"Forever is only the beginning"
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•• The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy: Big things happen in this penultimate Twilight entry: Bella and Edward get married, she gets pregnant on their Brazilian honeymoon and almost perishes before giving birth, and finally, after four films and about 490 minutes of screen time depicting simmering desire and superhuman restraint, she wakes up with the red eyes of a vampire. (Spoiler? Hardly.) But so little else occurs between these momentous events in Twilight: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 that you can practically hear every second ticking by while awaiting the payoff. Not that this will matter to the faithful who have devoured all 754 pages of Stephenie Meyer's series-climaxing tome and want to see as many as possible re-created on the screen, nor to those who have paid more than $1.8 billion worldwide to see the previous three installments in theaters, nearly all of whom will rush to see this one as soon as possible. Part 2 won't follow until Nov. 16, 2012.
When the decision was made to split Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into two films to bring that blockbuster series to a close, there was cynical talk regarding mercenary motives to milk as many dollars as possible out of the franchise. Once the films came out, however, that talk stopped, so emphatically did the massive narrative incident justify the extended length. On the basis of Breaking Dawn — Part 1, though, the same cannot be said of this series ender, which feels as bloated and anemic as Bella becomes during her pregnancy. The film is like a crab cake with three or four bits of crab surrounded by loads of bland stuffing, but many can't tell the difference or don't care, which will largely be true for its captive audience.
Taking place in a lovely woodsy setting that could easily be the next estate over from the wedding-reception site in Lars von Trier's Melancholia, the nuptials of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) can plausibly be termed the "wedding of the century" only in the sense Edward means it when he tells his 18-year-old bride, “I've been waiting a century to marry you.” Drawn out to last nearly a half-hour onscreen, the gaiety of the preliminaries and ensuing event is encumbered by a strong sense of foreboding, not only because the world is coming to an end, as in Melancholia, but also because it means Bella will soon pass over from human life to the vampire side.
Upon receiving the wedding invitation, the first reaction of Bella's friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) is to go wolf and race into the forest in a snit, but he finally turns up to wish her well before the happy couple jets off to Rio, which is so little seen it scarcely seems worth the trip. At their lush honeymoon villa, Edward is every inch the gentleman — too much so, perhaps, for Bella. They skinny dip at night to some incredibly insipid songs, they're very tender and understanding with each other, and then in the morning the bedroom is in total disarray; we never see anything of what came between, no moment of surrender, which is what the series has been building to all along. Where one legitimately hopes to register what Bella feels upon finally giving herself over to what she has so long desired but resisted, all we get are languid and lax interludes of what still seems like puppy love. Very lame, and very disappointing.
At about the film's halfway point, Bella finds she's unexpectedly pregnant, prompting a quick return home. When Jacob comes by and observes her already-obvious condition, he gets to bellow an immortal accusation to Edward: “You did this!” As Edward searches for a proper rejoinder, Jacob again scampers off, whereupon the local werewolf tribe reacts with a lot of teeth-baring and internal bickering over what to do. Meanwhile, Bella turns pale and gaunt and seems in danger of wasting away; it appears the fetus is taking all of the nutrients for itself and leaving nothing for Mom, who can no longer eat normal food. There's only one solution to this state of affairs, the administering of which brings Bella back to life as Part 1 pushes toward its end.
During the very slow scenes depicting Bella's deterioration, as Stewart appears progressively skeletal, so little else is going on that one is obliged to muse over whether the pounds came off digitally or the old-fashioned way. After the energy and alertness evident in his previous work as helmer of Gods and Monsters, Kinsey and Dreamgirls, it looks as though director Bill Condon fell into a trance while making this film — so dirgelike is the pacing, so banal is Melissa Rosenberg's dutiful script on a scene-by-scene, moment-to-moment basis. It truly feels that 40 minutes or so, not two hours, would have been plenty to convey all that's necessary in the material covered.
Even the normally first-rate film composer Carter Burwell is dragged down by the occasion, though his score is marginally less watery than the songs that dominate the soundtrack.
The actors have long since been set in their performances, and there are no surprises here. In the end, given how little goes on in Breaking Dawn — Part 1 despite the major plot points, what you're left with is to gaze at the three leads, all of whom have their constituencies and reasons for being eminently watchable. The only hope is they'll have more to do next time around.
•• Variety, Justin Chang: Bella Swan kisses abstinence and mortality goodbye in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1,” in which the vampire-loving teen gets hitched, knocked up and almost destroyed from within by her little bundle of joy. All the more disappointing, then, that a story so pregnant with dramatic possibilities should wind up feeling like such an unconsummated opportunity. Drawn from Stephenie Meyer’s polarizing, weirdly compelling fourth novel, the film is rich in surface pleasures but lacks any palpable sense of darkness or danger, which is a roundabout way of saying that Summit has protected its investment well. Supernatural B.O. awaits.
The guardians of this enormously popular franchise ($1.8 billion in worldwide grosses) have in effect followed the “Harry Potter” playbook by splitting the final chapter into two parts, ensuring thorough plot retention and, more to the point, maximum B.O. penetration. In what will seem cruel and unusual punishment for fans, however, “Part 2,” with its promise of a full-scale vampire war in which Bella will play a crucial role, is slated to hit theaters Nov. 16, 2012, forcing auds to wait nearly a year after “Part 1″ to devour the second half of the Bill Condon-directed double feature.
Certainly the highest-profile helmer attached to the series so far, Condon takes the reins capably enough here, though his approach suffers from a certain stylistic anonymity that seems endemic to the material. Like any commercial behemoth, “The Twilight Saga” by nature resists any attempt at transcendence, experimentation or risk; that’s especially unfortunate in the case of “Breaking Dawn,” which is by far the most out-there novel in the series and would have benefited from a dash of Cronenbergian body-horror and, commercial restraints notwithstanding, a willingness to push past a PG-13 rating. Given the early fright pics on his resume, the chameleonlike Condon would have been more than up to the challenge if given the chance.
Things begin, happily enough, with a wedding, as Bella (Kristen Stewart) says “I do” to Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and joins his family of shimmeringly benevolent vampires. Still violently opposed to the union is Bella’s lupine best friend and spurned suitor, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), especially when he learns the new Mrs. Cullen has decided to postpone her bloodsucker transformation until after her Brazilian honeymoon.
Jacob is right to worry: Though filmed with the utmost soft-focus, duvet-wrapped tastefulness, the couple’s wedding night leaves Bella covered with bruises, the bed in tatters, and the audience, presumably, in a puddle of ecstasy. Surely this must be the first movie series so innately fearful of sex (and yet so dependent on its leads’ sex appeal) that even proper conjugal relations come with a note of caution, none more frightening than when Bella suddenly finds herself with child — half-human, half-vampire, a phenomenon with no biological precedent.
Up to this point, Condon and returning series scribe Melissa Rosenberg have translated the material in appreciably swoon-worthy fashion. Bella and Edward’s woodland wedding may look like an Abercrombie & Fitch spread (their honeymoon suite skews more Pottery Barn), but it’s an ardently, unabashedly romantic setpiece. By now Stewart and Pattinson have merged so completely with their roles and each other that the sight of the duo’s matrimonial bliss — delicately shaded by that sense of transience and loss that attends even happy life transitions — delivers a genuine emotional payoff.
Woozy soft-rock montages and moonlit skinny-dipping interludes come effortlessly to “Breaking Dawn — Part 1.” The film is far less adept at conveying the requisite mounting stakes once the newlyweds rush home to find themselves under siege on multiple fronts. True to the spirit of masochistic self-sacrifice that has defined the series, the now haggard-looking, blood-sipping Bella insists on carrying her demon-child to term, not only endangering her own life (and suggesting a potentially fascinating medical debate), but also inciting a full-on war between the Cullens and Jacob’s werewolf pack.
Every time the film shifts away from Bella and Edward to address the larger group dynamics, the narrative goes flat and the ensemble’s line readings turn to wood, in large part because this style of dramatization is so at odds with the thrust of the source material. Meyer, no great prose stylist but an intuitive storyteller, places unusual emphasis on sensory and extrasensory gifts; that various characters can read minds, smell scents and hear heartbeats is of crucial importance to the advancing narrative. These are tricky, fundamentally un-cinematic modes of perception, and that they haven’t found their visual equivalents here is hardly surprising.
More trying is the fact that Lautner plays the pivotal role of Jacob as such a softie; a more ferocious, testosterone-fueled approach would have raised the temperature of individual scenes and enabled the actor to hold his own better opposite Stewart and Pattinson. On the action front, the otherwise polished production reps a significant downgrade from the superior “Eclipse”: Two nocturnal wolves-vs.-vamps combat scenes are essentially thrill-free, and so underlit that one is inclined to suspect slapdash CGI. With any luck, it’s a mere warm-up act for the more epic supernatural showdown brewing a year from now.
•• Examiner, Amanda Bell: Rating 5/5
After the black carpet premiere, I was fortunate enough to be able to watch The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 for the first time last night, and the word that keeps coming to mind to describe it is "amazing."
First of all, this is a review by a Twilight fan for Twilight fans. I make no bones about that. Also, I'll stay as spoiler free as possible...
