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Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part I


"I have to put what where? No, no, this doesn't add up at all!"

It's 5:30 in the morning on Thanksgiving, and after four solid days of Twilight viewing, I have something to genuinely be thankful for. Let's recap here: Twilight, eh. New Moon, not too bad at all. Eclipse, pretty good. And now, with the first part of the Breaking Dawn conclusion, I have to say...


I'll step up and say most of this is due to the fact that director Bill Condon is one of the best alive, and he'll be the best thing to ever happen to love-lorn teenage vampire romances. He has a unique understanding of human sympathy that flows underneath his films, seemingly making it easier for the audience to connect to even the strangest stories. Consider Kinsey, if you will. And one thing that usually sets his films back from greatness, however, is that he knows he's that good. The cocksure sensibilities, while impressive to a tee, make his films as a whole just a half step back from where they should be. Here, though, knowing that he has a better handle on this than David Slade, Chris Weitz, or... catherine hardwicke. cough. He takes key moments from the first Twilight that might have stuck out like a sore thumb, and embeds them, recreating them in a way that makes the first film seem better than it actually is. He's gifted, that one. I tell ya'

The film begins, well... let me rephrase that. The first hour of the film involves a lesson in Pacing and Editing 101. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is about to marry Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and finally realize her shortly lived life's long wish - become just like him. Given that this is a series about holding onto your virginity until marriage, and... thinly veiled Mormonism, but never mind, you would think that the honeymoon would be something to see! We watch Bella get her make-up done, stress over her shoes, and be girly. We watch Edward be a nervous wreck and get ready for a bachelor party. There's the walk down the isle with the none-too-pleased pop Charlie (Billy Burke) toward all of Edward's 'relatives', including his 'dad' Carlisle (Peter Facinelli). There's the toasts, the cake, the dinner, and then we get to the honeymoon. And it feels like no time has gone by at all. And by the time the film actually gets underway and gives us the first major piece of plot, we're one hour into it and entranced by Condon's American gothic recreation of Rachel Getting Married.

We know from the previous films that the Vulturi (the oddly Romanian cast of vampire royalty) is closing in on the Cullen clan, hoping to get to them before Edward can turn Bella. And that Jacob's pack of Teen Wolves are still on the prowl. Things become far too tense for normalcy and sanity, however, when Bella discovers that she's pregnant. And it's Carlisle's. Kidding. Obviously it's Edward's. But the problem is that it shouldn't be happening. The Teen Wolves finally decide that enough is enough and they're going to end this feud once and for all - no more Cullens, no more problem. I'm sure even the Vulturi wouldn't mind that.

If we take the easy, languid, and ironically sharp pacing of the first hour, and match it with the last hour, it's a bit of emotional whiplash. There's a strong breeze in hour one during the wedding, and we're treated to a mandible-induced C-section during the final hour. Somehow, the whiplash is tolerable and makes for an enjoyable viewing experience. The actors have finally gotten into character and no one seems false, especially Kristen Stewart, whose physical transformation for the role was startling.

The only thing we don't get to see up close and personal is the deflowering of Bella that's been hanging over our heads since 2008. Of course, what with the live birth and all, the film probably wouldn't be suited for teenagers had they kept that in. Still, though - we see the aftermath. No, not the pregnancy (though I'm sure there's a moral in there somewhere, folks). I mean the bedroom, which is practically torn in half. Bed broken, curtains mussed, Charlie Sheen in the corner crying... For two teenage virgins, ... again, all I have to say is...