Vamp it up
The Stephenie Meyer tween vampire phenomenon gets notably more twisted and bloodier with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 1, easily the most demented, and most watchable, chapter in the series so far.
That said, I still haven’t met a Twilight movie I’ve liked.
This is the first movie in the series to have something resembling a dramatic pulse. Some of the thanks can probably go to director Bill Condon, who has managed a few good films in his career, such as Dreamgirls and Gods and Monsters. Hey, did you know Condon also directed Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh? You know now!
Condon can’t direct an action scene to save his life, but he handles dramatic tension well. Taylor Lautner almost looks like he can act in this film, so that’s a directorial accomplishment right there.
It all starts with the Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart)-Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) wedding, and then a bed-breaking honeymoon where Edward accidentally impregnates his still human, incredibly morose bride. Edward, even though he has been vampiring for many years, was unaware that impregnating Bella with a vampire baby was even possible. He doesn’t even make it out of the honeymoon without feeling like the worst husband ever.
The vampire baby, or whatever it is, wreaks havoc on Bella’s insides due to an alarmingly fast birthing schedule (Bella is showing within days of her deflowering). This helps to achieve what I saw as the impossible: Bella actually appearing more miserable than she did in the previous three films.
Bella physically deteriorates, and is unable to keep food down. Her weight loss is done through some rather effective makeup that makes her look like Maria Shriver on her worst days. It all leads to a twisted moment where Bella must drink some blood out of a Styrofoam cup. Her blood-coated teeth took me by surprise, and provided the film series with its first appropriately sickening moment. I finally felt like I was watching a vampire movie.
I have found Stewart’s yearning, heaving, whining performances in the first three Twilights to be a little too much to take. This time out, her insufferable suffering actually works pretty well. Maybe it’s because she actually has her insides being torn to shreds, rather than just feeling all lovesick. Her mopey attitude in this film befits her situation.
Pattinson and Lautner manage a cool, adversarial dynamic this time out. Again, I think this has to do with Condon knowing how to draw good performances from his actors. However, I will fault Condon for not showing nearly enough of the magnificent Taylor Lautner abs. The abs are relegated to little more than a cameo, when they deserve top star status.
When the vampires and wolves actually clash in this movie, it’s just a jokey, unintentionally hilarious mess. And a scene where Lautner’s Jacob wolf confronts other wolves, with their human voices dubbed over bad CGI wolf footage, is awful.
Hopefully Condon, who has the directorial reins for the series finale due next year, will be a little more comfortable at the controls of his special effects in the future. The way the action plays out in this film, it feels like choppy editing and low lighting is being utilized to cover up the fact that Condon didn’t know what to shoot.
This installment is definitely darker, with the whole Bella pregnancy plot offering the best moments in the series to date. I must admit, as much as I have hated Twilight (and I have REALLY HATED TWILIGHT) the vampire baby angle got me involved in the whole stupid thing.
So, by the time of this film’s final, admittedly effective shot, I found myself mighty curious about what’s going to happen next. I still didn’t like the movie overall, but like Bella in Breaking Dawn-Part 1’s almost gripping finale, I’ve started to turn.