You can’t go see the latest Twilight movie alone. Really, none of the movies were made for single viewership; they have to be enjoyed in a theater with screaming preteen girls, preferably at midnight. So as long as you drag some friends along to Breaking Dawn, Part 1 and keep an open mind, you’ll be set.
If you’re a diehard fan, this is the culmination of waiting patiently for years to see Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward’s (Robert Pattinson) perfect wedding and hellish honeymoon. If you’re a newbie, you might as well skip the other movies and start at the most dramatic one. If you’re looking to mock this one, you won’t be too disappointed.
As a vampire movie, it’s fairly toothless until the ending. As a bad movie, it also falls short, since mocking the lines and plot twists wasn’t as fun as during Eclipse.
The movie is strongest in its moments of self-aware comedy. Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, who was responsible for some of Dexter‘s funnier years, gets that the franchise is campy as hell. And with such charged content in this installment—Bella’s virginity! Killer vampire fetus! Werewolf feuds!—she inserts much-needed levity amidst the drama. Bella’s attempts to seduce her husband, after Edward is too afraid of hurting her when they have sex, are some of Stewart’s best acting. Furthermore, Rosenberg smartly gives Taylor Lautner most of the one-liners. (Someday when he isn’t being valued on his abs alone, the boy will do okay in comedies.)
Kudos to Rosenberg and director Bill Condon for addressing the elephant in the room—that is, Bella’s virginity. Although watching nearly every character mention her imminent deflowering made me uncomfortable, ultimately I think that that it’s a commentary on society’s obsession with chastity and how losing that affects your reputation and your life. To that end, Jacob flat-out warns Bella that if she has sex with Edward when she’s still human, he’ll rip her apart. (Sort of like the classic Superman/Lois Lane argument.)
Speaking of Jacob, there’s also an unintentional comedy in the moments that garnered even more laughter and cheers than the funny parts. Jake’s got some subplot where he’s chafing against Sam, the leader of the Quileute wolf pack—it isn’t really explained, but it doesn’t matter. The CGI on the wolves is especially bad in Breaking Dawn for some reason, but the worst crime-by-CGI was giving baby Renesmee googly vampire eyes.
See, the squickiest part of the movie is when Jacob finally transfers his love for Bella to her newborn daughter, in a wolf process called “imprinting.” The filmmakers show you a vision of Renesmee in twentysomething form a) to hit home the fact that she ages fast and b) to try and mediate the creepiness of a wolf falling in love with a baby. But the sequence ends with Renesmee’s wise amber vampire eyes slapped onto an hours-old baby, and it’s just awful.
My major criticism of Breaking Dawn would have to be how mind-numbingly slow it is. (I refuse to believe that seeing it at midnight is partly to blame.) Somehow, we spend 117 minutes watching Bella and Edward get married, enjoy their honeymoon, have sex, get pregnant, and give birth. Compare that to an undertaking like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, which requires the slow start to amplify the terror and destruction in the Battle of Hogwarts. Anyway, Harry, Hermione, and Ron managed to destroy at least one Horcrux in their first half. The only thing that Edward crushed was his honeymoon bed.
Considering that Bella’s pregnancy occurs at warp speed and the second half of the book can be summed up as (spoiler!) “the Volturi are coming to kill Renesmee the Cullens shore up support the Volturi decide Renesmee isn’t a threat, yay!”, there’s no reason why we needed to sit through two movies. The whole thing smacks of greed.
What Breaking Dawn does have, however, is potential. The movie ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and smartly employs the kind of gory, blood-spattered elements we saw in Diablo Cody’s cheeky horror movie Jennifer’s Body. If we had to flounder through this prolonged prologue to experience Bella’s transformation from meek, insecure human to sexy, confident vampire, then so be it.
The Twilight franchise itself seems ready to morph into a more accessible horror film. We saw glimpses of this in the first movie, directed by Thirteen‘s Catherine Hardwicke: Her style made Twilight a foggy, ominous chillfest about discovering monsters in your midst. Breaking Dawn, Part 1 (and, I hope, Part 2) is a bloody hot mess about discovering the monster inside yourself.
Natalie Zutter is a playwright, foodie, and the co-creator of Leftovers, a webcomic about food trucks in the zombie apocalypse. She’s currently the Associate Editor at Crushable, where she discusses movies, celebrity culture, and internet memes. You can find her on Twitter.