Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part I (2011)

The Lady is a Vamp

We’re down to the business end of the Twilight series now and there’s no greater indication of this than Breaking Dawn’s poster. As posters go, the transformation is heavily perceptible, startling. Whereas Bella (Kristen Stewart) has been the shrinking violet before, now she sports sensuality and curves as she leans into beau Edward (Robert Pattinson). Interestingly, the other tangible in this otherworldly threesome, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), is now posed alongside the couple, his animalistic appeal evident even though fully clothed.

If last year’s Eclipse broadened the reality of the sexual tension among the three then this new film deals perpetually—and a bit too stupendously—with its dire consequences. Jacob has resigned himself to the fact that Bella has chosen Edward to be her mate and husband. She however starts to feel jitters as the wedding day arrives. The not-so subtle panic spreads yet it seems no one realizes how deep it is. Thus, the wedding is not the fairytale Bella hoped for but she goes through with it, her face showing the emotional range it lacked before now. Stewart has the requisite nervy-angst mix pat but the writers of Breaking Dawn continue the trend of reinforcing her importance to the plot while limiting her reality greatly.

What it eerily achieves though is capturing a young woman balancing love and lust amid a precarious situation. For all the static that perforates Breaking Dawn, it’s the simple moments that resonate clearest: the glorious long-shot of the camera lens as Edward and Bella stand together or the close-up of their intimacy. This extends to when Jacob finally emerges to wish her well. The moment is softened by Edward’s acceptance of the part he plays in Bella’s life. Whereas the truce is uneasy, it is also necessary. Bella’s face comes alive around Jacob whereas it creases with her husband because in that bond, she is carrying both of them. Their honeymoon to Brazil, where they ‘do it’ for the first time, proves her utter femininity too…the silliness of bidding for time to brush her teeth and shave her legs. This is clearly nerves but, more deeply, is also stubbornness that Bill Condon cannot navigate through or connect a deeper meaning with. This is no surprise as he isn’t known for emotional depth but more a technical gift for portraiture (Dreamgirls, Chicago).

And so Bella toils with her inner struggles over mortality and her real feelings about Jacob in a self-suffering way that drags the film into what feels like a dirge, from half-way throughout. Sadly, it is the latter half that gets most affected, most imbued with ridiculous instances. After their love-making, Bella ends up with bruises and the fastest pregnancy ever on film. The former proves to be interesting fodder but the latter is too absurd to ignore. Or simply too huge because it ends up overshadowing the point where Bella’s maternal instincts begin to empower her, beyond the point of reason.

Breaking Dawn, split into two parts to match trends of other famous film series, thus is caught between stalling for the inevitable outcome and some fad to cling to. The problem is that it meets failure at every turn: Edward’s attempt to kill only sleazy criminals at his initial vampirism comes across clumsy. Bella’s pro-life stance proves a point for exactly the opposite because, like everything here, it lacks real conviction or scope beyond the personal. Even the CGI-wolves talking among themselves at one point prove utterly irritating.

Which, surprisingly, leaves us with the only worthy cause hammered home: family. Bella may not readily see the love surrounding her through real and extended relatives but Jacob does. Breaking Dawn is really his epiphany about the true nature of love and the messiness it can create. Here he becomes willing to take on his own clan just to have Bella’s life spared before her baby can be born. It’s much more too but only now can he articulate it to others, not just to himself, her or Edward. Their world and circumstances are changing and baby (Renesmee) makes four, an unusual number in such an equation. When, in the very last scene, Bella’s bloodshot eyes fly open, he knows things have changed yet again. So too Edward and everyone other supernatural being that populate the town. She’s the new thing around yet, at least for now, she still has time to merely wake up and be just fine.

RATING: 5/10