Last night I saw my first Twilight movie. At first I was going to try to catch up with the previous three installments before attending the press screening of Breaking Dawn Part 1, but I figured I'd attempt a different sort of experiment. I went in cold, just to prove that it's not necessary for critics to even review a movie like this. Fans will go, haters will not, so what's the point?
As it turns out, by itself the new sequel is a fascinating film about a chaste girl who marries, experiences sex for the first time and gets pregnant very quick -- and speaking of quick, the gestation period is extremely rapid (for those, Roger Ebert included, who didn't get that). It's as much of an homage to old timey experimental shlock horror as broad blockbusters can get. That is, outside of a superhero movie, where villainous transformations in movies like Burton's Batman and Raimi's Spider-Man 2 come to mind as comparable.
If I see the other films my appreciation might get diluted, so maybe I won't. For now, I recommend Twilight virgins see BD1 as a stand-alone work. MSN's Glenn Kenny did the same, and it seemed favorable to him as well (see below). That said, as for whether there's any point to reviewing the movie in general, I still think for the most part the act is futile. Yet this installment is actually provoking some terrifically devisive remarks, which I've attempted to piece together in debate form below.
What are people saying about The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1? Here's The Conversation heard around the blogosphere and Twitter:
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. - Justin Chang, Variety
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. - Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
What may take up 15 minutes in a normal film now dominates 115 minutes in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1. - Brad Brevet, Rope of Silicon
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. [...] [Condon] 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. - Manohla Dargis, New York Times
Fundamentally, this Twilight movie is yet another fantastically trying drama on the now very boring subject of wolves v vampires and the consequent crisis of identity, which I can only describe as nuanced. [...] The vampire drama of Twilight is all about the romantic agony of eternity, and this franchise feels like it's going on for ever. - Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
Director Bill Condon steers the franchise away from visions of wan, suffering teens and fake-fur werewolf tussles and brings it closer to — if not necessarily close to — something resembling human adult sexual obsession and its attendant responsibilities and anxieties. It’s like Jules and Jim for the Tigerbeat set. - Stephanie Zacharek, Movieline
Director Bill Condon has undoubtedly delivered the best of the series since Catherine Hardwicke's first installment a few years back, but he cleverly overstates the silliness where Hardwicke skillfully downplayed it. They both avoid heavy vampire mythologizing in favor of the freakish sexual dynamic at work. - Eric Kohn, Indiewire
Easily the weakest entry in the series, its the fault not just of a director who seems to find difficulty connecting to the material, but of a cast that appears to be looking forward to the close of the franchise a whole lot more than fans are. - Jeff Otto, The Playlist
The first ten minutes alone contain a juicy clip from the original "Bride of Frankenstein" (Condon also, not coincidentally, made the sensitive and moving "Gods and Monsters," a biopic of "Bride"'s director James Whale) and a ravishing dream sequence whose visual scheme is directly inspired by "Blood and Roses," an early '60s French vampire film by Roger Vadim. The teens at whom this film is squarely aimed won't spot the reference, Condon is resourceful enough to insert it in such a way that it doesn't necessarily stick out as such; in any event, it's a good fit. [...] One is also grateful for the film's finale -- its last five minutes or so, leading up to a final shot that's actually as awesome as it is predictable -- which is genuinely brilliant. There, I said it. - Glenn Kenny, MSN Movies
After the dullness of the marriage and honeymoon, the promised drama never arrives: Breaking Dawn moves from lull to lull. The film's laughable, yet not unengaging. The fact that all this is normal gives the film a daffy kind of charm; it'll age as well as a meticulously tended mullet. But it's devoid of even a fraction of the charisma and passion that would justify all that teen ardor. It doesn't matter: the Twilight series transcends quality. - Vadim Rizov, Box Office Magazine
A maddening, slow-motion train wreck, filmed in luminous close-up after close-up, until you can barely see straight. Unless, of course, you're in an unbreakable love affair with the material, in which case: Help yourself! - Peter Martin, Twitch
For a film that revolves around the needs of and desires of creatures who are slaves to their hunger for the red stuff, Breaking Dawn is bloodless. [...] Breaking Dawn – Part 1 will not appeal to anyone who is not a current Twilight fan, and it may even lose a few of Meyer’s followers along the way. - Kate Erbland, Film School Rejects
Where a number of franchises make it easy to drop in on later chapters with relative ease (There are Aliens in outer space, Harry Potter’s in school), but with Twlight at this point the mythology is established and the audience is there. Nothing about Breaking Dawn is going to matter much to those who aren’t in for the ride. It’s just for the fans, and only for them. - Damon Houx, ScreenCrave
I’m here to tell you that—against all odds—I think you oughtta see it even if you’re not a fan. [...] You’ve probably already decided that you aren’t going to see Breaking Dawn. Not only will you be missing out on one of the greatest unintentional comedies of all time, but you’ll also be depriving yourself of one of the most bat-shit-crazy 20-minute stretches of melodrama ever committed to film. - Screen Junkies
Something that’s half shameless wedding fantasia and half David Cronenberg-worthy body horror. It may be impossible for anyone but existing fans to take this seriously, but for the unconverted, it’s still a legitimately engaging, gape-worthy nutso spectacle. - Alison Willmore, A.V. Club
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? - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
What we learn in this all-pain/no-pleasure episode is that marriage feels like a life sentence, weddings are miserable events, honeymoon sex is dangerous and leaves a bride covered in bruises, and pregnancy is a torment that leads to death in exchange for birth. Also, during pregnancy, families fight like werewolves and vampires. Way to go, YA message. At least Bella's wedding gown is pretty. Ooh! Cue the fashion blogs. [...] The overall message of Breaking Dawn is that humans must suffer on this earth. Especially women. Jeez, pregnancy and childbirth, staged with exorbitant production-design attention to gyno-catastrophe, look like scenes of full-on, fright-night horror. - Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
@PeterSHall: BREAKING DAWN is a fascinating film. It's borderline experimental, tho unclear if the subject is the audience or narrative storytelling.
@russfischer: It has no ability to communicate time. Such a specific, weird narrative failure. Holy shit that last third. I couldn't believe it. I'm both thrilled and appalled that it exists.
@williambgoss: It boggles my mind A) that this film will wind up on 4,000 screens in two days and B) that it will break records.
@Matthew_Lucas: Strangest blockbuster ever. Talking dogs! Vampire c-sections! Werewolves falling in love with babies! If only David Lynch had taken this movie on.
@CarrieRickey: I liked it. But then, I have XX chromosomes.
Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.