'Breaking Dawn' a yawn
By Mark Jenkins
Friday, Nov. 18, 2011
Recent high school graduate Bella Swan grows up a lot in "Breaking Dawn - Part 1," becoming a bride, a potential mother and perhaps something stranger. Yet the "Twilight Saga" hasn't matured along with its heroine. In fact, the latest movie regresses a bit, delivering more filler, less feeling and crummier CGI than last year's "Eclipse."
As the trailer (and the book) have already revealed, the drama this time is principally obstetric. In the movie's bland first half, which is less Bram Stoker than Martha Stewart, Bella (Kristen Stewart) prepares for woodland nuptials with pasty vampire dreamboat Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). We do see a bloody Edward-ian flashback and an angry run through the Washington state forest by wolfman Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), the excluded member of the tale's menagerie a trois, who's enraged by the couple's wedding invitation. But much of the action involves shoes, dresses and tearful, happy-sad chats with Mom and Dad.
Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" books rely on the erotic allure of repression, so it's no surprise that Edward is hesitant to claim Bella's famous virginity, even after they're married. The couple's long-delayed consummation, supposedly both scary and wonderful, occurs off-camera. While Edward resists a second attempt, once was enough to render Bella pregnant.
Edward worried that his lovemaking would be too much for a mere human, but his shattering force pales next to the fetus's. This fast-growing, half-human invader threatens to destroy Bella, who becomes so gaunt she looks as if she's on the Christian Bale diet. The prospect of dying in childbirth is not quite so ominous, however, when your new husband and in-laws are already dead.
Jacob's werewolf clan fears Bella and Edward's offspring, and plans to terminate it. Peeved as Jacob is - and he always is - he immediately sides with the vampires to defend Bella and the child. This is the series' swoon-inducing premise: to be desired by the two hottest boys in town, who compete to be best at protecting you.
There'll be a lot more protecting in "Breaking Dawn - Part 2," scheduled for next November. To judge by the teaser for the second movie, which is hidden amid this one's credits, the sequel will be campier than the first installment.
If so, that's an opportunity for director Bill Condon, who's new to the franchise. Condon tends to make good movies from his own ideas ("Kinsey") and bad ones from other people's ("Dreamgirls"); "Breaking Dawn - Part 1" doesn't change that pattern. Aside from winking at his Frankenstein-themed "Gods and Monsters" by inserting a clip from "The Bride of Frankenstein," Condon fails to bring a distinctive sensibility. Perhaps he was too busy wrestling with the vamp-versus-wolf action sequences - whose clumsiness is poorly disguised by their extreme dimness - to add much sly humor.
"Breaking Dawn" does pack some inadvertent laughs, notably in Bella's choices of baby names, the script's notions of werewolf mating habits and Lautner's attempt to convey strong emotion by squinting. Aside from regularly removing his shirt, Jacob is required to spend a lot of time hanging around the Cullen home, glowering and muttering such memorable lines as "whatever."
The wolfman, and the movie, is more articulate when he gallops howling through the trees.