The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner
Director: Bill Condon
'Let's start with forever,' says Edward Cullen as he raises a toast to the guests at his wedding. The remark serves as a harbinger for things to come - this is the instalment in the Twilight franchise in which one of the characters readies herself for eternal life with, and as, a vampire - but the groom offers an unwitting summing-up of what Breaking Dawn Part 1 feels like, as this film brings out all the negative connotations of the word 'saga'.
While he's getting a hefty paycheque for doing this, director Bill Condon warrants a smidgen of sympathy for putting his acclaimed career (Gods and Monsters, Kinsey and Dreamgirls) on the line by trying to inject life into an increasingly bloodless franchise.
Unfortunately, Breaking Dawn Part 1 - the first half of a film diptych conjured out of Stephenie Meyer's fourth (and final) Twilight novel - possesses more puff than poignancy, as the filmmakers mistake dragged-out depictions of broodiness and angst as signs of epic drama.
Breaking Dawn Part 1 begins with the one thing that has been put on hold ever since the first Twilight film emerged in 2008: the pale and ageless Edward (Robert Pattinson) and the sulky 18-year-old human Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart, above with Pattinson) are finally going to have sex - after they get married, of course. The film's first 45 minutes grinds gratingly onwards, through pre-nuptial anxiety and post-wedding confrontations, before they eventually get intimate in a seaside villa on an island owned by papa vampire Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli) off the Brazilian coast.
Don't ask why a doctor would have the wherewithal for that, or why a vampire would want a tropical island near Rio de Janeiro: it's one of the many questions the film begs, some threatening to divert it into unintended farce. As the film careers onwards to yet another twist, Bella finds herself pregnant (and dying) with a foetus that grows at an alarming rate. Yet as Bella suffers, those around her merely mope around struggling with guilt (Edward) or stomp about like a petulant child (the wolfman Jacob Black, played by Taylor Lautner).
Casting aside the moral conservatism in evidence here - and this is a film that intimidates young women about the callous consequences of physical intimacy and celebrates the joy of motherhood even in the face of the life-threatening agony of pregnancy - Condon's adaptation is flawed. The storytelling is awkward, made further complicated by a final childbirth sequence in which the bloodshed sits uncomfortably with the rest of the film.
Forever certainly doesn't bode well.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 opens today