Back in 2008, I was pleasantly surprised with the first movie in The Twilight Saga. It had interesting characters, a good script and was confidently directed by Catherine Hardwicke. The series then went a bit downhill with New Moon (aka Moody Teenage Girl Moans Miserably for Two Hours), which had Golden Compass director Christ Weitz at the helm. But the pace and energy were picked up by David Slade for Eclipse last year. And now we have Breaking Dawn Part 1, directed by Bill Condon. And it’s bad. It’s really bad.
The decision to cut this book in two is rather sneaky, especially as the idea was almost certainly snitched from another major fantasy move franchise (no prizes for guessing which one). This penultimate installment sees human Bella and sexy vampire Edward get married. And they have sex. Oh, and Bella gets pregnant with a vampire child. This may sound like a major plot spoiler, and I wouldn’t normally reveal such momentous events, but the buzz surrounding these three occurrences has been so noisy (bloggers have been wondering how the birthing scene would be filmed ever since the first movie came out) that hardly anyone could have failed to hear about what was going to happen in this film.
In case you’re not aware, Edward isn’t the only one who loves grumpy Bella. Hot wolf-boy Jacob loves her too. He does a lot of big, important stuff in this film, and only a small amount of it makes sense. The rules and mythology of vampire/human/wolf relations are written and rewritten from one scene to the next.
I have to say that Kristen Stewart, who has always been reliably awful in the past, was the least terrible she has been so far this series. I can’t damn the rest of the cast with such faint praise. It’s as if everyone had to have a lobotomy before being allowed on set. Taylor Lautner as Jacob is purely porn for women and gay men, nothing more. Robert Pattinson doesn’t really act; he just looks pained and creepy.
The biggest disappointment for me was the music. New Moon and Eclipse featured magnificent and imaginative scores from two of the world’s greatest film composers working today, Alexandre Desplat and Howard Shore. But for this movie Carter Burwell has been hired once again (he wrote the unremarkable score for the first film), and subtlety completely goes out the window. Most of the time we don’t even get to sample Burwell’s score; instead, we just get grating, loud and inappropriate pop and rock songs inserted over the top of the many pointless scenes (such as Bella shaving her legs before she beds Edward). At one point the band at the wedding scene play a scratchy little arrangement of Sia’s ‘My Love’, which was used when our two lovers were kissing in the previous film. The sound of it would embarrass even Frankie Cocozza.
In terms of the sex, there is barely any. It’s done ultra tastefully so as not to upset the American ratings board. The BBFC summed it up perfectly in their consumer advice report, saying that the film’s love scenes contained “little sexual thrusting”. But although the film is shy when it comes to sex, it’s rather graphic when it comes to the birth scene. Be prepared, that’s all I’ll say.
The computer animation of the giant wolves (the forest dwelling clan that are always having issues with the vampires) is laughably bad, especially when they start talking. Of course there is a certain amount of knowing humour (Jacob rips his top off within the first two minutes), but the series has now become a camp parody of itself. There are far too many kitsch dream sequences, and when you can’t take the film even remotely serious the oh-so-intense love story at the centre of it becomes very boring.
Breaking Dawn Part 1 is a strong contender for worst film of the year, joining The Hangover Part II, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Little Red Riding Hood. It’s vacuous, ridiculous and a complete waste of time. And I’m sure 14-year-old girls across the country are already addressing their hate mail to me for saying this. Bring it on, Twihards.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011), directed by Bill Condon, is distributed in the UK by Entertainment One Distribution, certificate 12A.