Rated PG13/117 Minutes
I learned a valuable lesson watching the latest installment of Twilight: it’s tough being Bella Swan. As embodied by the pleasant but vacant Kristen Stewart, Bella has spent the last batch of movies being pursued by vampire stud Edward (Robert Pattinson, the Luke Perry of the undead) and shirtless werewolf wonder Jacob (Taylor Lautner).
The the new movie puts her through some icky ordeals, starting with her wedding. Her newly made husband Edward gives a speech to the congregation about how he’s waited “thousands of years” for someone like Bella, which is supposed to induce swoons but only reminds us that he’s, like, the oldest living creature on the Earth with a 18-year old bride. Like, ew!
Then there’s the honeymoon, set in gorgeous Brazil. Bella knows Edward may vamp out and tear her to shreads if he’s turned on and isn’t careful. Then there’s the aftermath, in which Bella learns she’s hapai, and the baby is growing fast. Like her husband, it may be the death of her.
The acting still stinks, the dialogue is often laughable and some scenes are unintentionally hilarious but, to cut this movie a break, it’s the best in the series. This time, they hired a real talent of a director, Bill Condon, who makes the film stylish and admittedly compelling almost the entire way. The first half is the most interesting when you consider the subtext: if you ignore the supernatural angle (which the film often does- remember, these vampires don’t even have fangs), you’ve got a story about a girl marrying a guy most are afraid will abuse her.
Scenes of post-honeymoon night regret, with Edward apologizing for the bruises he left on Bella, feel queasily like a scene from a domestic abuse drama. When Bella learns she’s expecting, the major issue isn’t that the baby could be a monster, but if she should keep the baby or carry it to term.
Like it or not, this series has grown up, at least a bit. The film isn’t two minutes old when Lautner rips off his shirt and goes running through the woods. Old habits may die hard but this is the darkest entry in the series and the shift in tone is refreshing.
The early scenes feel like a comedy, both intentional and inadvertent. The frequent nightmare sequences are pretty campy but one flashback, showing Edward in a 30’s era movie theater watching The Bride of Frankenstein is well done and a great nod to director Condon’s masterpiece, Gods and Monsters.
The low point of the film and possibly the entire series, is a werewolf powwow, in which a horde of CGI beasts have a meeting in which they grunt and growl at one another, and we can hear their voices telepathically. It’s one of the silliest scenes of the year, only matched by Michael Sheen’s goofy, last-minute cameo as the plotting vampire leader.
Even if Part 2 of Breaking Dawn is award-worthy (about as likely as Lautner winning an Oscar), it’s too late for this series to be salvaged. Yet, let it be noted that the best scenes of this entry are captivating and that the closing sequence, a recap of the previous films and providing a startling character revelation, is wonderfully done.
I can’t honestly recommend this for non-fans or series newbies, as this is still uneven. However, for longtime fans, add an additional star to my two-stars; I’ll never become a Twi-hard, but I gotta admit, this wasn’t bad.