Friday, 18 November 2011

'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1' Review

'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1' (dir: Bill Condon, 2011) Cert: 12A

As I've admitted many times before in the past, I am one of those rare film critics who is actually a fan of the 'Twilight' franchise - I love the books and find the pictures entertaining, engrossing and rich, but one is also very aware that they are not perfect and can see why many have issues with them. After the ghastly trailers, I entered director Bill Condon's first part of Stephenie Meyer's climatic 'Breaking Dawn' with some trepidation but hoped that the film would deliver. After 117 minutes, here's my verdict...

 The day has arrived; the wedding of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). As the pair tie the knot and head off on their honeymoon, things soon take a turn for the worst as Bella inexplicably and impossibly falls pregnant causing her health to rapidly deteriorate. Further bad news arrives with Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) when he explains the Quileute tribe are planning an attack on the Cullen residence as they close in on the unborn child.

 As always, 'Breaking Dawn - Part 1' has taken a good beating by many writers, but it's impossible not to read these negative reviews and believe they are premeditated. For this reason, one disregards many of the comments - it's not a proper nor informal review if a journalist has already decided a conclusion before even witnessing the feature. 

 Condon's fourth instalment carries the same operatic tone as other pictures in his filmography - this is a strictly visual, florescent work that is crafted around it's dreary-beautiful cinematography and audience-understood characters. Viewers do not need an introduction to the world or previous back-story so Condon and screenplay writer Melissa Rosenberg get stuck into the good stuff from the off. 

 'Breaking Dawn - Part 1' feels more mature and assured than previous entries and whilst it's isn't as action-packed as David Slade's brilliant 'Eclipse' (2010), it makes up for this in a variety of different departments. For starters, the cheesy dialogue is gone and is replaced with naturalistic, human speech. Even the romantic spurts at the wedding are toned down - the Edward we see before a microphone talking to his new wife is a calmer, more believable type. There are no more moments that shake you from the melodrama and cause freak bursts of misjudged laughter, and that is a fantastic thing.

 Secondly, Condon's movie screams throughout about it's classification; "RATE ME 15 PLEASE! I BEG OF YOU, BBFC!" is the hypothetical vibe that rages on. Some scenes, although clearly moderated for the 12A rating, are fairly gruesome and borderline mad. The film's death toll is not at patch on 'Eclipse' but this film is often morbidly focused and at points, lovingly demented. It also features the couple's first sex scene and whilst this is extremely tame and utterly inoffensive, your little Twihard may question why Edward snaps a bed whilst laying on Bella. Realistically, EOne and Summit should have had the nerve to hold the film in all it's mental glory and snatch that 15/R rating, but obviously that would decrease box-office figures and that was never going to be risked just for a little more gore and nudity.

Still from 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1' (dir: Bill Condon, 2011)
 Thirdly, the three leads have grown in talent yet again. Pattinson's break away and role in 'Water for Elephants' has certainly helped his deliverance and accessibility on-screen. He is great here and excels in the emotionally challenging scenes - having much stronger dialogue is just what he needed to shake some of the demons from the last movies. Lautner has progressed significantly too - he was strong in 'Eclipse' but he is fantastic here. Ladies may be disappointed as he keeps his six-pack under-wraps for virtually the entire duration but realistically, this is a promising move. He has clearly realised that he wants to be an actor, not a body and it shows dramatically here. He too is giving more constructed, smarter dialect which clearly aids his role. Jacob is a strong-hearted and powerful young man weighted by love and the Quileute law and this is finally apparent to all in 'Breaking Dawn - Part 1'.

 Like always however, it's Stewart that steals the show - Bella is such a emotive and dimensional character and audiences see a whole new side to her in this entry. She also spends most of the film looking like death warmed up so the make-up department have worked wonders there. Stewart's vocal delivery is firmer, her presence is over-bearing and her body language speaks at an impossible volume. She is brilliant in this fourth film.

 Other areas in which this adaptation excels includes the CGI wolves which look feisty, sleek and polished, the sweeping and frankly breath-taking aerial shots of Forks' excessive trees and plant-life and the location shoot in Rio de Janeiro which is captured with honest and intricate beauty.

 'Breaking Dawn - Part 1' is not perfect however - there is the odd continuity error and niggle. A large portion of the film sees Edward and the fellow Cullens out in the sunshine yet not one of them sparkles which is a bit odd, and characters like Alice (Ashley Greene) and Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) do not get enough screen-time but these minor quibbles are nothing to get that angry about. 

 If you are not interested in the 'Twilight' saga or have no desire to get involved, then 'Breaking Dawn - Part 1' is probably not a film you would choose to see, but it offers it's audience much more than just a 'film for fans' - this is a dark, captivating and wonderfully horrific romance that tips it's hat to multiple genres as well as creating an awful lot to celebrate if you are a fan of the films and novels. 

 As you can probably tell, I loved this film and November 2012 cannot come quick enough. The end of the world will have to wait until this franchise is complete.

Beautifully captured, fantastically performed and incredibly entertaining - This isn't just a great 'Twilight' film; this is a great example of blockbuster cinema. Make sure you sit through the end credits too.

By Chris Haydon

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