At this point, the franchise is a service to Stephenie Meyer's readers and Twilight film fans. It's not surprising to hear that early reviewers, who aren't familiar with and invested in the Saga got a little lost in Breaking Dawn. The story is complicated, and it takes the lore to extreme levels, really, but that's what millions of people loved about the book.
I'm delighted to report that Bill Condon, Melissa Rosenberg, and our lovely cast have delivered on their promise to make this the best one yet where Twilight fans are concerned. We've heard the words "intense," "exciting," and "romantic" associated with the Twilight Saga so often that the meaning's been lost on them along the way, but Condon brings it all back with Breaking Dawn.
The film was very surprising at times, and not because anything's missing or altogether new plot-wise, but rather due to the effectiveness of the translation of this story to screen. I believe my first words about the film were, "If Breaking Dawn was going to be made into a movie, this is the movie it should be."
The source material for Breaking Dawn - Part 1 is tough. Obviously, the wedding and honeymoon sequences are a carryover from the somewhat peaceful progression of Eclipse (they are done beautifully by the way . . . that DRESS!), but before "Bella" and "Edward" can get comfortable being husband and wife the most dangerous dilemma yet comes along. We as the viewers really do get a sense of the danger of it all; even knowing the story ending doesn't slight the gravity of these scenes.
There are moments of levity along the way too, though, and the connection between "Bella" and "Edward" in this one is so very much more apparent on-screen than it has been in any of the former films. Another comment I had coming off of it was, "Wow, they seem so in love in this one."
The major moments addressed in this one are woven together very nicely: the wedding, the honeymoon, the pregnancy, the wolfpack separation, birth scene, etc. Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg said last night that working with Bill Condon on these two films has been the collaboration of her career, and I can believe it. These two were able to come together and make this all a step above anything we've seen from this Saga before. Not only that, but they were able to stitch together the scattered pieces of the previous three films. I won't say exactly how, as that would be a spoiler, but I'll be surprised if you don't love it.
As for a couple of specific points, the birth and imprinting scenes stood out to me as the biggest challenges of the translation for either Part 1 or Part 2 . . . I was thrilled to see that these became the most stunning moments of the film... Hands down.
Bill Condon gives us Twilight here with Breaking Dawn, but it's a severe cut above the rest. Not only that, but he draws out very authentic performances from the cast and brings us little trinkets we've not seen before which makes the movie feel so much more special and intimate.
•• Roger Ebert: Rating 2,5/4
The Twilight movies have devoted three episodes to Bella Swan's clinging to her virginity despite the compelling appeal of Edward Cullen, the vampire. Now comes "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1," in which you have to give her credit: She holds out until after her wedding. Then she and Edward fly to Brazil and a luxurious honeymoon hideaway on the beach, where the morning after her wedding night she is black and blue with bruises, the frame of the bed is broken, all of the furniture is tossed around and the draperies are shredded. Good gravy! What happened?
We have no idea. The movie doesn't show us! Yes, the most eagerly awaited deflowering in recent movie history takes place entirely off-screen. That something momentous took place is indicated 14 days after the wedding ceremony, when Bella (Kristen Stewart) urps in the morning and discovers she is pregnant. Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) may have been dead for more than a century, but he's still producing industrial-strength sperm. Can humans and vampires mate? What's the blood chemistry on that? What will be in the wee one's bottle? Milk, or the unthinkable?
Despite these scientific conundrums, "Breaking Dawn - Part 1" is absorbing, if somewhat slow-paced, and has without doubt the most blood-curdling scene of live childbirth in a PG-13 movie. Probably the sight of Bella and Edward demolishing the bedroom would have tipped it over into R territory.
The first half is slow and dreamy, as wedding preparations get underway. If you recall the lore from the earlier films, you'll know that marriage to Edward means Bella must become a vampire herself, which any groupie who has slept with Gene Simmons will understand. It's a lovely wedding, with blossom-laden trees framing a lakeside altar. Bella's father Charlie (Billy Burke) is not entirely happy; his toast includes genial mention that should harm befall Bella he has a gun and knows how to use it. But he puts on a brave face while propelling Bella down the aisle. Edward awaits her, looking in pain as usual.
We get shots of the smiling guests. Many are familiar from the previous movies, but others on both sides of the aisle are new to us. They fascinated me. What were they thinking? How many knew Bella was marrying a vampire? Were they cool with that? Did anyone wonder why Edward apparently possessed not a single relative older than himself?
Back again is Bella's best friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who you recall is now a shape-shifter who turns into a wolf. Enraged by Bella's pregnancy, he summons his pack. The wolves, it must be said, are underwhelming as a pack. They become huge ferocious beasts with sharp fangs, and hurtle at top speed through the forest, and… well, that's about it. They're always hurtling somewhere. Hurtle, hurtle.
Given that he had nine months to prepare for the big event, I can't say Edward trained himself carefully for the home delivery. The sum of his medical training seems to have been a viewing of "Pulp Fiction" in which he learned about a real big needle you can plunge into someone's chest with great results.
Kristen Stewart is really pretty good here, although like almost all actresses she believes pregnant women rub their baby bumps unceasingly. I would have liked more scenes developing her thoughts about married life. Although the possibility of an abortion is hinted at, we never learn her thinking on this question: Does a vampire baby have a soul? Does it have a right to life although, technically, it's half dead? Luckily, we must wait only until Nov. 16, 2012, when "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2" will open. It had better have the answers. If it doesn't, Charlie Swan has a gun and he knows how to use it.
•• Miami.com, Rene Rodriguez: Rating 2,5/4
The first half of the concluding chapter in the "Twilight" saga compels despite some howl-worthy flaws.
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first: Taylor Lautner remains an unreliable, wildly uneven actor. His line readings range from fine to passable to stilted and awkward, sometimes all within the same scene, and you can’t imagine him having much of a career once this franchise runs its course. The wolf pack — the five native Americans of Quilette descent who also happen to be lycanthropes — are played by actors chosen for their six-pack abs, not their talents. Whenever one of them opens his mouth, you are instantly catapulted right out of the movie. And the computer-generated werewolves still look cheap and cartoonish — never more so than in a scene in which they stand around talking (or at least communicating telepathically.) Unintentional laughter is practically guaranteed.
But despite all that, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 does something that no other previous Twilight movie had achieved: This one draws you close and keeps you there — and, for those of us who haven’t read Stephenie Meyer’s novel, delivers some surprising turns of plot. As the movie opens, the long and tortured courtship between the teenage Bella (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire boyfriend Edward (Robert Pattinson) has reached an end, and they are finally preparing to marry. Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Kinsey) and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg don’t waste any time building up to the ceremony. The film hurtles towards Bella and Edward’s big day with a sense of purpose and drive, giving us hints along the way (such as Bella’s nightmares) that this couple may not necessarily live happily ever after.
“What’s a wedding without some family drama?” Edward ponders after a brief blow-up at the reception implies vampires and humans may not necessarily make the best in-laws. Then comes the honeymoon, which proves that vampires and humans may not make ideal couples, either. Working with cinematographer Guillermo Navarro (who shot Pan’s Labyrinth and Jackie Brown), Condon gives Breaking Dawn a visual elegance and style the other films lacked. Right from the start, the movie feels different — more mature and confident and substantial — which is critical, because the story is about to take some loopy twists, pushing up into territory far more bizarre than any of the previous pictures suggested.
One of the most common complaints leveled at the Twilight movies is that nothing ever happens: After the first film, in which Bella and Edward met and fell in love, subsequent chapters consisted primarily of pining and longing and pointless romantic triangles (all that hand-wringing over Jacob, for example). But no matter what you make of Breaking Dawn — and if you adamantly hate all things Twilight, this film is not going to change your mind — I can’t imagine anyone complaining that the movie was too slow. Condon knows that the chemistry between Stewart and Pattinson has been the key to the popularity of this series, and he focuses on their connection as much as he can throughout the film.
A long sequence in which the newlyweds honeymoon off the coast of Brazil and start having sex is easily the best, most engrossing stretch of any Twilight movie to date. While always observant of that PG-13 rating, Breaking Dawn is still surprisingly frank and direct in depicting Bella’s nervousness about losing her virginity (something Stewart conveys in a terrific silent montage) and, later, her cravings for a third and fourth and fifth helping (where the male is usually the aggressor in the sexual arena, the movie cleverly reverts the tables, making Edward the sought-after object of lust.)
The trailers for Breaking Dawn have already revealed that Bella winds up pregnant — and that her baby starts to grow inside her at an alarming speed. The birth of Bella and Edward’s demon-child will have far-reaching consequences, most of which won’t be settled until Part 2 arrives next year. I have no idea where the story goes from here (although there’s a scene that comes halfway through the end credits that gives you a good idea.) But the biggest compliment you can pay Breaking Dawn is that the entire series could have ended with this movie, and I would have been satisfied, ridiculous werewolves and all. Imagine, then, how diehard Twilight fans will respond. Let the feeding frenzy begin.
•• USA Today, Scott Bowles: 'Breaking Dawn': Twilight gets older, wiser, better
Let's face it: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 would be a blockbuster if the film were about Edward and Bella watching an apple rot.
Fortunately for the Twi-hards, Dawn instead plucks the apple, beginning a two-part eviction from heaven. It is in many respects the best installment of the franchise as its stars go from sullen kids to sullen young adults, where their expressions look more natural.
