A Really Rather In-Depth And Personal Review/Love Letter/Ramble: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011)

DIRECTOR: Bill Condon.

CAST: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Nikki Reed, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Kellan Lutz, Elizabeth Reaser, Sarah Clarke, Booboo Stewart, Julia Jones, Chaske Spencer, Jackson Rathbone, Gil Birmingham, Anna Kendrick, Alex Rice.

SYNOPSIS: If you don’t know by now, where have you been?!

***CONTAINS POSSIBLE SPOILERS***

Hi. My name’s Emma and I don’t hate Twilight. But I’m no Twihard. Yes, I’ve read all the books and I guess that makes me significantly more interested in the characters, but I’m not someone who will push Robert Pattinson into the path of an oncoming taxi just because I like the way he sparkles. I just honestly don’t see the need for all the intense hate for the series.

Ok, I’ll admit, I definitely went to a midnight screening of Breaking Dawn which almost certainly added to the hype of the film for me and understandably may have led me to rate it higher. But then I went again a few days later to work out why I’d enjoyed it so much. And I felt exactly the same. So sue me.

I completely appreciate the fact that The Twilight Saga is aimed at the female sex. And therefore I am more than aware of the fact that it is far easier for me to be swept up in the whole idea of these characters and the intensity of the relationships. But I truly believe that Stephenie Meyer has latched onto a good thing here. All she does is put onto paper a heightened version of female feelings – and it only works with a character that is put on a pedestal as much as Edward. It just never comes across quite that way in the films. But I don’t believe it honestly could without overstepping the line of parody.

But I’m not saying every female buys into this. No way. The majority of girls I know strongly dislike the films. But then again, they’ve never read the books. But then my mum’s never read them and loves the films, so my point’s pretty defunct. But anyway, here are my (probably rather controversial) feelings on the film. Hate away!!

I’m planning a retrospective on Kristen Stewart soon as I want to take a look back over some of her earlier stuff, especially when she has big projects in the vein of Snow White And The Huntsman and On The Road coming up. The Twilight Saga is never going to be the best thing to judge her on, but she definitely pushes Pattinson into the background in this film, coming out far stronger and making Bella more likeable (and ironically human) than she has ever been before. Stewart is undeniably the most relaxed and natural she has ever been during the Saga, maturing Bella into a maternal and responsible adult – a far cry from the conflicted and confused little girl in New Moon. I genuinely loved watching her in this and seeing how subtly she’d let Bella change. The constant lip biting is gone (ok, the hair ruffling’s still got to be worked on) and I believed every step she took walking down that aisle. Allowing her guard to drop and letting us see the scared and vulnerable girl inside, Bella and Charlie walking down the aisle was borderline heartbreaking as we all knew she was saying a final goodbye to her father.

Responsible for Bella leaving Charlie is arguably Edward, or ‘The Hair’ as Anna Kendrick’s Jessica so brilliantly calls him during her speech. As I’ve already mentioned, Pattinson is a little overshadowed by Stewart in this film, but it’s all about Bella’s maturity and journey to womanhood/vampirehood, so it kind of makes sense. Unfortunately mumbling his way through a lot of the film, it’s rather rewarding when he gets a chance to shout at Bella, but I’d have loved to see him go a little further – although I did cry. Shocking behaviour. Akin to Stewart, I know Pattinson’s got a lot more to offer, but real moments of tenderness and despair definitely get through here and, if not quite as much as we like, we do really feel his hopeless sense of loss.

Unsurprisingly, Taylor Lautner is once again subjected to some absolutely awful lines, but I have this strange feeling that if his voice didn’t sound like it did and he didn’t put inclinations where he did, it would all sound a lot less natural – does anybody else get what I mean? That big cheeky grin of his does save him a lot of trouble and he deals with what he’s given fairly well, but it’s a real shame that Jacob isn’t written better, especially when he is so bloody integral to this fourth book, a huge chunk of it actually from his perspective when you read it. But it’s Seth (B. Stewart) and Leah (Jones) who really struggle here, Leah impossible to like until one little key moment and Seth maybe a little annoying, but hey, we’ll see how they play in the final installment.

