Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner • Directed by Bill Condon • Age restriction: 13SV • Releases 16 November
By now we've seen enough to know what's coming.
The fans are set to burst with excitement and the haters are become more rabid by the second. No matter what the critics write about the film, viewers have made up their minds – and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 will smash records and pack out cinemas.
Have you seen the film yet? Tell us what you think!
Twilight, the big-screen adaptation of the best-selling first novel by Stephenie Meyer, introduced the world to Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), her vampire love Edward (Robert Pattinson) and her wolfish best friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). Three years, three films and $1.8-billion later, the world is gearing up for the first half of the franchise's finale.
But Breaking Dawn only ever feels like anything but a "Part One" – and viewers will probably feel horribly unsatisfied when the film ends. If you're a fan, chances are you've already predicted how the film will end – but stay on during the credits for a teaser leading in to the next film.
The film opens with the wedding preparations. Bella staggers around endearingly trying to get used to her new designer heels while the vampires construct an exquisite outdoor ceremony that will no doubt inspire many weddings to come. Alice (Ashley Green) swings into full-on fashionista mode and Bella's parents provide some touching "human" moments before Bella becomes a Cullen. And then it's wedding time – with The Dress (and yes, by now it warrants capital letters) being revealed bit-by-bit; a sweetly traditional ceremony; and a montage of quirky wedding speeches from the guests (Anna Kendrick as Jessica is particularly delightful). Jacob makes his fashionably late appearance after the wedding, graciously prepared to accept Bella's choice until she tells him exactly what she's planning for her honeymoon. Then it's off to South America for Bella and Edward's honeymoon and, of course, some vampire-human sex.
If you were expecting a "steamy" sex scene, you're likely to be disappointed. The studio demanded that anything that could possibly be deemed "sexy" be cut (no thrusting allowed!) and instead of the wild vampire sex that is hinted at in the novel, we have a tastefully edited and surprisingly beautiful love scene. Edward, seeing how bruised and battered poor Bella was after their one night together, refuses to touch her again – and in a cutesy sequence we see Bella trying to seduce her new husband.
But the honeymoon fun is cut short when Bella realises she's skipped her period and is pregnant – so it's back to Forks, says Edward, to "get that thing out". Bella's decision to keep her unborn baby puts her in danger from the wolves, but Jacob refuses to see her killed and switches sides to protect Bella and, reluctantly, the Cullens. Edward is positively tortured with worry and loathing for the child that is killing his wife, and the rest of the film unfolds as Bella gets more and more emaciated as her child literally sucks the life out of her before Jacob realises what the baby needs – blood.
Bill Condon, who won an Academy Award for Dreamgirls, swoops in to direct the film – but with such a huge franchise he is given almost no room to play. What he does bring to the tables is a sense of maturity that was sadly lacking in previous films - and fans will be delighted with the subtle touches and the care invested into bringing Meyer's most difficult book to the screen.
Unfortunately, much like its predecessors, Breaking Dawn's terribly written script and blind dedication to the quotes in Meyer's novel – which are coupled with the forced PG-feel of the film are suffocating– and one can't help but wish that the studios had sacrificed the PG-13 rating to fully explore the film's potential.
Of course, as fans will know, the real action in Breaking Dawn lies in the second half – and so there's a fair amount of padding scripted in to make up 117 minutes. Some of the highlights of the novel that are not strictly linked to Bella and Edward do not make it to the screen – for example, Rosalie and Jacob's bitter relationship, which could have inspired some welcome comedic relief, is merely hinted at, and Jacob-only wolf moments are cut to a minimum.
On the plus side, Condon and his cinematographer Guillermo Navarro (who worked on Pan's Labyrinth) have shot a beautiful film. It's visually astounding, for the most part brightly lit and packed with vibrant colours. The actors are shot exquisitely and Condon has been clever about selecting shots for maximum storytelling power within a framework that was obviously restricting.
Stewart and Pattinson have fully embraced their characters after so long, and the scenes of them back in Forks post-honeymoon have a real bite to them. There are wonderful scenes featuring just the two of them, with Condon knowing how to extract the best out of these actors whose relationship at last seems utterly real. Yes, Pattinson is still permanently angst-ridden (it's his thing), but he seems to be more accessible than in previous films. Stewart is a talented actress dealing with a terrible character – but as she becomes weaker and more emaciated, she is allowed time to shine outside of her usual teen-angst fare. She holds the film together, fully embracing her new role as matriarch, and her performance is hands-down the strongest of the lead trio. Lautner, on the other hand, is nothing but terribly wooden – and with him taking off his shirt far less than usual (sorry, Team) the spotlight shines on his woeful acting ability.
Breaking Dawn, compared to Eclipse, is very low on action – with only one real sequence as the wolves make their move on the Cullens' home, which is disappointing and disjointed. The fights seem separate and unrelated to each other, the CGI effects for the wolves seemed haphazard and rushed and there is no real feel of urgency – despite Condon's attempts to up the pace and cut back to shots of a bloodied Bella, post-birth. Outside of the standard filming, there are House-inspired computer-generated sequences of Bella's bloodstream as the vampire attacks her body, which sadly seem a little out-of-date now. The birth sequence is cleverly shot from Bella's perspective and is easily the most blood we've seen – in the entire franchise. Her dying moments are intertwined with a marvellous flashback sequence incorporating scenes from the previous films – which will positively thrill fans.
Carter Burwell, who scored the first Twilight film, returns for Breaking Dawn, and coupled with the film's soundtrack by returning music supervisor Alexandra Pastavas, his music is one of the highlights. It creates a wonderful nostalgic feel, harking back to the early love of Bella and Edward. Burwell's Bella's Lullaby wafts in and out of the film and fans will swoon at the inclusion of Iron Wine's Flightless Bird, American Mouth during the wedding scene.
Breaking Dawn – Part One sets up the action wonderfully for what will be the real test of the franchise's staying power – the final film scheduled for release in November next year – and it will no doubt become a fan favourite.
Want more from The Twilight Saga? Visit our Breaking Dawn section!