The movie also is in its most capable hands with director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters). And while no one is going to confuse Dawn with Nosferatu, the series is finding momentum as it nears its finale (Part 2 hits theaters Nov. 16, 2012).
Dawn picks up where Eclipse left off, with our heroes Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella (Kristen Stewart) set to wed. The wedding is as storybook as the romance, which explains why there are so many Twilight moms: Bella is perceptive and patient, saving sex for marriage. Edward is loyal and has been waiting a century to lose his virginity. See a zombie be that patient.
But when the newlyweds become expectant parents of a half-vampire, trouble brews in the werewolf world. Here is where Dawn finds itself maturing. Bella and Edward have discussions about sex, parenthood and abortion. The lessons aren't insightful but are high ground for the franchise.
Stewart's transformation to the living dead is strong. Pattinson remains a doe-eyed matinee idol, though spurned werewolf lover Jacob (Taylor Lautner) gets to act a little. Still, his shirt is off five seconds after the opening credits.
Of course, it wouldn't be Twilight without a few conventions: Parents don't understand and aren't to be told much. There isn't a bad-looking monster in the bunch. And at nearly two hours, the film is too long.
But none of this will be unwelcome news to fans, who waited in tents for tickets this week to see the forbidden fruit taken. And the final scene of the movie, simply a shot of Bella's eyes, makes a convincing harbinger that hell is on its way.
•• The Kansas City Star, Sharon Hoffman and Jenée Osterheldt: Rating 3/4
Editor’s note: “Twilight” has always been a girlfriend thing. So in that spirit, two of our resident enthusiasts teamed up to review the new film.
After years of standing up for sparkly vampires, fans have trouble defending Stephenie Meyer’s “Breaking Dawn.”
The bruising honeymoon sex. The teen pregnancy. The unconventional (to say the least) C-section. And, especially, the new, weird love connection that has sent Taylor Lautner, who plays werewolf Jacob Black, on the talk-show circuit, valiantly trying to explain it all.
So it’s a big relief that Bill Condon’s adaptation works bloody well, drawing the most from the young cast, especially Kristen Stewart. Whether she’s thriving under the new director or has finally found her stride on her own, she sheds her awkward ways and delivers her best Bella yet. She’s believable as a nervous bride, emotion playing across her face as she walks down the aisle. A jittery newlywed on her wedding night, taking time to brush her teeth, shave her legs and find courage. A malnourished expectant mom, wasting away.
As with the last “Harry Potter” book, filmmakers divided the 754-page fourth and final “Twilight” novel into two movies, to be released a year apart.
“Part 1” begins with the long-anticipated wedding. Bella has been begging to become an immortal vampire like boyfriend Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), but he, ever the traditionalist, will have none of it until he makes an honest woman of her.
The wedding feels honest and real, down to the reception with goofy, heartfelt speeches. (Keep your eyes open for a special guest: Stephenie Meyer.)
Then it’s off to the Cullen family’s private island on the Brazilian coast, where consummation gets a little tricky. And trippy, with a destroyed bed frame and feathers everywhere. It’s straight from the book, and Condon handles it gently, even tastefully.
But then the happy romance hits a speed bump: a baby bump that grows at a startling rate, being the powerful offspring of a supernatural being. Who knew vampire men had it in them?
Edward whisks Bella back to his physician dad, Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), to be rid of the monster within. But Bella has far different ideas and enlists Edward’s sister Rosalie (Nikki Reed) as her bodyguard to protect the baby, no matter the cost to Bella’s health, or her life. She’s hoping to carry it to term and then survive the resulting broken bones and internal bleeding by becoming a vampire.
Meanwhile, Jacob’s fellow werewolves learn of the little fiend on the way and foresee trouble for their families. This thirsty “demon” will be out of control, they think. Their solution: Kill Bella and her vampire family.
Now Jacob must choose between his pack and the love of his life, even though she’s Mrs. Cullen now and the old love triangle is completely bent out of shape.
Condon, directing his first “Twilight” film, brings an interesting resume to the proceedings. He’s best known for helming the musical “Dreamgirls,” but he won a screenplay Oscar for “Gods and Monsters,” about the final days of the “Frankenstein” movie director. And he’s a self-proclaimed vampire geek.
It pays off. This is the first “Twilight” film that doesn’t feel like a superficial Lifetime film. Cinematographer Guillermo Navarro (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Hellboy”) takes advantage of the big, lush settings in the Pacific Northwest and Brazilian beaches, but also captures quieter moments just as powerfully.
As Edward, Pattinson seems less starved and tortured, less simpering now that he plays a happily married vamp.
Even the Cullens’ hair got an upgrade, particularly everyone’s favorite quirky couple, Alice and Jasper (Ashley Greene and Jackson Rathbone).
And Taylor Lautner? Apparently he went to the Keanu Reeves school of acting: stoic but flat. His career might be best served in action movies, not drama. Anything where his abs are the true stars.
But he was Leonardo DiCaprio compared to his pathetic pack of wolves. Team Jacob’s swooning might be brought to a screeching halt when those werewolves start talking. Wolf telepathy works on the printed page, but on the big screen it’s cheesy, like something out of the 1980s’ “The Neverending Story.” Fail.
The film quickly recovers and races toward the captivating, heartbreaking birth scene. Without going into too much detail for the two of you who haven’t read the book, Lautner redeems himself by making Jacob’s strange, newfound love less creepy than it could be, almost sweet.
Condon filmed the two parts of “Breaking Dawn” back-to-back. This first half is a good sign that “Part 2” will close the franchise honorably.
Fangirls, you have nothing to be ashamed of.
•• Canada.com, Katherine Monk: Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Dreamgirls) takes over the reins of the vampire franchise with excellent results, as he brings Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) together in the flesh. The movie opens with their wedding, but ends with a life-threatening pregnancy that could change Bella forever. Stewart offers up a standout performance as she finally gets some dramatic flesh to sink her teeth into, while Pattinson almost feels warm, despite his character's icy skin. This may be the best Twilight yet.
Like all fine cheeses, The Twilight Saga ripens with age. Once bland and milky white, the story of Bella Swan's transformation from innocence to adulthood grows increasingly textured with each new outing.
When we first met Bella (Kristen Stewart) in the original 2008 feature, she was a quiet and withdrawn high-school student surviving adolescence in Forks, Washington. Just a few years later, Bella's not only graduating, she's walking down the aisle as a blushing bride.
"I wonder if she'll be showing," says her friend Jessica (Anna Kendrick) as she mingles among the drooping white wedding blossoms. "Why else does anyone get married at 18?"
This is probably the strongest moment in the film, because, in a split second, Kendrick's character opens the door to all the disbelievers and cynics through humour. She also yanks some of author Stephenie Meyer's creepier subtext out from under the rug, because there is something unsettling and slightly cult-like about this whole franchise.
Young girls are transformed into highly sexualized creatures who dream about having sex with truly ancient men. Certainly, this is Bella's central preoccupation: She is obsessed with Edward, and no matter how many obstacles are thrown in the road of their inter-species romance, she can't stop herself from swooning over the handsome, centuries-old bloodsucker.
In this first part of Breaking Dawn, she finally gets her wish. After lusting over Edward's icy body, Bella gets her chance to commune with the dark side and consummate her love.
Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Gods and Monsters), who takes over the reins of the lucrative franchise for the final assault, does a masterful job in these opening tableaus.
Recognizing the thematic and dramatic importance of the wedding, he visualizes the whole thing in several different ways. First, we get Bella's dream sequence of a gorgeous ceremony festooned with white flowers - only to watch it turn deep red in a flood of blood.
This symbolic and physical deflowering of Bella is the central hook for this whole episode, and Condon has to take us into the breathless, heart-thumping world of a virgin facing the cliff of experience - and leaping into the abyss.
With the help of Stewart's strongest performance to date, Condon successfully conveys the depth of connection between the two lovers. Every time Bella looks into Edward's cold amber eyes, we can feel the hunger. But it's not the vampire's lust that leaves a mark, it's Bella's human yearning that digs its nails into the flesh, prompting the bleed between pain and pleasure, lust and love, the dead and the living.
Ordinary girls from small towns don't usually get a shot at immortality with a hunky rich boy, so it's no wonder why Twilight has become one of the favourite modern fairy tales among the tween-set Twihards: It's Cinderella with a heavy dose of sexuality.
Fusing the high romance of the whole saga with the nitty-gritty sex act was no doubt the biggest challenge facing Condon when he sat down in the same chair once occupied by Catherine Hardwicke, David Slade and Chris Weitz - and, to his credit, he finesses the moment without a stumble.
Finding just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek humour, non-revealing nudity, and overhead shots of a canopy bed crumbling like a shoddy temple, we experience Bella's moment of corporeal bliss.
The encounter leaves her altered in every way. Not only does she enjoy the carnal communion, playing it over and over again in her mind with an addict's glare, she also conceives a mutant human-vampire baby.
Edward is angry at himself for even succumbing to carnal desire in the first place, because vampires, apparently, can kill human women through the act of lovemaking: They are just too big and strong.
