With Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Billy Burke; Written by Melissa Rosenberg; Directed by Bill Condon; Rated PG-13 for disturbing images, violence, sexuality/partial nudity and some thematic elements; 117 minutes.
There will be no denying fans of the “Twilight” series. They will swoon over the wedding of Bella (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire beau-hunk Edward (Robert Pattinson). They will ooh and aah over their exotic honeymoon. They will not complain that an hour has gone by and virtually nothing has happened.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART I takes the first half of the fourth and final novel of the series, and then asks viewers to wait a whole year for the exciting (yawn!) conclusion. Unfortunately for those who are not members of the sparkly vampire cult, the movie is excruciatingly dull when it’s not laugh-out-loud funny. These movies sharply divide viewers – you either get it or you don’t.
The story picks up speed in the second half, meaning it goes from being inert to things finally happening. It’s not revealing anything that isn’t already known to point out that the big issue in “Breaking Dawn” is that Bella, still human, and Edward, the not-human, discover that their infrequent marital sex has led not only to a pregnancy but to a creation that is apparently a vampire/human hybrid. The werewolves don’t like this one bit for some reason and want to kill Bella, the fetus, and the rest of the Cullen clan of vampires. This calls for Jacob (Taylor Lautner) to decide whether he’s more loyal to Bella, whom he loves, than to his wolf pack.
What this means in terms of the acting is that everyone looks as if they are constipated all the time. Even when she’s happy, Bella looks like she’s dead. In fact, when they think she actually is dead at one point, it’s startling to realize she’s showing the exact same emotional range as when she was alive. This is criminal because Stewart is an attractive and talented actress who has done interesting work elsewhere. Here, though, the only reason you won’t think she’s a zombie is she isn’t shuffling around demanding “Brains!”
Pattinson and Lautner are essentially little more than eye candy for the teen girls (and, let’s note, older women) who make up “Twilight” fandom. The characters are barely written and the actors do little to develop what they have. As Edward, Pattinson is about as expressive as a department store mannequin, while Lautner gets to take his shirt off (but not his pants) when he wants to morph into a wolf.
Parents might take care to note the mixed messages of the series. On the one hand, Edward and Bella remain chaste for much of the series. Now they’re married, and in one scene we see that Edward can’t control his strength when he’s in the throes of passion, leaving Bella with several bruises. Her claim that it’s “okay” sounds like an injured wife making excuses for an abusive husband. Later, the vampires argue about what to do about Bella’s pregnancy which seems to be killing her. One refers to the fetus only to be corrected several times by another vampire who insists it is a “baby.” Just what we needed – vampire right-to-lifers.
“Breaking Dawn – Part I” is a terrible movie, with little by way of plot or characterization, long stretches where absolutely nothing of importance happens, and a lame cliffhanger ending. Two things are certain: it is one of the worst movies of the year, and it is going to make an awful lot of money.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.