There are some other characters that must be touched on, a couple of whom definitely steal the limelight. It’s frustrating that the brilliant Mike doesn’t get a little more to do here, but he does provide a laugh out loud moment with his wonderful dancing at the wedding. The high school gang are only seen briefly, but it’s good to see them all there, Anna Kendrick brilliantly bitchy as ‘best friend’ Jessica, commenting on everything from the size of the wedding cake, the fact it’s probably a shotgun wedding and how she ‘jokingly’ can’t believe Edward picked Bella over her. Now known as an Oscar nominated actress, it says a lot about Kendrick (an actress about to be directed by Robert Redford) that she wasn’t too big for her boots to return to a franchise that gave her such a great start.

But Jessica’s not the only one who gets the laughs at the wedding, with Bella’s mum (Clarke) at her absolute most embarrassing by singing as her toast to the newly married couple. I have to admit that I do like Clarke as Renee. She’s believable enough, but also helps you understand where Bella’s defiant and anti-girly streak comes from. But Renee doesn’t even come close to stealing my love for Charlie. I’ve always said I’m Team Charlie, with Billy Burke repeatedly stealing the show and always having the best one-liners from each installment – “Famous Ladies’ Man” from New Moon possibly my all-time fave. His ability to deliver deadpan lines with such comedic effect makes him the perfect choice for Bella’s dad, while balancing it out with an incredible vulnerability and tenderness that have often brought me to tears. The real moment this is showcased within Breaking Dawn Part 1 is when he is walking his eighteen year-old daughter down the aisle to marry a man he has never been entirely sure on. Charlie married Renee young and only has his daughter’s best interests at heart, cleverly stating his point during his speech by telling the congregation how he knows Edward will be a good husband, “because I have a gun.” Brilliant.

The pre-nuptial walk down the aisle (keep your eyes peeled for Meyer’s cheeky little cameo) wouldn’t work nearly as well if Twilight wasn’t so spot-on when it comes to its soundtrack. Yes, we’ve had Desplat and Shore on the last two films, but Carter Burwell has been sorely missed, making everything appear to come full circle. By reworking his initial score, he’s got all the girls going a little giddy remembering what the first film had to offer, and that’s really no bad thing. But it’s the actual soundtrack, the choice of songs, that gives the film its spirit once more. The song Bella and Edward danced to at their prom at the end of the first film is stripped down into a beautiful acoustic version for their wedding, yet again reconnecting the Saga and making the fan girls happy. But I genuinely think it’s a very clever, yet wonderfully obvious touch. However, it’s the new additions to the soundtrack that are most poignant and at times very haunting. Bella’s moments of stillness throughout the Saga have always worked so well, and are often some of my favourite scenes (think about Bella in the chair by the window in New Moon. Ouch). Here the songs assist some of the film’s darker parts and encapsulate the mood perfectly – look no further than the stunning Cold by Aqualung and Lucy Schwartz (which actually features the words Lion and Lamb) when Bella is at her absolute frailest. I have shivers just thinking about it.

Breaking Dawn Part 1 could very easily be renamed ‘Bella Does A Bale’, with her constantly shrinking form – due to the human-vampire hybrid that’s growing inside her – extremely harrowing and heartbreaking. Although I’ve read the books and knew what was coming, I still found this extremely hard to watch, which is testament to Stewart for making me care about Bella more than I’d realised. I’m also glad Bill Condon didn’t shy away from this in his direction, making it very harsh and surprising in context with the previous films. But this makes the film seem routed a lot more in reality for a girl who’s surrounded by vampires and werewolves. I’ve been referring to this film as absolute, borderline PG-13 (over here in the UK it’s a 12A certificate, but anyone who’s seen that scalp scene in Contagion will realise Condon still had rather a bit of room to breathe), with the sounds and what you don’t see adding up to make it more terrifying than it really is. Although the birth scene is handled very well through a drugged-up Bella’s eyes, I would have loved to see it extended and played out a little longer, as Stewart’s not an actress who’s afraid of making herself ugly. But at the end of all this, linking into the final installment due next November, Bella will be anything but ugly, her transformation shown at the very end of this film.