Leaving Bella bruised was bad enough, but knocking her up could be lethal, and Edward does everything he can to "get rid of it." Of course, it's all too late for that. The baby must be brought to term, even if it means Bella's life may be sacrificed in the process.
These dramatic beats are big. In fact, they are so cumbersome in their ambition to be epic, they verge on the absurd.
This is the problem with Twilight: If you're not on the voyage, you're heckling from the sidelines. Yet, because Condon and the cast roll with it, and ingest the campiness in the same gulp as earnestness, the whole thing goes down without prompting a gag reflex.
Even the silly computer-generated wolves, and the red contact lenses, and the soap-opera-styled dialogue seem charming, because we believe in the emotional truth of the story.
Stewart and Pattinson convince us they are desperately in love. They find the right glances, the right body language, and the intangible static energy that draws two souls together.
Stewart seems to delight in the added depth, and her first shot at genuine transformation, because she carries this movie single-handedly on her delicate shoulders. Thanks to her brown contact lenses, the innate spunkiness in Stewart dulls to a matte finish and we immediately believe her as the plain Jane who becomes a blood princess.
It goes without saying this movie will be meaningless and boring to anyone who has not seen or read the previous instalments, but for those Twihards seeking a solid execution of their favourite story, this Twilight is probably the best yet.
•• The New York Times, Manohla Dargis: Dawn isn’t the only thing that gets broken in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part I,” the latest and best of the movies about a girl, her vampire and their impossible, ridiculously appealing — yes, I surrendered — love story. Marked by a canny mix of violence and chastity, the franchise has always had plenty of broken heads to go along with its pure thoughts, but here it also features a marital bed reduced to kindling after a rough night. If that doesn’t sound like the series that has kept millions of prepubescent viewers virtuously rapt, you’re right. But little Bella is all grown up now, and while Edward is still more zomboid than juicily predatory, this time not everything else on screen is dead too.
With only four books in Stephenie Meyer’s chart-busting series (as opposed to the seven Harry Potters), the people behind the “Twilight” movies can be forgiven for stretching out the screen experience for as long as possible. (“Breaking Dawn” 2 hits next November.) And, after all, so much does happen in this movie, which takes the arc of human experience — birth and death and everything in between — and works it up into a rich, sudsy lather. In the past, Bella (played with increasing confidence by Kristen Stewart) has been almost eclipsed by Edward (Robert Pattinson), his bloodsucking brood and their battles. Here, though, she returns as the emotional and psychological cornerstone in a series in which the center of gravity has shifted from frenzied action and reaction to love.
The movie opens shortly before Bella and Edward’s wedding at his family digs — a luxe affair decked in white and foreshadowed by a nightmare steeped in red — which reunites many of the principals, with the exception of Jacob (Taylor Lautner), who’s off sulking, having lost his claim on Bella. Poor wolf never stood a chance; vampires aren’t just hot (and sometimes scorching, as on the HBO show “True Blood”), they have, in recent years, also become the favorite go-to romantic male lead, the last, possibly sole defense against the nice-guy tide embodied by the Apatowesque freaks and geeks and their bromantic brethren. The vampire, in other words, is the only man (other than George Clooney) who can still sweep a woman off her feet — so what if he’s actually dead?
Being dead, in truth, gives the male vampire a great romantic advantage, because it allows him to engage in the kind of old-fashioned dash and derring-do — with one arm around the girl and the other smacking away foes — that might be laughed or scolded off the screen. (The age of the chivalrous superhero ended when Christopher Reeve hung up his Superman cape in 1987.) One of the complex pleasures of the “Twilight” movies is the absolute sincerity with which they’ve revived the unironic romantic male lead, an ideal that works (when the movies do, anyway) because it’s Bella who actively, even desperately, desires Edward. He’s her choice, not that of her parents or anyone else.
First came kissing, now comes marriage, a surprisingly rollicking honeymoon and, almost immediately, a horrendous pregnancy that the director Bill Condon makes so palpably disturbing that it might cause David Cronenberg, the master of body horror, to wince. Mr. Condon handles the little bit of action in “Breaking Dawn” capably, but it’s his work with (and sometimes around) the actors and his ability to translate ideas visually that lifts this movie above the rest. When Bella first appears, she enters wobbling in uncharacteristic towering heels, an image that instantly suggests her unsteadiness before her wedding, and, as she moves toward the altar, Mr. Condon further telegraphs her unease by filling the screen with red rose petals that turn into a sanguineous hallucination.
Crucially and as important, Mr. Condon, whose earlier films include “Dreamgirls” and “Gods and Monsters,” can also offer up, and without a suggestion of filmmaker embarrassment, the sight of Mr. Lautner ripping off his shirt. As Jacob, Edward’s long-suffering, oft-rejected rival for Bella’s affection, Mr. Lautner has plenty of reasons to strip angry: he can turn into a wolf, for starters, and Jacob’s musculature has long been one of the most special of the movies’ effects. That’s reason enough for Mr. Condon to get the character’s shirt off, as is the unavoidable truth that Mr. Lautner, whose pumped physique and flat affect bring to mind one of those friendly pizza delivery boys in a pornographic movie, remains a dish best served with as few words and clothes as possible.
Though he smolders well enough (if no longer sparkles), Mr. Pattinson is scarcely any better than his brother in beefcake. If that doesn’t matter, it’s because Mr. Pattinson’s heaviest lifting is over. His character is already well sketched in, and now all that remains is for the actor to play the part of the passionate, potentially dangerous vampire husband, which he — or, rather, his smart director — conveys with the startling image of Edward’s hands clenching the honeymoon bed until it explodes under his powerful touch. This image of sexual rough play is further capped the next morning by bruises now tattooing Bella’s body, branding that — along with her smiles (a private reverie reminiscent of Diane Lane’s postcoital raptures in “Unfaithful”) — shifts the story into another world.
Mr. Condon works in that world fluidly, gilding it with a necessary sense of humor — Bella and Edward’s white honeymoon bed glows as portentously as an altar for a sacrificial virgin — and imbuing it with a love and a gift for melodrama. He slathers on the music (“melodrama” comes from song or music drama), lets Ms. Stewart rock and the emotions roil. He resurrects the awkward teenage yearning that enlivened the first “Twilight” movie, but also transforms that initial, crude hunger into something deeper. Mostly, he brings Bella toward her happily-ever-after by giving this movie over to her, her dreams and her desires, as in a cosmic montage sequence worthy of “The Tree of Life,” but, you know, shorter. Edward may finally change Bella, but it’s Mr. Condon who resurrects her.
•• The Dallas Morning News, Joy Tipping: Rating C+
I know that nothing I can say will dissuade the true Twilight fans among you from seeing the fourth in the movie franchise, Breaking Dawn — Part 1. But — and I’m speaking as a fan of the last film, Eclipse, which had good acting and a strong storyline — here is my heartfelt recommendation for this one: Buy your tickets. Go have dinner, maybe do some holiday shopping. Creep into the theater for the last half-hour, and you’ll leave satisfied.
If you insist on seeing the entire, seemingly never-ending 117 minutes, though, you’re going to spend at least 87 of those minutes bored out of your mind.
Quick plot summary to this point in the saga: Mortal teen Bella (Kristen Stewart) falls in love with immortal vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson). Then she wavers, feeling fondly toward her werewolf buddy Jacob (Taylor Lautner, who once again raises every scene he’s in by several levels of believability and emotional weight). She finally decides on Edward. No consummation of either relationship, though.
Cut to Breaking Dawn: Bella and Edward marry. On the honeymoon, wild sex ensues; in the world of writer Stephenie Meyer, on whose novels the saga is based, premarital sex is a big no-no, but married vampire sex is peachy-keen. We know it’s wild because the bed and bedclothes are shredded come morning; the actual sex scene is ultra-mild.
Then, almost instantly, Bella’s pregnant. And the baby, perhaps a week along, is moving around. Uh-oh. What follows is the most horrific pregnancy ever put on film. Poor Bella loses her glow to a starving-fashion-model look that’s not at all fetching. As he frets, Edward loses his sparkle. Even Jacob’s tan starts to look a little wan.
Finally, finally, things get interesting when Jacob’s wolf-pack decides Bella’s baby-vampire-thingy must die. Jacob must decide whether to protect Bella or stay with his home-wolves. Edward frets, some more, about whether to turn Bella into a vampire. Will having Thingy kill her? Will it come out with fangs? Those questions make the ending thrilling and tense.
It actually made me look forward to Part 2, set for November 2012 release. If the movie follows the book, Thingy becomes even more attention-grabbing as it grows up. Maybe that’ll keep our minds off its entirely sparkle-free parents. Uncle Jake, though, we want to see again.
•• Spirituality & Practice, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat: All the yearning Bella (Kristen Stewart), the human being, has had for Edward (Robert Pattinson), the gentleman vampire who loves her deeply, comes to fruition in this fourth movie based on the Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer; this one covers half of the final book in the series; the film covering the second half will be released next year.
After discovering the exhilarations of first love (Twilight), suffering through the aches and pains of love apparently lost (The Twilight Saga: New Moon), dealing with threats to their love and Bella's life from outside forces (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), all the while working through questions, guilt, and fears about what a future together would mean, Bella and Edward are finally getting married.
