FILM REVIEW: TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN (PART ONE)

By Michael Phillips 2013-09-16

Tribune Newspapers Critic

1 1/2 stars

The fourth film in the "Twilight" series reveals a flash or two of real filmmaking (mostly in a suggestively grotesque birthing sequence), enough to save it from pure lousiness.

But a significant number of its 117 minutes do seem like hours, and whenever certain actors take the lead and set the pace of the dialogue, time itself begins to crawl backward and the breaking dawn begins to feel like yesterday's breaking dawn, or last Tuesday's.

How did this happen? Quite apart from the source material's morbidity -- the Stephenie Meyer novel, a combined abstinence lecture and anti-abortion allegory, has been broken into two separate features, this year's and next year's -- how did Bill Condon, the director with the most stylish and idiosyncratic resume of any to undertake a "Twilight" installment, deliver the dullest movie of the bunch?

And is there anything to do about Taylor Lautner? He's had four films now to improve, yet he's still coming off like a reedy-voiced pretender, doing his best, but ... say what you will about Robert Pattinson (fwoopy-haired vampire Edward) or Kristen Stewart (Edward's squeeze, Bella), but Stewart is up around here, Pattinson a little below that, and Lautner (heartbroken werewolf Jacob) is down there somewhere.

So: Sex with a vampire. Finally. For three films now, the "Twilight" narrative has practically goaded the audience into having intercourse on behalf of the characters. (Bella is 18, and in "Breaking Dawn" she gets pregnant with demon child about 20 minutes after losing her virginity.) The smoldering and the we-can't-we-shouldn't sweet nothings have been going on between Bella and Edward, with a side order of Jacob, for what seems like centuries. Honeymooning on an isle off the Brazilian coast, bammo: Edward's demon seed starts its journey and eventually starts breaking Bella's bones from the inside. (Told you: morbid!) Once Bella is fighting for her life back home in Forks, Wash., the controversial pregnancy foments another round of species warfare between the vamps and the wolves.

"Twilight," the phenomenon, sells one thing above all else: the idea of sex with serious, immediate and clinically painful consequences. Of the "Twilight" pictures to date, this one works least well as a stand-alone product. Condon does strangely little to energize the various heart-to-hearts and the wedding-jitters montage scenes. The oversized wolves, the superfast-motion imagery and other "Twilight" effects flourishes look as cheesy as ever. Composer Carter Burwell, one of the best in the business, has been dragged down to a level of mediocre wallpaper music one wouldn't have thought possible.

But don't listen to me. I enjoyed the first two for what they were, and didn't much like the third one, which many considered the best. "Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" sets up "Part 2." That should be enough from a business perspective. Those who are committed to this franchise are committed to this franchise.

MPAA rating: PG-13 (for disturbing images, violence, sexuality/partial nudity and some thematic elements).

Running time: 1:57.

Cast: Kristen Stewart (Bella); Robert Pattinson (Edward); Taylor Lautner (Jacob); Michael Sheen (Aro).

Credits: Directed by Bill Condon; written by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel by Stephanie Meyer; produced by Wyck Godfrey, Karen Rosenfelt and Stephanie Meyer. A Summit Entertainment release.

Back to Movie Details

Movie News

Correction: Obit-Robert Drew storyCorrection: Obit-Robert Drew story
The Associated Press7 hours ago
In this publicity image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment, Linda Blair portrays a possessed Regan MacNeil in a scene from, "The Exorcist." Dick Smith, the Oscar-winning make-up artist who amused, fascinated and terrified moviegoers by devising unforgettable transformations for Marlon Brando in "The Godfather" and Linda Blair in "The Exorcist," died  Wednesday, July 30, 2014 in California of natural causes. He was 92.  (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment)
'Godfather of Makeup' Dick Smith dead at 92'Godfather of Makeup' Dick Smith dead at age 92; created Brando's Corleone, 'Exorcist' Blair
The Associated Press8 hours ago
'Sharknado 2' whipped up storm of viewers, tweetsSyfy horror spoof 'Sharknado 2' whipped up storm of viewers and tweets Wednesday night
The Associated Press9 hours ago
FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013 file photo, Actor Jude Law pauses, during the press conference for the film Side Effects at the 63rd edition of the Berlinale, International Film Festival in Berlin. Law feels his work options are widening as he gets older and there’s “less emphasis on playing romantic leads”. The 41-year-old British actor _ best known for his roles in ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’, ‘Cold Mountain’ and more recently ‘Sherlock Holmes’ _ adds, “You get over certain age, and you’re more complicated anyway. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)
Jude Law: With maturity comes complicationActor Jude Law says aging on screen is complicated, but brings new options
The Associated Press15 hours ago
FILE - In this April 27, 2007 photo provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Anne and Robert Drew, left, join Ed Carter and Grace Guggenheim, right, during an event honoring him at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The "cinema verite" technique and its pioneer, documentary filmmaker Robert Drew, were celebrated by the National Archives and Records Administration and Hollywood's Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Drew’s eldest son, Thatcher Drew, confirmed that the filmmaker died Wednesday morning, July 30, 2014, at his home in Sharon, Conn. (AP Photo/Neshan Naltchayan, AMPAS)
Cinema verite documentarian Robert Drew dies at 90Cinema verite, documentary pioneer Robert Drew, whose credits include 'Primary,' dies at 90
The Associated Press1 day ago
Movie News