The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1

(Dawn of the undead newlywed.)
 Photo: Summit Entertainment

Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner. Directed by Bill Condon. PG. 117 minutes.

Like the first half of the book it's based on, Breaking Dawn, Part 1 doesn't totally suck. It's what every 17-year-old looking vampire should be: fun, sexy and, from the right angle, drop dead gorgeous. Even those who don't own a Team Edward or a Team Jacob baby tee may find themselves harbouring a Twihard-on by the badass end credits (seriously, they're really cool) of this easily entertaining film, arguably the best in supernaturally popular teen series. 

Unlike the previous three instalments, this, the fourth and second-to-last entry in the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn, Part 1 isn't an overly romantic, cheesy mess. Sure, the vamp make-up is still on the chalky side, and the wolf FX are as howl-worthy as ever (one particularly fuzzy were meet-up will have you over the moon ... with laughter), but the script is tidier, the editing is tighter and the action, both in the forest and between the sheets, is both fast-paced and tasteful. That is, if your taste leans towards the sullenly (or should I say, Cullenly?) sweet.

Haters can blame the new director, Dreamgirls' Bill Condon, for the new, not-so-bad-after-all vibe. He is working with the same sort of girly lines and Stephenie Meyer-penned sentiments screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg has tweaked yet again for the screen, but he makes them seem earnest as opposed to overwrought by not goofing around too much with stylized lighting, scenery and or the indie music soundtrack (see: Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight). Aside from one, PG-13 Magic School Bus-evoking innard swimming sequence, Condon keeps it simple, letting the admittedly over-the-top story speak for itself.

For those who haven't read the book, Breaking Dawn focuses in on Bella and Edward's marriage and honeymoon, and the effect both have on her human life and relationships, including of course, her connection to the other mythical man in her life, Taylor Lautner's Jacob. To avoid spoiling it for you, let's just say the vampire-human union gets bloody real fast, and not in the way your dirty, fang-girl mind might expect.

Breaking Dawn, Part 1 gives fans what they want - actual side booby love scenes and a mini bucket of gore - but it's nothing a 13-year-old couldn't handle. In fact, you could argue that the, ahem, climatic moments are almost too tame. The treatments make sense given the core demographic (teens and tweens) and current rating restrictions, but it would have been nice to see Condon push the limits a bit more, pleasing some of us oft-forgotten older fans.

Speaking of aging, Lautner has certainly grown up since the last film, the ill-fitting Stewart wig-filled disaster that was Eclipse.  The boy has facial hair now, which seems much more in character (not to mention 100 per cent less jailbaity), and bears his teeth this time around, and not just when he's wolfed-out. He's not overused either, which is a nice surprise given Jacob's heavy involvement in the book, where his first-person observations were given nearly as much time as Bella's.

As per usual, Pattinson and Stewart don't do much other than ogle each other awkwardly and make-out intensely as Edward and Bella. But come to really think about it, there's not much else to Mr. and Mrs. Cullen anyway. As Anna Kendrick's ever-sassy Jessica says at their wedding, who else actually gets married at 18 these days? Especially when there's not an MTV special in it for them.

The only thing that really bothered this one-time Team Edward leader about Breaking Dawn, Part 1 was its ending. It wasn't bad by any means. In fact, it was the perfect cut-off. But now I know what's left for Part 2. And if you've suffered through the last, out-of-control hundred pages of the book, you know what comes next bites the big sparkly cold one. Hard. B

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