The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Breaking Dawn - Part 1
Now that she's getting laid, maybe Bella won't be so moody all the time.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 is the movie fans of Stephenie Meyer's novels have been waiting for. It's the one where virginal Bella (Kristen Stewart) marries the vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson), finally gets to have sex, and becomes unexpectedly pregnant with his vampire baby. It's the one where werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) finds his true calling. It's the one where beds are broken in the act of lovemaking, wolves communicate with each other telepathically, and one character eats a placenta. Yes, really. Having just seen the film for myself, I am compelled to ask one sincere question: Do people really like this stuff?

I should mention from the outset that I'm not a Twilight fan. Because I have no emotional connection to this story or its characters, there's a limit on how much I'm going to enjoy any particular installment. Basically, it all comes down to whether each one feels accessible enough to hold my attention. I thought Catherine Hardwicke's original Twilight was silly, but stylish an innocuous teen girl fantasy with cool visuals and a killer soundtrack. New Moon, directed by Chris Weitz, felt mopier and more dull. It delved into the Bella/Edward/Jacob love triangle, an event about which I do not even remotely care. David Slade's Eclipse was the chapter I found most tolerable, in that it brought some darker shades to the story and dialed down many of the soap opera theatrics. Breaking Dawn, directed by Bill Condon (Kinsey, Dreamgirls), cranks the melodrama back up. The Twi-hards around me often squealed with glee. They got what they wanted; I was bored stiff.

The cinematic version of the Twilight saga has lost some of the lightness it had at the beginning. Due to its immense popularity and extreme fan loyalty, it has begun to take itself too seriously. My fellow audience members (99% female, of course) often laughed at things that did not strike me as being funny. Then I realized that they weren't laughing because something humorous had happened, they were laughing because they recognized elements from the books they all love so much. I cannot entirely fault Breaking Dawn for giving fans what they want, nor can I fault the fans for delighting in that. I myself have adored film adaptations that have recreated on screen what I loved on the page. (Hello, Watchmen!) That said, I think there's a cost to this approach. Breaking Dawn is not much fun for anyone who isn't already among the converts. It is very focused on the idea of Not Pissing Off The Fans By Getting It Wrong. As a relative outsider, I found that this mentality sucked all the life out of the film. Because I'm not a Twi-hard, I didn't want to see slavish faithfulness. I wanted simply to be entertained to a reasonable degree, as I was with Eclipse. This installment of the series is insular, requiring you to come with a passion for the story in order to experience any kind of enjoyment.

Stephenie Meyer is, as most people probably know, a devout Mormon, and the Twilight saga has been interpreted as a story about the value of saving sex for marriage. I respect that as a message for the young female audience. In Breaking Dawn Part 1 there is a similar hidden moral idea. Bella's pregnancy threatens to kill her. Everyone around her encourages Bella to kill the vampire fetus. She refuses. It doesn't matter if you're pro-life or pro-choice and I'm not going to discuss my own feelings here this is a potentially gripping theme. The screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg skims over it, though. I think I'd have better tolerated the boring melodrama and the truly bizarre third act had the picture delved deeper into this conceit. At least it would have been something accessible to me as a non-fan.

Stewart, Pattinson, and Lautner are all okay, I guess. The supporting actors (Anna Kendrick aside) are as bland and stiff as ever. Visually, Breaking Dawn lacks the inventiveness Hardwicke brought to the original, and the pace is not as swift as the one Slade brought to Eclipse. Not that any of this matters. Fans will love it, and see it more than once. Yet it strikes me as a missed opportunity. Look at the Harry Potter films. People who never read one single Harry Potter book could get into them. They were inviting. Breaking Dawn Part 1 suggests that this particular series will end next year in an equally uninviting, fans-only kind of way. And I think whatever passing novelty the saga may have had for me is now officially gone.

( out of four)

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 is rated PG-13 for disturbing images, violence, sexuality/partial nudity and some thematic elements. The running time is 1 hour and 57 minutes.

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