Edward's family have planned a luxurious event for 200 guests — vampires, humans, and even a couple werewolves. Everyone around Bella is overjoyed whereas she is quite jittery and shaken by a nightmare where the guests are gruesomely dead in a bloody pile on the day that is supposed to be the happiest of her life. But all her anxiety fades when she and her father (Billy Burke) begin the walk down a flower-strewn aisle. Edward is at the end, standing there with a loving look on his face, and they lock eyes. This is finally their time.
Bella's spirits are further lifted after the ceremony when Jacob (Taylor Lautner) shows up after getting rid of his depression at losing her to Edward by running wildly in his werewolf form through the woods. Bella and Edward head off for a honeymoon on an isolated island off the coast of Brazil. Eventually he will change her into a vampire, but for a while yet, she wants to remain human. After a romantic ocean swim and a night of lovemaking, Bella awakens to find her body covered in bruises and the bedroom in shambles. Edward vows to do better at controlling his passion and his strength. So, they spend more time running through the rain forest, frolicking in waterfalls and playing chess.
This bliss is shattered when Bella discovers that she is pregnant. Edward rushes her back to his family, planning to have Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), a doctor, take care of the "demon" who is growing at an extraordinary rate and threatening to break Bella's bones and stop her heart. But Bella is determined to deliver the baby, despite the risks.
Bill Condon (Kinsey, Gods and Monsters) does a fine job mixing all the elements of this supernatural fantasy tale as he guides us through the joys of the wedding, the trials and tribulations of Bella and Edward's first major fight, the heated-up battle between Edward's vampire family and Jacob's angry wolf pack, and the ethical choices Jacob must make regarding his loyalty. The scene where Bella is changed into a vampire is handled very creatively, capturing both the terror and the beauty of her transformation.
The Twilight Saga has captured the imaginations and loyalties of legions of tweens, and judging from the reactions of the audience at the screening we attended, some people just don't get what the fuss is all about. This movie is a culmination of those that have come before it, and the developments in the story may not make sense to someone who has not read the books or seen the other movies. But for those who can just go with the heightened reality in this melodrama, and certainly for fans of the franchise, Breaking Dawn — Part I is an exclamation point on emotions that have been building through all that has come before it. And now we wait a year to see where this consummated love takes us all.
•• Philly.com, Carrie Rickey: Rating 3/4
Just before Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), tomboy romantic, trades her high-tops for high heels, she has a nightmare that bodes ill for her long-awaited union with Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), the courtly vampire who set her blood racing in the three prior installments of Twilight. But she forges ahead with the wedding, a fantasia of lacy wisteria, creamy chiffon, fondant icing, and premonitions of blood.
The fever dream that is Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1, swoony to the point of delirium, announces its intentions in an extended opening sequence in which Virgin weds Vampire. It is not overstating the case to say that what The Lord of the Rings represents to young men, Twilight represents for young women. One is a heroic quest, the other a heroinic one that links sex and death with undying love.
I enjoyed it immensely, even while occasionally snickering at dialogue so wheezy it should come with an inhaler.
Think of Breaking Dawn Part 1 as an extension of Condon's Gods and Monsters, his haunting film about the erotic obsessions of filmmaker James Whale, who directed Frankenstein. Call this intoxicating brew, with equal parts Bride of Frankenstein and Rosemary's Baby, Goddess and Monsters. The goddess, of course, is Bella. The monsters are Edward, her romantic and sexual soul mate, and Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the werewolf who runs platonic interference.
Shot mostly in extreme close-ups that caress the faces of its attractive, mortally conflicted characters, the film sympathetically details Bella's journey from girlhood to womanhood, giving substance to her emotional turmoil. If by several lengths it is the best of the Twilight movies it is because it has the best story to tell.
What does it mean to leave her human family of origin for that of the Cullen family, an improvised vampire clan that preys on animals rather than people? How can she retain her own identity while merging body and soul with a most attractive specimen of the Undead? Will sex with the Other be dangerous or fun? (The PG-13 film suggests both the agony and the ecstasy: The morning after the four-poster resembles a pile of matchsticks and Bella the Mona Lisa.)
Is pregnancy a loss of self or a womanly fulfillment, even if the spawn is the demon seed? Will "changing" Bella into a vampire, a metamorphosis that Edward is reluctant to effect, alter what he most loves about her? In his work with the hugely gifted Stewart, Condon treats these questions without irony or shame, and with occasional humor.
"Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies," muses Bella, quoting the poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, as she prepares to marry her vampire swain, to embark on the voyage to the adult kingdom of the Undead.
The film, haloed with fairy-tale light, woodlands, and forests (enchanted images courtesy of Pan's Labyrinth cinematographer Guillermo Navarro), speaks directly to the unconscious.
Will Condon's movie convert agnostics to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight cult? As with the later Harry Potter movies, Breaking Dawn's backstory and conventions are so dense that penetrating them is a challenge to newbies. Still, the film's tight focus on a young woman's passage from pubescence to maturity is universal enough to be clear as Condon's visual storytelling.
Worthy of mention is Carolina Herrera's design for Bella's wedding dress, sophisticated and demure in the front and Pippa Middleton sexy, and proper, in the back. Likewise composer Carter Burwell's low-key score (similar to his soundtrack for Condon's Kinsey), which eloquently communicates Bella's exhilaration and her dread.
•• The Morning Sun, Tanya Wildt: I had high hopes for "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1," the fourth installment of the five-part Twilight Series, but while the film satisfied my needs as a Twilight fan, there was plenty of room for improvement.
My hopes for the film were so high that I even braved opening night and went to a special early 8 p.m. showing. Usually, I avoid opening night at all costs, but I was excited to see how director Bill Condon would handle some tricky scenes from Stephenie Meyer's fourth book in the series.
"Breaking Dawn" picks up where the third film and book left off. Bella (Kristen Stewart) is preparing to marry her soul mate Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), who also happens to be a vampire.
Bliss, mixed with a little drama, surround the wedding and beginning of the honeymoon until Bella discovers she's pregnant with Edward's child.
The height of the action picks up after the revelation, as the Edward and his vampire family argue over what is best for Bella and the unborn child.
To complicate matters, Bella's best friend, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), and his werewolf shape-shifting tribe members want to destroy the new life form.
Twilight fans were anxious to see how Condon would portray that much-anticipated honeymoon night, as well as gruesome delivery of Bella's child.
The honeymoon scenes were handled tastefully, with just enough skin and sexuality to satisfy the adult crowd. Viewers see just enough of Bella and Edward's first night as man and wife, but it's not overplayed and dragged on as it easily could have been.
I was pleasantly surprised with the birth scene. The blood and horror of the situation are palpable, but Condon also uses the gravity of the situation to reveal Edward's rawest emotions, which Pattinson delivers beautifully.
The worst parts of the film were the poor computer graphics and green screen shots. Twice when Bella and Edward are shown in the water, the graphics are so poor, it's distracting. With the large amount of money the series has banked, I expected better.
There's also a scene where the werewolves are speaking to one another in wolf form, they communicate telepathically, that is so cheesy, overdone and awkward I had to either turn away or laugh out loud.
What surprised me the most was that scenes I could care less for in the book, became my favorite in the movie. I loved the romance in the fourth book with the wedding, honeymoon and pure love of the couple, but I didn't start getting into the movie until after, when the action picks up.
"Breaking Dawn" will please Twilight fans and gear them up for the final installment, due out in November 2012, but viewers will leave hoping Twilight's last curtain call will bring the series to another level of quality.
•• Badass Digest, Devin Faraci: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 might be the most beautiful and well made bad film in history. Cinematographer Guillermo Navarro does wonderful work, creating lush and evocative images - the moment where the werewolf falls in love with a baby isn’t just silly beyond belief, it’s absolutely gorgeous. And director Bill Condon brings terrific flourishes to the material while turning the emotional volume to a deafening 11.
But the source material remains garbage, and no matter what talent is thrown at it, it will always remain garbage. This is a bad story well told, populated with boring characters, some of whom are passably portrayed. Yes, Breaking Dawn Part 1 is batshit insane at times, but it’s also often tedious and a grind.
The film opens with Bella and Edward about to get married. Bella has some cold feet, and in one of the movie’s most evocative and great moments, she has a nightmare where the wedding becomes a surreal slaughter, her friends and family piled high in a bloody heap while a grinning, splattered Edward stands at her side. The movie is dotted with moments like this, moments that make you wish that Condon was doing something better, or at least had more freedom to play with the substandard source material.
What he is able to do is play the entire film at operatic levels. Breaking Dawn Part 1 is the best of the series so far, and it’s because Condon embraces the almost parodic levels of angst and teeth gnashing at the heart of Stephenie Meyers’ moron book. Nearly every second of the movie is scored with huge, sweeping music from Carter Burwell (at least the seconds that aren’t scored with pop songs probably chosen by Summit marketing). Condon doesn’t play any scene realistically, but rather like a teen girl’s fevered idea of how the scene would play. There is no realism in Breaking Dawn, only the sweaty, over the top fantasies of 15 year olds. This is big, broad stuff.
Sadly Condon is saddled with the actors who have been in the franchise from the beginning. Kristen Stewart is okay, delivering her best performance as Bella, but she feels a little too small for the hugeness that Condon is conjuring around her. Robert Pattinson rises to the occasion, really out-emoing himself this time around. But neither performance is particularly good, just good by the standards of the subpar series.
