It’s become almost de rigueur to slag off the Twilight movies, with the usual tack being to criticise the films for not fitting into the horror/action/thriller tropes that fanboys feel movies about vampires ought to fulfil. Behind that is a rather unpleasant sense that the anger at the franchise stems from fury that someone has dared make a fantasy movie that isn’t designed for the geeks who like to should loudly on the internet. Perhaps worst of all is that these angry young men don’t even seem to appreciate that 90% of the major movies are made for them, so the vitriol they pour at Twilight, simply because it’s popular but not for them, is actually quite ridiculous.
And do you know what? If you actually watch the films (which I’m convinced most of the haters haven’t), they’re not bad at all. Admittedly New Moon was a bit of a wobble, but the rest have been entertaining movies, they’re just very different to your usual vampire and werewolf flicks, as the main target audience is young females rather than boys.
Compared to the other films in the franchise, Breaking Dawn was always going to be a bit more of a challenge. The book it’s based on isn’t as good as the others, deals with more adult themes and features events that are rather strange and sometimes verge on troubling. When it was announced Summit wanted to milk the franchise by splitting the film in two, alarm bells rang, as it didn’t seem there’d be enough plot to fill out two films. However it turns out not only was it a smart idea, but it actually means things work better on screen than they do on the page.
After Bella & Edward got engaged in Eclipse, it’s now time for the two to get married. While the Volturi have said Bella must be turned into a vampire and Edward has reluctantly agreed to this (while still doing plenty of brooding and moping, of course), they’ve decided to wait until after their honeymoon to turn her. So after the wedding, the young lovers head to a romantic island, where they have a bit of vamp on human sex – which is actually rather dangerous for the non-bloodsucking part of the equation.
Things take an unexpected turn when before the honeymoon is over, Bella realises that she’s pregnant, something that Edward thought was impossible. With little information on what a human-vampire hybrid might be, all they know is that the baby seems to be sucking the life from Bella and breaking her from the inside out. Travelling back to Forks and the Cullens’ house, it’s uncertain whether Bella can survive the pregnancy. Meanwhile the nearby wolfpack decides the vampire-human child must die, causing Jacob to break with them and vow to protect Bella.
As with the earlier films, Breaking Dawn isn’t a movie packed with non-stop action, although it has its moments. Indeed there’s a lot of people sitting around discussing the merits of cutting Bella open or not, but it actually works well in creating a real sense of tension. And if you’ve tired of the pained romance between the human and the vampire, the film brings out a whole new bunch of unexpectedly interesting issues, including a bit of an abortion debate, without ever mentioning the word.
While there is a bit of Edward being annoyingly moody – to the point where his worry for Bella starts to seem rather self-indulgent – her pregnancy spurs him to be a bit more interesting and resolute. Having Bella on her back for most of the movie looking cadaverous and close to death is also a bit of a boon for the movie, as Kristen Stewart’s flat performance has always been the franchise’s weakest link (I’m still half convinced they’ll add a twist to the final film where she turns out to be a robot, which would explain both Stewart’s dull acting and why she’s only person that Edward can’t hear the thoughts of).
The movie also handles a few potentially tricky scenes well. The sex scene deliberately verges on the humorous, while the birth, which in the book is all kinds of weird and rather unpleasant, retains the basics while using editing to tone down the makeshift surgery that’s going on (both the book and the film seem half-designed to put teenage girls off sex). Jacob’s imprinting also works pretty well and comes off far less paedophilic than it might seem like it would on paper (which will make more sense if you’ve seen the film).
Despite only being half the book, the film manages to be a complete narrative in its own right. Indeed on that score, it may be the most successful of the Twilight movies so far, as it lacks the slight sense of bloat that’s been in the previous films.
The picture quality on the Blu-ray is very good, with a nice, crisp image that brings out the excellently-designed colour palette of the movie. Bill Condon certainly knows how to put together a good looking movie, and that really comes out in HD.
There’s also an okay selection of special features, including the Blu-ray exclusive ‘Bella & Edward’s Personal Wedding Video’, which sees the actors staying in character to wish the happy couple the best. However while the music videos, audio commentary and UK premiere footage are all okay, it’s slightly odd that there’s a selection of featurettes that are only available on the two-disc DVD edition but are featured here.
Overall Verdict: The Twilight Saga is growing up, with a film that creates tension despite being rather quiet and contemplative, but with enough action to keep things interesting.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac