Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn–Part 1

Despite high expectations, the addition of  the gifted director Bill Condon (“Gods and Monsters,” “Dreamgirls”) to the “Twilight Saga” creative team has not improved the mega-blockbuster franchise as it nears its finish line.


Despite having made nearing $2 billion, the “Twilight” films have been generally regarded (except by their core teen audience) as hit-and-miss—and more miss than hit.  In last summer’s  hit comedy“Crazy Stupid Love,” “Twilight” was even the butt of a memorable joke, with Julianne Moore tearfully confessing to Steve Carell that “I went to go see the new ‘Twilight’ movie by myself…and it was so bad.”

There has been, from the first “Twilight” film, in 2008, a puzzling loopiness to these films, probably because aspects that worked well in the massively popular Stephenie Meyer novels have proved challenging to convert into cogent cinema.  Meyer may not be the best prose writer around, but at least she cared about the characters of her story and gave them nuance and shading, which have been missing from all the “Twilight” movies, no matter who the director is.

Condon, hired to helm the last two movies in the series, “Breaking Dawn” parts 1 and 2, was hoped to be the man to take “Twilight” to a new artistic level, perhaps even elevate the status of the franchise among critics and more discernible viewers.   The director established himself with “Gods and Monsters” (1998) and went on to receive many accolades for his subsequent two projects, “Kinsey” (2004) and “Dreamgirls” (2006). “Breaking Dawn—Part 1” is his first film in five years and does not seem to fit with the Oscar-worthy work he has built his reputation upon.

Throughout the film, Condon struggles mightily to keep “Part 1” from coming off as loony tunes as it moves through some outrageous plot points established in Meyer’s book, already the stuff of teen lore.

Besides the long-awaited wedding and honeymoon (including honeymoon night) of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattison), “Part 1” features Bella’s vampiric pregnancy and the gruesome complications that ensue. She also finally undergoes her transition into vampirehood (ending this film with basically the same shot that James Cameron used to end “Avatar”).

Bella’s decision to have her half-human, half-vampire baby, despite Edward’s protestations—he at first refers to the baby only as “that thing”—somehow ignites a full-on vampire–werewolf war that will carry into “Part 2,” scheduled for release a full year from now.

While “Twilight” is fundamentally about sex, “Part 1” remains a tease. This movie is all about preparing for sex and winds up being fundamentally unsexy. Bella spends more time brushing her teeth than making love, and the consummation scene sneaks away.

Condon, a director whose previous work is steeped in sexuality, does not even have some fun with the homoerotic and sadomasochistic subtexts to this story that seem to be begging for his attention.

He also has trouble bringing more out of these young actors. While Stewart gamely throws herself into Bella’s near-demise, Pattison and Taylor Lautner, as Bella’s other love, Jacob Black, seem less sure of themselves than in earlier editions.

The screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg brings some welcome wink-wink humor into the mix, but it for the most part gives the actors too many embarrassing lines to contend with. Jacob gets most of the unintended laughs this time, too often forcefully telling Bella things such as “I know how this ends, and I’m not sticking around to watch!” and “It’s not like I’m the one carrying a demon!”

The second half of the film is at once a protracted waiting game, as Bella’s supposed demon child grows inside her and threatens to overtake her, and a celluloid freak-out that at times might make David Lynch smile. A couple of the more bewildering sequences involve CGI wolves having a telepathic strategy session and Condon literally taking us inside Bella to see her internal organs in the process of vampire makeover.

“Part 1” seems out of control, a product of the “Twilight” machine but not of any director per se. Like “Twilight” directors Chris Weitz (“New Moon”) and David Slade (“Eclipse”) before him, Condon is unable to put a personal stamp on the franchise.

Here’s hoping he will pull things together in “Part 2” for a satisfying conclusion to the entire series.


Bella Swan – Kristen Stewart

Edward Cullen – Robert Pattinson

Jacob Black – Taylor Lautner

Charlie Swan – Billy Burke

Dr. Carlisle Cullen – Peter Facinelli

Esme Cullen – Elizabeth Reaser

Emmett Cullen – Kellan Lutz

Rosalie Hale – Nikki Reed

Jasper Hale – Jackson Rathbone

Alice Cullen – Ashley Greene


A Summit Entertainment release.

Directed by Bill Condon.

Written by Melissa Rosenberg.

Produced by Wyck Godfrey, Karen Rosenfelt, and Stephenie Meyer.

Cinematography, Guillermo Navarro.

Editing, Virginia Katz.

Original Music, Carter Burwell.

Running time: 117 minutes.