And now, Scary-Crayon reviews... The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

Admittedly, I haven't been the biggest fan of the Twilight series. I truly intended to read the books by Stephenie Meyer, but found them to be so badly and annoyingly written that I couldn't get more than two pages into the first book -- and while I did enjoy the first three movies, that was because their only redeeming quality (aside from the cuteness of Kristen Stewart and Ashley Greene and perhaps Taylor Lautner) was that they were terrible to a side-splittingly laughable degree. Yes, the first one was a little painful to get through at times, but I probably laughed more during those last two than I did during the entire fourth series of "The IT Crowd" and that show is a riot. The Twilight films really are that funny, and if you like to laugh I suggest you add the films to your Netflix queue or order some used copies on eBay (please don't pay new DVD prices for them) this instant. I'll wait.

... (Yes, this article is pre-written... but who doesn't enjoy elliptical pauses?)

Back with us? Good! And I hope you've still got room in your film queue, because I'm about to tell you why you should add the fourth flick -- The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 -- to your film queue and/or DVD collection as well. It's not only easily the best Twilight movie -- it's also a genuinely excellent film.

I bet you can't stop yourself from crying during this scene.

What makes this particular movie so great -- and what the others in the Twilight series are largely lacking -- is that it presents Edward and Bella as fully developed characters and really explores the relationship between them. After all, this is the film in which they get married! A lesser film might have dispensed with the wedding during a brief opening credits sequence, or had it take place at the end of a movie (Bella's acceptance of Edward's proposal was the "cliffhanger" of the last film, which seemed lame then but now seems like a brilliant decision), but Breaking Dawn literally devotes its first half hour to the wedding. We see the preparation; watch Bella get her makeup and hair done; meet multiple guests and flash by numerous others who have seldom or never been seen in the earlier films and never appear again in this one; and are treated to numerous wedding toasts by various characters including Bella's parents, random Cullen family members (I have no idea who they are; it's a large family and they don't wear nametags), Bella's high school chum, and Edward himself. All of this helps to communicate the deep love that Edward and Bella share, because everyone knows that only people who aren't madly in love have small weddings -- if they don't elope drunkenly -- and do not share the occasion with hundreds of guests and vampires from all over the globe and a handful of werewolves. The music that plays as the couple exchange vows is also a brilliantly chosen piece that really brought the scene home, as random lyrics about fat housecats and big pills and American mouths totally don't pull me out of that romantic moment and leave me scratching my head in bewilderment.

WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS???

So after the wedding -- the entirety of which is absolutely essential to the story -- the next half hour of the movie focuses on the happy couple's honeymoon and the elephant in the tomb: sex. Sex with vampires is deadly for humans, because vampires are super strong and break beds with their pelvic thrusting and humans are fragile and easily bruised, so vampires who marry humans typically sire them on their wedding night. Bella, however, wants to remain human a little longer because she doesn't want to spend her honeymoon writhing in pain. That explanation wouldn't make the least bit of sense in a lesser film (presumably a crushed pelvis would hurt like hell, too), but Breaking Dawn is so skillfully written -- and Kristen Stewart's acting is so amazing when Bella voices this rationale -- that we're completely content to go along with it. And when it does occur, the sex scene remains deeply moving despite the violence of Edward's splintering a windowsill when he grabs it for leverage and collapsing the bed columns during his initial thrusts.

Should've let Bella ride topside, dawg.

But the real treat is the scene that follows the next morning, when the two discover that their amorous activities have left Bella's arms and shoulders spotted with bruises. Yes, it's true that all of that pain and ruined furniture could have been avoided entirely if Bella had been on top and Edward had kept his grabby grabby hands in check -- even though the love scene worked so perfectly that this solution never once entered my head as I watched it -- but then we wouldn't get to see Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart really shine. The way Pattinson narrows his eyes and lets his mouth gape open during the entire scene truly conveys Edward's love for Bella and deep concern at having injured her, just as Stewart's trademarked look of distressed confusion and heavy breathing suggests Bella's enduring love for Edward but frustration at his determination to rain on her bruised but happy post-coital parade. It's a gripping scene that isn't the least bit unconvincing or giggleworthy, and all parties involved should be exceedingly proud and continue to have lucrative, successful careers.

Imma kill that bloodsuckin' motherfucker.

Meanwhile, Jacob obsesses about the happy couple's wedding activities. Fully expecting Edward to sex Bella right into an early grave, he sits on a beach staring out at the waves and listing the ways the Cullens might explain Bella's death. "Maybe they'll say she was in a car crash," he moans. "Or tripped and fell off a cliff." The writing here is stellar, as the images Jacob mentions not only convey his strong belief in the violence of vampire fucking, but also how seriously upset he is about Bella's fate. He's also obviously jealous and creepily obsessed with killing Edward, and it's really a testament to the writing and Taylor Lautner's acting skills that his character remains noble and likeable despite being given the lines of a creepy obsessive jilted lover. (I'm sure that even women who have been stalked and suffered violence at the hands of similarly glaring, sneering men sporting five-o-clock shadows nevertheless found themselves swooning over Jacob during that scene.) After all, he's only acting this way because of his own love for Bella and the pain he feels as a result of being unable to have her.