Taylor Lautner really screws the pooch on this one, though. Lautner’s a rotten actor - when he emotes he often looks like a constipated FAS baby, and his line deliveries are always subtly, comically off. If you told me he was doing it on purpose I would hail him as a genius.
But worst of all he has no presence. Lautner is without charisma or charm, qualities that Pattinson has even when he isn’t trying (like in every single Twilight film). The script calls for the two to meet as rivals, but rivals on equal footing, and there is no way that Lautner holds his own against Pattinson. In the end the hunky werewolf is out-acted by a guy who is manifestly not even trying; the casting of Lautner may have been the second worst thing to happen to the Twilight film franchise (the first worst being the original novels).
Billy Burke continues to be a series MVP just for walking to the other side of the film without embarrassing himself, but he’s one of the few supporting players coming out clean. Anna Kendrick is loose and funny, almost like she's in a totally different movie. Michael Sheen, who appears for just moments, relishes the terrible material. But almost no one else is any good, with abject worst place going to Jackson Rathbone, who appears to have a serious brain injury. His first line in the film (which accounts for 50% of his dialogue) had my audience - of Twihards - erupting in laughter. I think Rathbone’s collected Jasper performances add up to make one of the worst in cinema history. He isn’t even convincing in a scene where he just watches TV.
Let’s be honest: you don’t care about the acting and all that stuff. You want to know if Breaking Dawn’s nuttiest moments made it into the film, and if they’re translated well. The answer is yes: this is perhaps the single craziest movie ever aimed at 14 year old girls. The film maintains the vampire C-section and the werewolf falling in love with a baby, and it plays them all huge, as blaring notes of absurdity in a symphony of silliness.
But they’re also some of the best parts of the film. It’s weird - the dumbest, goofiest moments are the ones where Condon really kicks some ass. The scene where Jacob imprints on newborn Renesmee is played completely as a love at first sight scene, but it’s such a great moment you nearly forget how creepy it is. A shot where Jacob, overcome by his love for this six minute old child, falls to his knees is stunningly composed and shot. Incredible artistry in service of something ridiculous.
Condon gets around the gore of the C-section by shooting the whole sequence from Bella’s POV. This actually serves to make the whole scene more intense, bringing the Twilight series into real horror for the first time. There’s a nightmare quality to the imagery here that’s chilling, and the set up - Bella laying helpless while Jacob and Edward hover over her - condenses the series in a fractal nutshell.
The scenes leading up to the birth are also remarkable; impregnated with an impossible half-vampire baby, Bella begins to wither away as the super strong fetus takes all of her nutrients. The scenes of Bella pregnant and slowly dying remind you of AIDS movies; a scene where she slips off her robe to reveal a bony shoulder, or where she sits on a couch bundled up in a big sweater while concerned, pre-mourning family hover around, pack the punch of AIDS imagery. As Bella lays on the couch in the gorgeous, expensive Cullen house medical machines beep away and tubes are taped to her, symbols of the way illness invades our lives and homes. The moment when Bella seemingly dies, her face ghastly and gaunt, her lip slightly receding to show her teeth, called to mind the controversial “Pieta” image that Benetton ran as an ad in 1991.
Other scenes are remarkable for totally the wrong reason; one sequence has Jacob, in CGI wolf form, having a debate with the rest of his tribe, also as CG wolves. The CGI wolves (looking better this time around) circle and snarl while the actors shout growly lines of dialogue at each other through ESP; the scene is played straighter than straight, rendering it highest camp. I was breathless with laughter by the time the dog summit concluded.
The Native American dogs play a major role in another delightfully silly scene, where the werewolves and the vampires finally have it out. It’s an honest to god BRAWL, with vampires punching wolves in the face. This fight is hilarious and stupid and, like the rest of the film, well shot.
But the extraordinary nuttiness only punctuates the rest of the grueling badness of the story. Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg has smartly turned this Part 1 into a downward spiral story - it begins with the ‘happiness’ of Edward and Bella’s wedding and collapses into the pregancy and dissolution of the werewolf/vampire treaty. The thing is that I get this intellectually, but it doesn’t truly play on screen. Instead Breaking Dawn feels formless and largely unstructured. Characters mope around and complain and bitch and worry and act like petulant children (Jacob) or ineffectual crybabies (Edward), but nobody seems to really DO anything. It’s the kind of movie where Edward first tries to talk Bella out of marrying him (which leads, by the way, to a great flashback featuring Bride of Frankenstein), then mopes about hurting her when they fuck (I don’t want to get into the horrible thematic elements of this series right now) and then wants to kill himself when Bella seems dead. That’s his whole character arc, such as it is.
It is the best of the series, which is small praise. I think Condon is the first director since Catherine Hardwicke to really get what the fanbase sees in these books, and he gives as good an approximation as could exist on film. Subtlety and truth have no place in Breaking Dawn; it’s a film where every setback, no matter how minor, is grounds for suicide, where every moment spent with your love is a rapturous convergence of all that is right in the universe. There are no small emotions in Breaking Dawn, no scenes that are underplayed.
The film builds to a crescendo of explosive goofiness, but there’s a credits sequence that hints at where Condon might take us next; the film ends with the Volturi, the Italian vampire overlords led by Michael Sheen, and this scene goes directly into Batman the TV show territory. I’m shocked it wasn’t shot with a dutch angle. I for one can’t wait to see what happens next (spoiler: not much, plotwise).
Breaking Dawn is the best bad movie of the year. The sad part is that while its greatness is often non-ironic - there are truly good bits of cinema in here - its badness is overwhelming. It’s the most watchable of the films so far, and it embraces the insanity of the book, but it’s still not really ‘good.’
•• Jo Reviews: Rating 3/5
As we near the finish line fans are getting to the climax of the Twilight series with the latest edition “Breaking Dawn: Part I”. Edward and Bella fulfill their promise of getting married and starting their life (eternal life) together. After a marvelous ceremony the duo do what any normal newlyweds would do and go on a honeymoon. Finally consummating their nuptials and finally enjoying some happiness.
Bella insists on enjoying some normalcy in their marriage before succumbing to the dark side. The happiness is brought to a halting stop when Bella begins to notice she is ill. When she is reminded that she is late she is shocked to learn that she may be pregnant. Not sure how this is even possible the two quickly head home to Forks and have Carlisle investigate.
Once back home Bella reveals her pregnancy to Jacob who is appalled. Bella insists on carrying the baby to term. She will do whatever it takes to keep ‘him’ safe. Edward who is terrified of Bella’s choice begs Jacob to convince her to change her mind. The discussion does not go very far and Bella only becomes sicker by the day. Her body can not keep up with the demand of a fetus who is growing at a rapid pace.
As her heart begins to give out she goes into emergency labor and Edward is faced with the immediate decision to deliver the baby and then turn Bella. It is a graphic and very dark sequence of events. As it looks like Edward’s attempts have failed he is left to fight the wolf pack to protect his family.
Thanks to Jacob the fight is quickly aborted after it is discovered that Jacob has imprinted on the baby girl named Reneseme. As we watch Bella clinging to life we begin to see a change. “Breaking Dawn Part I” is what fans have been waiting for and will not disappoint. The acting felt very scripted in this version and Pattison lost his charm. The special effects on Kristen Stewart were magical. Although very disturbing to see her sick and bone skinny it was a very realistic portrayal of someone who is very ill. The storyline reached a new depth and is everything every fan will desire. Another box office success that fans will need to check out and find something to enjoy from it.
•• Entertainment Spectrum, Keith Cohen: Rating 3/4
Director Bill Condon ("Dreamgirls") and returning scribe Melissa Rosenberg ("Dexter") make the pages of Stephenie Meyer's fourth novel come alive visually on screen. It has been three years since this romantic supernatural soap opera fantasy became a cultural phenomenon with the release of the first movie "Twilight."
The enormous Twi-hard fan base of mothers and daughters vicariously followed every move made by teenage heroine Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart). They even divided into separate teams representing either the vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) or the shape-shifting werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner).
Rather than being left behind by the secrets and mysteries of this romantic supernatural soap opera fantasy, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and read the book in preparation for the movie.
I was thoroughly entertained by this first half of the final cinematic installment and found it to be very faithful to the source material. Non-readers, including those who have only watched the prior three films, will lose their way and have trouble grasping the intricate details and the fragile relationships in play.
Although tempted to lose her virginity and transform into a vampire, Bella has practiced abstinence and kept her human heart beating in the previous spellbinding episodes of this beloved romantic epic. Dramatic changes brought on by a wedding, honeymoon and difficult pregnancy trigger a chain of consequences that bring unforeseen and shocking developments.
The movie opens with Jacob angrily rushing out of the house and shape-shifting into a wolf after receiving an invitation to Bella and Edward's wedding. Bella's divorced parents, Charlie (Billy Burke) and Renee (Sarah Clarke), are more accepting of the impending nuptials and appear happier for their 18-year-old daughter.
Edward's sister Alice (Ashley Greene) takes charge of all the preparations assuming the duties of wedding planner.
A touching scene between Edward and Bella takes place the night before the big event in Bella's bedroom under Charlie's roof.
