Despite the rampant popularity of the Twilight films, I’ve somehow managed to avoid seeing any of them, a feat which I’ve been very proud of. Unfortunately, when we were asked to review the upcoming DVD release of Breaking Dawn: Part One, Kyle refused to sit through the film again, so I begrudgingly agreed to take one for the team.
I decided to approach this film from a newcomer’s perspective, to see if it resonates with someone who isn’t well-versed in the material. I didn’t bother to watch any of the previous installments, nor did I research any of the mythology. Due to their never-ending presence in pop culture, I was familiar with the characters of Edward, Bella, and Jacob, but that was the extent of my Twilight knowledge.
It’s clear from the opening scene who the target audience is, as Taylor Lautner storms out of the house in the pouring rain and strips his shirt off at the :47 second mark (yes, I checked). That fact that his pants magically disappeared as he transformed into a wolf made me wonder why it was necessary to remove the shirt in the first place, but then again, I’m sure the tween audience was very appreciative of those luscious washboard abs.
Bella and Edward are getting married in a lavish outdoor ceremony (apparently these particular vampires aren’t affected by sunlight), and Jacob is pissed off because he’s in love with Bella and dismayed that he was never able to “imprint” on her. The actual definition of “imprinting” is never explained with any real clarity, but it’s my understanding that it’s a particular sort of attachment and connection a werewolf forms with another person, an uncontrollable feeling of love and devotion that is considered the pinnacle of happiness.
The newlyweds travel to a remote island in Brazil to consummate their marriage, an act which leaves the bedroom in ruins and the bride covered in bruises, and it’s not long before Bella realizes that she’s pregnant, an eventuality that the happy couple had never considered. Distraught and terrified, Bella secludes herself in the Cullen home and sends word to Jacob, who comes bounding to her side like a faithful dog (see what I did there?) to protect her from the rest of the wolfpack (no, not the guys from The Hangover).
It’s at this point that the film adopts a sickeningly transparent “pro life” message and proceeds to bash us over the head with it until the credits roll. Jacob thinks the only reasonable option is to abort the fetus, an opinion shared by nearly everyone else in the family (except Rosalie, whose only function seems to be insisting “it’s a baby” every time someone says the word “fetus”). Bella is frail and emaciated, with the little creature depriving her of any nourishment – not to mention kicking with enough force to break her ribs – but she is resolved to keep the fetus (“it’s a baby”) despite the fact that it’s slowly killing her.
Indeed, after a harrowing delivery sequence that feels like it belongs in one of the Saw films and culminates with Edward tearing Bella’s stomach open with his teeth in order to extract the child, Bella dies. But as luck would have it, the baby is not the monstrous creature that so many feared it would be – in fact, it’s a perfectly normal-looking baby girl that turns out to be so adorable that Jacob, as he enters the room to kill the creature, falls to his knees and “imprints.”
[pullquote_left]The ridiculously convoluted narrative raises far more questions than it answers.[/pullquote_left]Yes, that’s correct – in a world where the public at large is still shocked and revolted at the events of the Penn State scandal, a film featuring an adult male (werewolf) falling hopelessly in love with a newborn baby girl is not only deemed perfectly acceptable, but it grosses nearly $140 million in its opening weekend.
With the notable exception of Bella’s deteriorating health, the special effects are laughable, especially the poorly animated wolves. Line delivery is flat and emotionless, particularly from Lautner, and the score rarely seems to coincide with the events happening onscreen. The ridiculously convoluted narrative raises far more questions than it answers – for example, after Bella dies on the delivery table and Edward injects her with the “venom” in an attempt to turn her into a vampire, why the hell does he give her CPR? We’ve already established that vampires have no heartbeat, which makes this whole sequence more confusing than compelling.
I’ll say this much: there was never a time during Breaking Dawn: Part One that I found myself bored – mostly because I was far too busy scratching my head and wondering what the hell was going on and how anyone could possibly buy into this.
The 2-Disc Special Edition is packed with additional features, the most interesting of which is a 6-part behind-the-scenes documentary on the production of the film. Clocking in at nearly two hours, the doc features plenty of interviews and commentary with the cast and filmmakers, and includes a truly fascinating segment on the visual effects used to turn the 110-pound Kristen Stewart into the pregnant, emaciated 70-pound Bella Swan.
[pullquote_right]This is an excellent purchase for anyone who loved the film.[/pullquote_right]There’s also a short featurette entitled “Jacob’s Destiny” which explores the character’s journey of self-discovery, and an 8-minute “Bella and Edward Wedding Video” featuring plenty of additional footage from the first act’s nuptials, which feels more authentic than the film itself. And let’s not forget the “Jump to Edward” and “Jump to Jacob” options, which allow viewers to skip directly to scenes featuring their preferred romantic interest.
Fans will find tremendous value in this 2-disc set, with plenty of supplemental material to keep them entertained. My extreme dislike for the material notwithstanding, this is an excellent purchase for anyone who loved the film and would like a glimpse behind the curtain to see how everything came together.