This very last sequence is simple, but incredibly effective and has some brilliant special effects that show the repair of Bella’s completely broken body and the last beats of her heart. Carter Burwell could not have composed a better piece of music for this integral and long awaited part of the franchise. Triumphant, tragic and hopeful, he weaves in music from his brilliant score for the first film and we are treated to a montage of scenes from the first three films along with added moments of a young Charlie and Renee and their stunning baby Bella. I don’t think there could have been a more beautiful or spine tingling way to show this silent transformation, even if we are watching Bella scream on the inside, battling with the most unimaginable pain and fight. And this is why it’s my favourite moment of the entire film.

Breaking Dawn Part 1 works because Condon doesn’t make it feel like a book adaptation. It feels like its own film and I am really looking forward and exceedingly hopeful as to how he has shaped the second part seeing as they were filmed back-to-back. With the ability to provide us with laughs from Charlie and Emmett, make Rio and Isle Esme look absolutely stunning and handle the fight scenes all in equal measure, Condon was a perfect choice for the adaptation of the final book. I was incredibly shocked when Summit announced he had signed on and ultimately, as it’s always going to be more about franchise fulfilment as opposed to personal vision, the film would never be a true reflection of what he wanted. But I believe some of his personality – along with Hardwicke’s, Meyer’s, Slade’s and arguably Weitz’s – shines through here and his ability to turn this film into more than just a book adaptation makes him by far the best director that’s touched the franchise.

And I absolutely loved it.

VERDICT: 4/5

2 responses to “A Really Rather In-Depth And Personal Review/Love Letter/Ramble: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011)

  1. *cough* *cough* Did you say you are NOT a Twihard??? LOL! Your review certainly reads like an earnest defence of your appreciation for it (replete with an opening “disclaimer” paragraph)!

    It is a magnum opus of a review! With the sort of attention to detail (analysis of supporting roles, scoring etc.) which could only ever have been written by a hardcore fan OR…. someone with deep knowledge of the subject matter (which technically..makes you a fan…)

    I never really “got” the whole Twilight craze (perhaps I’m just the wrong demographic??), but I will say this – that is the most impassioned, descriptive and detailed analysis of any of the movies in the series I have read so far and almost made me feel ashamed about being dismissive and mildly derogatory about the films in the past (I did say ALMOST! ;-) )

    A101

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head right at the start – I do have an appreciation for it all. I can’t help having been swept up in it after reading the books. I stayed away from it for quite a while, but finally gave in just after the first film’s release where I decided to read them all before I saw any of them. But it is pretty cheeky that I put that little ‘disclaimer’ at the beginning as if I was trying to cover my back in some way in case people judged me…..!!

    ‘Magnum Opus’ – I like that! I’d call it more of a ramble. It’s is no way a structured review, just a series of paragraphs that I just wanted to lay down. And yes, I suppose you’re right in regards to how a deep knowledge of the subject matter would technically make someone a fan.

    I don’t know quite what the demographic is. All I know is that this 23 year-old will happily spend her time getting lost amongst this crazily heightened romantics. Don’t feel (almost!!) ashamed about being dismissive. I understand exactly why people hate the films, and the bonkers fans don’t help. I’m not one of them, no Twihard, but I will say I own all the books and DVDs and definitely went to a midnight screening for this one. But it’s part of the fun, and if you can’t experience it with proper fans, it’s never quite the same (even if I did go a second time a few days later by myself…… Ha).

    But thank you for reading it. That means a hell of a lot from someone who’s obvious very cautious about the whole franchise :) And thank you even more for your comment.

    Now for me to return to my usual framework in regards to reviews….!

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