on your investment in these characters. (That said, if you're still watching after three previous films, that's no doubt a given.) Part 1 is for the most of its two hours one long slow burn. Hints of wrongness are there from the start, in a gory dream sequence. But we're some way into the second hour that director Bill Condon (a man with form in the horror genre, having written Strange Behavior and directed Candyman II and Gods and Monsters) lets rip with some Cronenberg-lite body horror. This tests the boundaries of the 12A certificate, so parents of younger children be advised. The film then builds to two cliffhangers, the second one in a scene partway through the end credits which features Michael Sheen reprising his camp turn from New Moon.
Maybe Condon should have let melodrama have its head earlier, or maybe we'll have real fireworks in Part 2. The film is certainly not above being ludicrous, such as a scene where the werewolves confer in English voiceovers. This does give Jacob – who is a second first-person narrator in the novel, when all three previous books were narrated by Bella alone – rather more to do in the film other than be Bella's rebound guy. And no, he doesn't get a gratuitous topless scene this time.
There's no doubt that Stephenie Meyer's novels work for their intended audience (and older). The film adaptations (all of them written by Melissa Rosenberg) do rectify some of the faults of the originals, such as the overlength and the occasionally problematic first-person narration. At the heart of a novels is a story which clearly chimes with its readership and taps into many a teenage fantasy, specifically a teenage female one. The result is a well-made film, but maybe one longer film would have been better than two normal-length ones. It all ends next year, with Part 2.