Though there is probably no way to derail the financial juggernaut of the romantic vampire-themed Twilight movies – $1.8-billion and counting – the fourth and penultimate movie in the series is a significant let-down. The script, adapted by Melissa Rosenberg from the first part of Stephanie Meyer's fourth novel in the series, was supposed to be climactic. Instead, it's the most jumbled and tonally confused movie yet.
After the long slow tease of the previous three movies, about the relationship between high school senior Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and the handsome vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattison), things have now reached the point of consummation. Bella has agreed to marry him, to finally have sex, and to allow him to turn her from mortal to vampire. For good measure, she gets pregnant on her honeymoon, with a rapidly growing semi-vampire fetus in her uterus, adding a whole new set of complications.
Yet for all the dramatic potential, director Bill Condon ( Dreamgirls, Gods and Monsters) seems determined to make this the most talky and dawdling of all of the Twilight movies. The decision to split J. K. Rowlings' final Harry Potter and the Deathly Harrows book into two movies, while originally criticized, proved amply justified by this summer's concluding film. It's hard to see the same argument working here, when so much of the film feels like padding, a stitched together sequence of montages, with an occasional pause for some expository dialogue.
For ooh-and-ah audience impact, there's an early shirtless scene of Taylor Lautner as the werewolf with a six-pack, Jacob Black. Then there's a dreamy wedding that should work well with the fans: Shot in a woodsy glade, with tendrils of white flowers hanging from the trees, it features Bella resplendent in a peekaboo lace gown, it's the stuff of fantasy come to life. That clocks in the first half-hour. Next, the couple zip off to an island near Rio de Janeiro for their honeymoon, though after a token shot of the statue of Christ the Redeemer and a street music festival, most of the action takes place in a seaside villa.
Somehow, between the delicate initiation when Bella and Edward discretely skinny dip together, to the next morning when the four-poster bed is in shambles and Bella is covered with bruises, something exciting has happened, but the couple's continuing coy behaviour leaves us in the dark. Bella assures Edward that she can't imagine "human" sex that's better than their first night, though it's all too obvious she has no point of comparison. After the deed is done, Bella and Edward moon and frolic to more insipid songs on the soundtrack as another half hour, or two weeks in honeymoon time, crawl by.
Then, Bella throws up her fried chicken lunch and discovers she has an unplanned demi-vampire in the oven. The pregnancy does not leave her with a maternal glow: On the contrary she grows progressively more gaunt, with her eyes hollow and skin discoloured, while the beach ball in her belly expands alarmingly.
Edward favours getting "that thing" out of her as soon as possible, Bella insists on carrying the parasitic little monster full term (one shudders to imagine what breast feeding would be like). Meyer's agenda isn't hard to discern: If the earlier parts of the Bella-Edward story were a veiled exploration of teen abstinence, the new film revolves around the abortion debate. Edward sulking that his "choice" has been taken away from him. Back in Bella's hometown in Washington State, the glamorous vampire coven offer opinions pro and con. Meanwhile, in the woods, the werewolves (the CGI wolves have grown notably less convincing) the rivals have their own pregnancy-terminating plan in mind.
While the last third offers a few moderately disgusting moments, this feels more like camp than romantic horror. Let's hope the filmmakers have been saving their best for next year's final episode. Otherwise, Twilight fans may be left with the impression that those passionate and pretty young humans, werewolves and vampires from the early films have been replaced by zombies.
Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1
- Directed by Bill Condon
- Written by Melissa Rosenberg
- Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattison and Taylor Lautner