The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part One is the long awaited fourth instalment of the criminally vilified series of Twilight adaptations. What these adaptations manage to do is work as films rather than becoming pedantically faithful, messy and uninteresting ‘picture books’, like the Harry Potter franchise. For once, having not read the books is not a disadvantage as this series is clear-headed enough to be accessible to everyone. As well as this, they are also thoroughly entertaining, deeply heartfelt and powerfully poignant.
There remains a lot of hatred for this series, partly, I suspect, because franchises aimed at teenage girls come under a lot more scrutiny than similar franchises aimed at teenage boys. Indeed, this new film will most likely not sway people who would rather ignore the Twilight franchise and those who actively hate it. However, it may very well be the best one so far.
Breaking Dawn – Part One deals with the marriage of Edward and Bella (played by Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart) and their subsequent honeymoon. When Bella becomes pregnant, her health rapidly fades, necessitating a return to Forks. When news of the pregnancy reaches the ears of Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and his pack, relations between the vampires and the wolves are strained to breaking point. While Edward and Bella deal with marriage and mortality, Jacob finds his loyalties questioned.
Breaking Dawn – Part One is an extremely powerful drama. While David Slade’s fantastic rendering of Eclipse allowed the series to move successfully in and out of horror and drama, Bill Condon’s diptych opener is mostly a drama. As always the performances of the three leads are great as each approaches their role with a sincerity and dramatic weight that marks this series out. Many of the supporting actors are also great, with Billy Burke’s Charlie still the most brilliantly realized of the ‘real world’ characters. Breaking Dawn – Part One manages to be the most heartrending of the series, particularly during the moving marriage sequences and towards the end. In fact, the performances are probably the series’ best. While the increasingly Cronenbergian plot machinations may threaten to lose all credibility, the film’s raw, at times intense, power keeps it together. There is also a healthy dose of humour in this film, which manages to keep the film’s feet firmly on the ground.
However, what is most successful about this film is the fact that many of its most powerful scenes are primarily dialogue-free. Stewart manages to convey a lot during the marriage sequences and during the honeymoon, while Lautner gives an always-fascinating performance as the torn Jacob, often without saying anything.
Breaking Dawn – Part One is also refreshingly adult and thought provoking. As with the rest of the films, there is much more than meets the eye. The film is ultimately a study of the passage from childhood to adulthood with a female take on marriage, sex and pregnancy that is too little seen. Along the way, it looks at loyalty, trust, prejudice and sacrifice.
Ultimately, with this series, you get out of it what you bring to it. Those in the audience who have built an emotional investment with these characters over the course of the previous three films will find it an extremely powerful, tense and moving drama. As such, it is one of the most affecting films of the year from one of the most sincere and emotionally satisfying franchises of the decade.