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Review: Lackluster ‘Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1’ Is Barely 1/2 A Movie

by Jeff Otto
November 17, 2011 9:05 AM
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Summit "Breaking Dawn Part 1"
Stephenie Meyer’s saga is finally coming to a close on screen, at least for the time being. After four novels and three movies, the “Twilight” film franchise moves to its conclusion in predictably grand fashion with a two-part adaptation of the final book, “Breaking Dawn.”

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.”

Taking the reigns this time around is “Dreamgirls” director Bill Condon, who will ultimately hold the dubious distinction of being the only director to survive through two “Twilight” movies. The usual suspects return - Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan, Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen, Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black with the usual a host of supporting Swans, Cullens, Blacks and friends. While the supporting cast mates played expectedly less significant roles in the previous entries, here their parts are razor thin. This story is all about Bella and Edward and their blissful union. But we must not forget Jacob, who somehow manages to find his way into this increasingly awkward threesome again. And again. And again.

“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.

The odd part about “Breaking Dawn” is that, given more production time, a larger budget and the supposed advantage of experience and cast familiarity, it feels like a step backward for the franchise. To start with, what’s here isn’t actually a movie at all, at least by the standards of three-act structure. We get an overly long first act that builds to a second act climax and... ends. Sure, this is called 'Part 1,' so it is to be expected that it will end in a cliffhanger to be resolved in 'Part 2.' But 'Dawn 1' should still exist as a film in and of itself; instead it is made quite clear that the decision to split Meyer’s final book into two parts was born purely of financial reasoning.

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.

Fans mocked the paltry wolf effects in the previous two entries and here, despite a reported production budget of $110 million, they improve only minimally. At best, they still look like graphics from a low-budget television program. At worst, they appear cribbed from a ‘90s video game. One scene in particular, where the wolfpack argue through some form of telepathic voiceover communication -- their lips don’t move but the wolves bounce around erratically and make mean faces -- is arguably the worst moment in the entire series.

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]

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  • Twilight fan | August 23, 2012 2:59 PMReply

    Fellow Twilighters, some goodies from Summit have leaked online! Awesome news, I know! :) I found and downloaded this torrent with not yet seen videos, songs and pictures. Figured some of you guys would want it too:

  • sangesta Ramsarran | February 21, 2012 8:03 PMReply

    i have never seen breaking dawn as yet, but i think that it is really good because it teaches person's who are going through some really difficulties in life. it is very much romantic, i guess thats why most girls are killing for these series but i don't understand why?

  • KateM | February 18, 2012 11:51 AMReply

    I read and loved the books but his movie was so awful! I couldn't even make it past the wedding scene (actually I'm surprised I managed to get through the bedroom scene with that terrible background music playing). These movies are just awful. SO bad its almost funny!

  • Pamela | November 23, 2011 7:26 PMReply

    i still don't understand why people like twilight and all those painful sequels, i would be glad when it's over, i watch the first film and i hated it, i read the books and they were worse than the films, it's like a soap opera but with werewolfs and vampires, people are so obsessed with the supernatural that they would watch anything that has a vampire on it

  • jaime | November 19, 2011 5:09 PMReply

    I thought the movie sucked, I agree with you. It reminded me of a low budget power rangers type film. I loved the book and the other movies, but the acting sucked, there was no climax, and the intensity and passion was not there. I hope #2 is better because this was such a let down!!!!

  • Terri | November 19, 2011 7:46 AMReply

    Boy are you ever wrong...clearly YOU only did this report but never read the book. As one who did read the book, you visioned the wedding and the honeymoon as you read the words. The movie put that visual to life! It was purrfect! This part of the story was mostly on "feelings" and these actors had to rely on making those "feelings/emotions" come across on the screen instead of words. Kristin did a heck of a job doing that in every aspect. The scene with the wolves was great... so basically sir, you have no idea of what you are writing about. Next time, BEFORE you write an article about something, do your research. In THIS case, read the book!

  • Misanthrope | November 20, 2011 4:51 PM

    Wow, you certainly are remiss on a few issues. First, you don't need to read a book to review a film adaptation of said book. An adapted screenplay and subsequent finished product need to stand on their own. Does one need to read Jaws before seeing the film? Does one NEED to read Oil! before viewing There Will Be Blood? No, they don't.

    Here's the problem, defending something because you like it, while bashing people who (rightly) point out that it is terrible is just stupid and childish. These films are so poorly acted that it's borderline embarrassing. The screenplays are awful because they're derived from awful material. If you like them, that's fine...I'm not here to attack you on that. But to say they're a good example of of acting/filmmaking is simply a false statement. Hell, I liked the Transformers cartoons as a kid in the 80s but I'd never defend Bay's horrific version. Am I the only who finds it totally hilarious that twi-tards get their panties in a bunch over something this stupid?

  • Crystal | November 19, 2011 11:01 AM

    I agree. Before these "critics" make light of a movie, they need to read the books. I feel that the movie could have been a bit longer though. They didn't have her car in there that Edward gave her...the hummer. And the scene with Leah and Jacob could have been longer where she talks about commitment and stuff. I think they should have put the part in there about Leah empathizing with Rosalie. I think it was excellent though because it did follow the book.

  • sean | November 19, 2011 3:05 AMReply

    Actually Your quite wrong....This was by far the best in the series. So many different elements were introduced and the actors truly did an amazing job. Stewart s performance and depth in her acting was superb and perfectly done.Nothing "woody about it.....lets see you make a better movie. The wedding scene was perfect the whole thing was well done. The only thing I'd change is add more sex. .and play it will rain by Bruno Mars during Hey death scene....And the wolves Were bad ass...90's effects? Common. ..don't be stupid they looked Like real wolves and since when do wolves move there mouths while speaking telepathicly? Isn't that the point of telepathy. ....dunce

  • BREANA HENRY | November 17, 2011 8:25 PMReply


  • BREANA HENRY | November 17, 2011 8:24 PMReply


  • Alessandra R. | November 17, 2011 1:28 PMReply

    The weakest entry in the series??? Is that even possible??? The other three movies have been excruciatingly painful to watch!!

  • Crystal | November 19, 2011 11:04 AM

    Excuse me. If you didn't want to watch them why did you? You are extremely wrong!!!!! These are some of the best movies out there. Did you read the books? If you don't have something good to say then don't say anything at all!

  • Glass | November 17, 2011 9:42 AMReply

    Oh my god, this sounds so bad that I almost give credit to Summit for having the balls to just throw this out there. No matter what, these two movies will destroy. It's a freakishly sure thing.

    So it's a wedding, honeymoon, and cliffhanger ending. Amazing.

  • iche | November 20, 2011 10:01 PM

    dear cc,

    getting a life and reading the twilight books are mutually exclusive.

  • CC | November 19, 2011 11:05 AM

    Jerk! Get a life and read the books!

  • Elin | November 17, 2011 9:25 AMReply

    Yes! Yes! Yes! OMG it's almost here! Breaking Dawn - Part 1 is going to be huge! I can't wait!!! I'll be going on opening night with all my girls! Woooo! :)

  • Kristen | November 17, 2011 9:22 AMReply

    Well, I've been a small fan of the Twilight series, not so much a fanatic. I'm going to see the movie tomorrow, and I'm really hoping you're wrong. Chances are you may not be, because I can honestly see the movie going in this direction what with the sorts of people who are obsessed with this vampire and werewolf movie. People have turned a book series so addicting, into nothing but a mockery.

  • BREANA HENRY | November 17, 2011 8:27 PM


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