The hell is this?! LET'S ASK THE INTERNET

The biggest draw of the movie, of course, is what happens next: as a result of her intense babymaking session with Edward, Bella actually ends up pregnant -- and the drama that ensues comprises the remainder of the film. All of the actors really put on their best work during this stretch, as their constant pacing around and looking anxious really sells a situation that would otherwise seem completely ridiculous. Despite being immortal creatures (and despite Carlisle, the Cullen patriarch, having previously lived among the depraved but exceedingly knowledgeable vampire elite), the vampires have never seen anything like this before, so they break out their Apple laptops (vampires are nothing if not trendy, and this product placement humanizes the characters to a degree that I'm not even sure the filmmakers anticipated) and take to the Internet to research the phenomenon. This should seem stupid -- after all, as the Internet is full of information about vampires' weakness in the face of crosses and inability to survive in sunlight, it hardly seems like a reliable source of information about the creatures in the world of Twilight -- but the actors are so good at what they do that it's not laughable in the least.

Bella Swan, pro-life champion.

Kristen Stewart is also really impressive during the pregnancy portion of the film. The baby leaves Bella looking exceedingly malnourished and even begins breaking her bones, and Stewart shows her acting range by transforming her perpetual look of distressed confusion into an appropriate expression of pained exhaustion. The makeup artists and special effects crew also deserves genuine praise for making Stewart appear as ghastly ill as possible. Yes, K-Stew's adorableness despite her poor acting (in the previous films; she's awesome in this one) was one of the few things that made the earlier films watchable (that and the hilarity), but that Stewart ultimately looks so emaciated and gross that it's almost difficult to watch isn't a mark against this movie because it really sells the idea that this baby is totally ruining her shit. Yet in spite of the fact that her life is obviously in danger, Bella remains committed to having her baby for no apparent reason. Again, this is the kind of thing that seems like a glaring oversight, but it's actually classy and forward-thinking. By having Bella refrain from explaining her decision to have her baby despite the risk to herself, Breaking Dawn avoids alienating some audiences by making an arguably political statement.

don't turn your back on the wolf pack

And if the movie sounds like a bunch of closed-room soap opera bullshit -- even though Breaking Dawn is way more compelling and nowhere near as silly as any daytime soap -- there's werewolf drama to further enliven the proceedings. As Jacob fantasizes about killing Edward in retaliation for Bella's assumed death, his werewolf pack leader insists that he leave the Cullens alone lest he initiate a vampire/werewolf war. Yet the second they hear that Bella is pregnant by Edward, the werewolf leader does a complete 180 and wants to kill the vampires because no humans will be safe from the presumably fearsome blood-drinking demon baby. By contrast, Jacob suddenly becomes committed to protecting Bella and her baby -- and the Cullens -- despite the obvious threat to her life that the baby poses and their admitted uncertainty concerning the nature of the creature gestating inside her. Even though these shifts nearly happen as abruptly in the movie as I've written them here, they still seem completely reasonable and not at all manufactured for the sake of drama when they occur on screen.

It's completely platonic, seriously.

Similarly, the way the conflict is resolved might seem hokey -- especially since it relies on a key term from the books that is not well explained in the movie -- but it's actually quite brilliant. I'm not going to explicitly say what it is, but it in no way inspires fits of laughter for even remotely suggesting that Jacob wants to have sex with a baby (or the grown-up version of it that he imagines gleefully skipping through the forest and appearing reflected in his eye). His feelings for the baby are clearly platonic, just like every other comparable example depicted in the film. While admittedly any confusion whatsoever (though there isn't any) might have been cleared up with a little exposition earlier in the film -- just as the changes of heart on both sides of the werewolf dispute could arguably have been explained better through additional dialogue -- this is a movie! If these things had been explained in greater detail, as I imagine they were in the book(s), viewers might have grown bored with the lengthy exposition. Giant CGI wolves having a brief conversation in English preserved the seriousness of the conflict, but the scene really would have seemed nonsensical if they had entered into a lengthy debate explaining their motivations.

If you can't see how great this movie is, there's something wrong with you.

Even though I've largely summed up the action of the film, I could probably keep going -- but, truly, words cannot do justice to the masterpiece that is The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1. The acting is superb; the dialogue and storytelling aren't the least bit lacking or preposterous; and everything -- from the music to the dialogue to the actors to the effects -- works to communicate the depth of these characters and the intense emotions they feel for each other. Even though I've described much of the story in this review, the movie is so good that that won't matter. Heck, it might in fact enrich your enjoyment of it because you'll know precisely which amazing scenes to look forward to, even though they're all pretty darned awesome. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 is a delightful movie that will appeal not only to fans of romance, action, and supernatural drama, but to anyone who enjoys a wonderful film. No fool should go without seeing it.

-- Wes --
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