The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 should leave fans swooning

The wait is over, Twilight fans. Bella and Edward are getting married!

Wasting no time setting up the ceremony, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1 dives right into the pre-wedding prep as Alice (Ashley Greene) directs the setup and Bella (Kristen Stewart) prepares for her last night as a single woman. A last-minute attempt by Edward (Robert Pattinson) to let her off the hook, followed by a disturbing dream sequence, rob Bella of the peaceful sleep she needed before the big day.

The wedding sequence perfectly captures the apprehension of bride-to-be (and vamp-in-waiting) Bella as she starts her life with Edward before ending it as a human. The mix of humor and pathos is just right, and there are enough cameos by favorite characters and new faces to tie the past three movies and the upcoming finale together. The snarky Jessica (Anna Kendrick), in particular, represents the haters with her sweetly sarcastic asides. “I wonder if Bella will be showing?” she muses to Angela (Christian Serratos). “Bella’s not pregnant!” Angela reacts, horrified. “Oh, really?” Jessica replies. “Who gets married at 18?”

The Cullens’ “cousins” are also introduced (a vampire clan from Alaska from which the now-deceased Laurent hailed) and then pushed aside until Part Two next year, when the Great Vampire Battle commences. Until then, a weak effort is made to show how unhappy at least one of the cousins is with the proximity of a werewolf at the wedding.

A brooding Jacob (Taylor Lautner) arrives toward the end of the festivities and gives Bella his opinion of the nuptials and impending change in status to immortal. He inevitably gets pouty, faces off with Edward and runs into the night to sulk and howl at the moon.

Far more engaging is actor Billy Burke, who, as Bella’s long-suffering father and town Chief of Police Charlie, fully embodies the push-and-pull of a father who wants to see his daughter happy but also wants her to know he’s reluctant to let her go, especially as her new husband is whisking her away to parts unknown for their honeymoon.

And what a honeymoon it is! Bella is determined to experience wedded bliss while still human, though Edward feels that he might lose control and hurt his new bride. “I promised I would try this,” he whispers as the two smooch in the moonlight, then retreat to their luxe bedroom suite on their private island.

Twilight fans have been waiting for the consummation of this particular relationship for years, but the payoff seems a bit weak. Do they do the deed? Yes. But for all the violence and passion that purportedly goes on (the bed is in shambles, after all), there is mostly just allusion and a few morning-after flashbacks to satisfy the voyeurs in the crowd. Though, to be fair, it’s far more than Stephenie Meyer gave readers in the book.

Then, everything changes. Somehow Bella ends up pregnant—a fact that neither her husband nor the wolf pack back home is particularly excited about, especially in light of the fact that the baby is growing at an alarming rate and literally crushing her from the inside.

Meanwhile, Charlie is frantic because he hasn’t heard from his daughter (who is presumably ill and unable to return from the honeymoon), and her new family is concerned because no one knew this situation was even possible. There is nothing really done to explain it, either, even after a few attempts at searching the Internet turn up some leads. (By the way, looking for clues to your ultra-rare condition concerning humans and what are supposed-to-be-secret vampires on Yahoo? Not likely.)

Though her well-being is at stake (along with her shot at immortality), Bella stubbornly insists on having the baby, which causes a rift between her and Edward and nearly causes a war with the werewolves. Thankfully, Jacob comes to the rescue again—in the most unlikely of ways—and the focus turns to Bella’s transformation into a vampire.

While the chemistry between Stewart and Pattinson feels much less forced this time around, Lautner continues to be puckish and brooding. Incidentally, Team Jacob fans will be happy to note that the first appearance of Lautner
s abs is less than 60 seconds into the film. Sadly, there are far fewer appearances of them in this film than the previous three.

The visual effects continue to evolve and improve, though the werewolves are still a bit more comedic than convincing. One sequence, in particular, stands out for all the wrong reasons, as Jacob and the wolf pack meet in a lumberyard to hash out their reactions to Bella’s pregnancy. Instead of tension and drama, which is what director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) was clearly going for, moviegoers are instead likely to feel confused or annoyed.

The vampire makeup is also much better, with the Cullens coming off far less cartoonish than in Twilight. And Bella’s transformation from blushing bride to gaunt skeleton-with-child is well done, conveying her declining health in the wake of her continued pregnancy.

Fans of the book will understand much more of the story than someone who has only seen the films, as there is much which is implied and still more that is only vaguely explained (imprinting, for example). Anyone coming into this movie as a first-timer will be hopelessly confused, as there is very little effort put into helping new viewers find their footing. That being said, Twi-hards will not be disappointed by the lack of setup as it moves the story along that much faster.

Speaking of which, this movie is exceptionally well-paced compared to the other films in the franchise, with only a few strange scenes popping up here and there to derail it. Overall, the story grabs viewers and keeps them close until the final scene, where it’s made clear the direction Part Two will take.

There are some who will see The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part One as merely a setup for Part Two, as is ever the case when a single story is cleaved into parts for easier cinematic digestion (or to make more cash, as Jessica would surely point out). However, readers of the 704-page source material by Meyer know that Breaking Dawn was always like getting two books in one, with separate plots being the focus of each segment. In that respect, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1 is a complete film in and of itself, and should sufficiently whet fans’ appetite for the finale next November without leaving them feeling cheated.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1 is now playing in theaters everywhere.

For more information, visit the film's official Web site.

Published on SoCal.com

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