Edward checks to see if Bella has cold feet. He tells her he has been waiting a century to marry her. Bella admires the courage and sacrifice Edward has shown by resisting the temptation to transform her into a vampire.
They share one last embrace before Edward goes hunting for animal blood on his bachelor party with Cullen family members, Emmett (Kellan Lutz) and Jasper (Jackson Rathbone).
The usual things take place on Bella's wedding day starting with getting her hair styled. Charlie and Renee deliver a family heirloom that represents something old to go with the traditional blue and borrowed items.
The ceremony takes place outdoors in a wooded setting. Bella wears an exquisite white gown. Edward looks very handsome in a black tuxedo. They alternate reciting their vows. Things conclude with an extended passionate kissing scene.
A series of humorous toasts tinged with irony are given during the celebratory reception. Edward raises his glass and tells Bella "let's start with forever." This comes close to the movie's tagline-"Forever is only the beginning."
Although not in attendance at the wedding ceremony, Jacob comes out of the woods and dances alone with Bella. He is glad she still has a heartbeat and two left feet. Bella advises Jacob that it is not her last night as a human and wants to experience all the emotions of a real honeymoon with Edward.
Edward's secret honeymoon destination turns out to be Isle Esme on the Brazilian coast. It was a gift from Edward's father, Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) to his spouse Esme (Elizabeth Reaser). Esme had agreed to let the newly married couple borrow it for a few weeks.
Edward carries Bella across the threshold of the large house on the tiny island. She takes a look around, but her focus is on the absolutely huge white bed in the center of the bedroom. She starts getting nervous about losing her virginity and asks Edward to give her a few moments alone.
They begin the night with a skinny dipping swim and end up having conjugal relations in bed. The sex scene is very quick with Bella replaying bits and pieces in her mind when she wakes up the next morning. The filmmakers leave much to the viewer's imagination. The bedroom is in shambles with a destroyed bed frame and feathers flying everywhere. Bella has bruises on her arm and shoulder.
They spend their days exploring the natural beauty of the island and playing chess. Bella wears sexy lingerie and entices Edward into making love to her again.
Meanwhile back home in Forks, Washington, Jacob is miserable without Bella. He fears the treaty between the werewolves and the vampires will be broken if Edward kills or transforms Bella into a vampire. Jacob still hasn't found a mate to imprint on.
Bella suffers from morning sickness just 14 days after the marriage. Although it sounds impossible, Bella is pregnant with a demon child moving inside her.
Edward packs their belongings quickly and they head home. Bella decides that she wants to carry the baby to term and enlists the help of sister-in-law Rosalie (Nikki Reed).
Bella becomes pale and sickly looking. The fast-growing fetus cracks Bella's rib and continually crushes her small frame from inside out. Edward urges Bella to abort, based on Carlisle's advice that the fetus is too strong and not compatible with her body.
Edward asks Jacob to try to change Bella's mind. He even gives Jacob permission to kill him if Bella dies during the pregnancy. Bella tells Jacob that she is strong enough to deliver the baby. She views pregnancy as a miracle and not a scary thing.
The Alpha shape-shifting werewolf leader Sam (Chaske Spencer) believes the treaty is now void. He wants to destroy the abomination growing inside Bella before it is born. A split in the pack occurs when Jacob decides to go his own way and vows to protect Bella. Jacob is joined by siblings Seth (Boo Boo Stewart) and Leah (Julia Jones).
As Bella grows weaker, Jacob comes up with an idea and Edward acts on it. A spooky scene takes place when Bella drinks blood through a straw to quench the thirst of her hungry fetus. Bella says it tastes good and her pulse becomes stronger.
Rosalie is very protective operating as a mother hen throughout Bella's pregnancy. Bella picks out names for the baby and runs them by Alice and Rosalie. If it is a boy, she likes EJ, which is short for Edward and Jacob. If it is a girl, she combines the first names of her mother and mother-in-law and comes up with Renesmee (pronounced Ruh-nez-may).
While Carlisle is away hunting for more blood, Bella's body goes through weird contortions as the placenta becomes detached. Bella screams to Edward to get it out now.
Edward takes Bella upstairs to Carlisle's medical office and examination room. Edward delivers the baby by biting through Bella's stomach. The impromptu plan is to deliver the baby first and then transform Bella into a vampire by injecting venom into her system while her heart is still beating.
Jacob is in the room during delivery. He attempts CPR to revive Bella. He goes outside and starts crying thinking Bella is dead. Edward continues to attempt resuscitation and even sucks blood from different parts of Bella's body.
While Bella is in a comatose state, her whole life passes before her in reverse with brief snapshots. There was a collective gasp and ecstatic screaming from the advance preview audience as the movie ended with a perfect final scene.
Midway through the credits, an Easter egg teaser features Irina of the Denali Coven reporting the news of the Cullen clan to the ruling class Volturi vampires. Aro (Michael Sheen) says, "They have something I want." Fans will have to wait until part 2 is released on 11/16/12 for the climactic full-scale vampire showdown.
Moviegoers have come to accept Stewart, Pattinson and Lautner as genuine embodiments of the three major characters. They have grown into their roles and play off each other so well generating emotional sparks with their words and actions.
The movie's strengths include the interior designs, costumes and background scenery. The musical score lacks any memorable tunes and doesn't accentuate the viewing experience.
Those looking for action and combat scenes will be disappointed. There are two brief battle scenes shot at night between the wolves and the vampires in which no blood is spilled.
The fourth book is so expansive that the filmmakers made the right call in splitting it into two parts and following the formula established by the popular "Harry Potter" franchise. The pacing is spot on with a nearly two-hour running time that never drags as you become fully immersed in the melodrama of this supernatural realm.
•• QCTimes, Linda Cook: It won't disappoint the legions of "Twihards" who turned out for midnight Friday shows at theaters all across the country, including the Quad-Cities.
But "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1" is not as much of a, er, howling success as its predecessors.
This is the first part of the two-part finale that is drawing hundreds of thousands of fans to the box office. And even though it isn't quite as substantive as the prior movies, fans will appreciate seeing the characters and, in particular, a couple of pivotal events they've read about in the novels.
The first of these, of course, is the wedding between human Bella and vampire Edward (Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson). The script doesn't dally here: Right away, we know that invitations have been sent and that Bella is trying on shoes. Still, Edward is having second thoughts for Bella's sake, and he reveals to her some disturbing information about his past.
The wedding scene - and this doesn't count as a spoiler because I simply don't know anyone who would go to see this movie without expecting the ceremony to take place - is simply gorgeous. Stewart is stunning in a dress that's bound to be the choice of brides for years to come, and Pattinson is at his handsome best as he waits for her while she walks down the aisle.
The rivalry between Edward and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) heats up because Jacob, who loves Bella, too, suspects that she is doomed. Intimacy between a vampire and a human is complicated to say the least, and it could be fatal for Bella.
Nonetheless, the wedding goes off as planned and the couple takes off for a tropical paradise where they spend their honeymoon playing a lot of chess (I'm not kidding) and, well, being together. Their intimacy results in a major development that poses a threat to not only Bella, but also to the werewolf and vampire clans.
The chemistry between Pattinson and Stewart is as solid as ever. Sometimes, though, the dialogue and situations that are serious events in the books become silly onscreen: Especially ridiculous is a scene with arguing, telepathic werewolves.
Pushing the "PG-13" rating to its limits is a childbirth scene that is grisly and unnerving. The "Twilight" series has never pretended to be for children, and this episode is even more adult than the other ones.
And here's a tip: Don't leave the theater as soon as the credits roll because, after about a minute, there's another scene that links this film to the grand finale waiting for fans a year from now.
•• The Huffington Post, Jackie K. Cooper: Rating 7/10
It seems they are saving the best for last in the Twilight series. Breaking Dawn, Part 1 is the film version of the first half of the last book. The other half will appear on screens in November 2012. This first half is what Twilight fans have long been anticipating as it is the most romantic and engrossing of all the movies to date, and is sure to be a huge box office success.
This movie concerns the marriage of Edward and Bella. Yes, the vampire and the human are finally getting hitched and it is all presented just as grand and gloriously as you could want. Bella (Kristen Stewart) has never been so beautiful and Edward (Robert Pattinson) has never been as handsome. The only flaw is that she is not marrying both Edward and Jacob (Taylor Lautner). That is the only way everyone could have been satisfied.
But Jacob fans can rejoice. He is a major part of the storyline and Lautner has never been this emotionally involved with his role. He completely forces his other movie this year, Abduction, out of our minds and reinforces the belief that he does indeed have a chance at a career after Twilight is over.
Even though this movie only tells half the story of the last book, it seems complete. You are not left at the end feeling as if you have been clumsily set up for what comes later and with nothing resolved. This is as good an ending as could possibly have been had for this chapter in the lives of Bella, Edward and Jacob.
The movie is rated PG-13 due to sexual situations and a gruesome birth scene. This film is definitely not for the younger kids as it will give rise to questions about sex and childbirth. Still each sequence is handled in good taste.
The movie is beautifully photographed with lush settings taking over for the rain soaked greenery of Washington state. Director Bill Condon is focused on the romantic elements of Melissa Rosenberg's screenplay while still staying true to all of the basic plotlines developed by novelist Stephanie Meyer.
