The “Twilight” phenomenon was first catapulted into the cinematic stratosphere with the release of Catherine Hardwicke’s ambitious adaptation of the first novel in 2008. The director was ousted for the followups when Summit insisted that the more complicated second film be ready just a year later. And so hired guns Chris Weitz and David Slade, the latter a particularly unlikely choice, shotgun-released two sequels, “New Moon” and “Eclipse” in just a year and a half. 'Moon' lacked any of the first film’s gritty heart while 'Eclipse,' an improvement to be sure, foreshadowed the romance novel melodrama of “Breaking Dawn: Part 1.”
“Breaking Dawn: Part 1” opens with the wedding of Bella to Edward, first in fake-out nightmare/premonition form and then in reality, an expectedly lavish affair that lasts at least as long as an actual wedding. From here we move to an equally epic honeymoon pulled from the pages and front covers of Danielle Steele novels. Its all capped off by the accidental impregnation of Bella with a... well, they’re not sure what the heck might be inside her.
Also odd is the ever-dwindling chemistry between Pattinson and Stewart, the latter of the pairing giving her most wooden performance of the franchise, which is really saying something. Pattinson is relegated to the background with brooding glances and amplified emo attitude. Lautner’s increased presence doesn’t really serve anyone, especially without the distraction of multiple shirtless ab-flexing scenes. It should be noted that Jacob removes his shirt inexplicably only once, right in the beginning, and it’s brief. After that he’s forced to rely strictly on his pure instincts as a thespian.
After smaller, critically acclaimed efforts “Gods and Monsters” and “Kinsey” and the breakout success of “Dreamgirls,” director Bill Condon must have found it difficult to turn down all the extra zeroes a “Twilight” film offers, much less directing two of them. But unless he can rebound in a major way with “Breaking Dawn: Part 2” next year, the damage done to his future career might prove difficult to recover from.
“Breaking Dawn: Part 1” is slow-moving and listless. The first half plays like something from an extended fan version of the film and it never manages to recover, even when we get something resembling a point midway through. Easily the weakest entry in the series, its the fault not just of a director who seems to find difficulty connecting to the material, but of a cast that appears to be looking forward to the close of the franchise a whole lot more than fans are. [D]