Some will dismiss this movie out of hand as being one of "those" movies that is not worth watching. They will be wrong. This film provides a compelling story, supported by strong acting. Stewart, Pattinson and Lautner are completely absorbed by their roles and are at ease in the relationships they have to enact. They have a history together now and it pays off. There is also a strong supporting cast who are totally familiar to the audience by now and who slide comfortably back into the skin of the characters they portray.
If you have never seen a Twilight film then this is a good one with which to start. If you are already a fan of the series, this is the best movie adaptation yet. It totally entertains while it is setting up the story for the final chapter. It will be a long time to wait for the conclusion but this film will be worth watching over and over in the interim.
•• ReelTalk, Betty Jo Tucker: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 begins with Bella and Edward getting married in one of the dullest wedding ceremonies I’ve seen on film. Although I didn’t think it possible, from that point on things go downhill. Yes, the honeymoon starts on a romantic note -- but soon injuries and a troubling pregnancy change what should be a happy time for newlyweds into a nightmare. Not having read The Twilight Saga books by Stephenie Meyer, I can’t comment on how well this film treatment sticks to the story. But, as a fan of the first Twilight movie, I feel very disappointed with the franchise’s fourth offering.
Any film dealing with vampires, werewolves and forbidden love should be exciting to watch, yet this one moves along slower than a snail’s pace. Yes, there’s lots of lovely scenery and some fitting special effects. However, although Kristen Stewart (Bella), Robert Pattinson (Edward) and Taylor Lautner (Jacob) still do a fine job portraying the members of a bizarre love triangle (human, vampire, werewolf), the movie leaves them with little to do except suffer.
Bella, who surely endures one of the most painful pregnancies on record, constantly rubs her stomach and insists on carrying the baby full term as her own health deteriorates. When her violent labor begins, it’s so dramatic the scene borders on comedy. My daughter let out a guffaw so loud that I had to cover her mouth to save her!
And Edward’s guilt seems almost out of control. He had no idea a human could become pregnant by a vampire. All he ever wanted was to make Bella happy and to protect her from “bad” vampires as well as from his own vampiric desires. Jacob also sees himself as Bella’s protector, which ends up putting him at odds with his werewolf pack. And, of course, everyone harbors fears about the baby. Is it human or a vampire?
So our wish for Bella and Edward to live happily ever after may not come true -- at least until Breaking Dawn - Part 2 arrives in multiplexes during 2012. Despite everything I’ve complained about here, I don’t plan to miss the last Twilight Saga film. But I’m not taking my daughter along with me to that one.
•• Flick Filosopher, MaryAnn Johanson: “I’ve been waiting a century to marry you, Miss Swan,” Edward Cullen the most gorgeous and nicest vampire ever tells Bella Swan and It. Is. So. Romantic! I could almost die. Just like Bella does here. Almost die, I mean. Because that’s what you do for love. You might have to die for it, it’s that important. Breaking Dawn teaches us that.
What’s really kind of weird is that they left that bit about “till death do us part” out of the wedding ceremony when Edward and Bella get married. Maybe the people who made Breaking Dawn thought that would be too funny and would ruin the oh-my-god so romantic mood. Because Edward is immortal of course and can’t die, and soon Bella will be immortal too because Edward promised — he promised! — he would make her a vampire after they got married. But then Bella almost dies anyway before he can do that! It’s so sad!
But first the wedding! It’s so totally cool how the movie spends like three hours, it seems, on the wedding. There’s all this stuff about Bella’s beautiful wedding dress — cuz that’s the most important part of when a girl gets married lol! — and how she has to learn how to walk in high heels — just like real girls have to do! — and all the decorating Alice Cullen does to make everything just perfect for Bella’s big day. (People who say that the women in Twilight don’t do anything but be in love are wrong! Alice plans weddings. And there’s Leah too, the werewolf girl: she hangs around the clan even after she’s not with her werewolf guy anymore and so she’s all about being his ex. So there’s lots of things for the Twilight ladies to do!)
It’s almost like being at a real wedding, the way we get to hear speeches from everyone and there’s dancing and all sorts of wedding-y stuff. It’s such a perfect day for Bella and Edward… well, except for Bella’s mean friend Jessica says actually at the wedding that Bella must be pregnant because who else would get married at 18?
What a snot Jessica is! People get married so they can have sex, and I’m sure Jessica knows that. (I figure Jessica must be pretty stupid anyway not to have noticed that Edward and all the Cullens are obviously vampires. I mean, duh: look at them!) So that’s about the next three hours of the movie: Edward and Bella having sex. But not like we see it! I’m so glad that the people who made the movie didn’t reveal too much, because I certainly don’t want to know what happens with sex before my wedding night either lol! But I hope my husband is so excited to be with me that he breaks the bed, like Edward does!
Actually, Edward is very gentlemanly and respectful. Bella has been waiting all this time to have sex with Edward, and now they’re married, and having a honeymoon on a beautiful island near Rio de Janeiro, and he still won’t have sex with her right away because he knows better what’s right for her. He knows he’s so strong like vampires are and she’s not a vampire yet so he might hurt her… and well, everyone knows sex is dangerous and scary!
So they play chess a lot before they have sex. And after, too.
So then after that, there’s like another three hours where Bella gets pregnant right away with a half-vampire baby, and it’s like a monster eating away at her body, cuz it’s superstrong like a vampire, too, and it grows really fast, like way faster than a real baby. It’s like a metaphor for how everything a girl is supposed to want — getting married, having sex, being a mom — is actually bad and creepy… but then it turns out okay anyway. Cuz even though the monster baby is killing Bella, she’s all like, “It’s like he’s a miracle or something.” That’s what motherhood does to you, Stephenie Meyer is letting us girls know. Even if you don’t want to have a baby, even if you know that a baby is going to literally take your life away, it makes you love it anyway.
It’s like Twilight has been saying all along: Women don’t really know what they want until other people make things happen to them. And then it’s all okay.
It’s so romantic! I can’t wait for Breaking Dawn Part 2, which is sure to be even better.
•• Collider, Naira Timourian: The Twilight Saga franchise has touched the hearts of millions of book readers and fans around the world. Breaking Dawn – Part 1 has a little bit of something for everyone; the much anticipated wedding scene, the appearance of Bella’s wedding dress, the honeymoon, and the birth scene. I loved its predecessors Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse but Breaking Dawn – Part 1 has to be my favorite film so far since it fulfilled all of my expectations. Hit the jump to read my review of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 special edition Blu-ray.
The film starts off with some frightening dream sequences: Bella having her nervous reactions to the thought of getting married and how her life is going to change once she becomes a vampire. It was refreshing to see the facial reaction and body language in great detail from Bella while walking down the aisle until we finally see her stunning wedding dress as she locks eyes with Edward. I‘m confident that most Twilight fans believed the wedding scene looked breathtaking from the various camera angles, along with the excellent music and cinematography. After fantasizing about her wedding, we watch Bella have her dream honeymoon, watch it fall apart, have a baby, and finally transform into a Vampire all in two hours. Part one was cut at exactly the right moment once we see Bella open up her bright red eyes as a newborn.
Bill Condon, the director, did such a phenomenal job to make every scene look flawless. I feel Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is undoubtedly Kristen Stewart’s best performance; watching her body movement and transformation was remarkable. Since every film was directed by a different director, I was a bit skeptical regarding how the birth scene would play out and how it would be translated from book to screen, but was pleasantly surprised after viewing it just once. I wanted to make sure the scene was shot correctly so it would only be shown from Bella’s perspective. All the important scenes, such as the birth sequence and Bella’s transformation, were filmed beautifully from start to finish.
My favorite feature on the Blu-Ray special edition is the six-part, 90 minute long MAKING-OF-DOCUMENTARIES. This was the first time I saw how every important scene was positioned together. Another awesome feature about the documentaries is that they can be played alone or in picture-in-picture mode alongside the film starting from “Love Death Birth”, “The Wedding”, “The Honeymoon”, “The Wolf Pack”, “The Pregnancy” and “The Birth”. All of these special features walk you through the entire process of making the movie with the writers, creators, and cast. My favorite out of the six part documentaries is definitely “The Pregnancy.” Watching Kristen Stewart’s transformation, the prosthetics that were used on set, and the making of her uncanny body double were all wonderful. If you’re someone who loves watching and learning about the pre-production, production and post-production processes, you will thoroughly enjoy these documentaries.
Lots of other great features are also available on this Blu-Ray Special Edition, including “Jacob’s Destiny”, “Bella and Edwards’s Personal Wedding Video”, film commentary with director Bill Condon, and the ‘Jump to’ feature. If you are a Cullen fan or a Wolf pack fan, this feature is for you. You can jump to all the scenes that include your favorite characters and your favorite scenes. My favorite would have to be the wedding reception ‘jump to’ feature just because I can re-watch the wedding scenes over and over again.
The one minor disappointment in my opinion is the lack of a film commentary by Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. I still enjoyed the commentary with Bill Condon, but would have also preferred to hear the main cast members walking us through the film. To sum up everything, I would give Breaking Dawn – Part 1 Blu-Ray Special Edition an ‘A’. This version has something special for everyone and it’s perfect for every Twilight fan.