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Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 03:31 pm

Dawn finally gives viewers something to sink their teeth into


I’ve been rather outspoken in my disdain for the Twilight films. While I thought the first entry in the series was a passable if bloated piece of pop culture fodder, the other two films have been slow-moving exercises catering to the romantic ideals of the teenage girls that Stephanie Meyer’s overwrought melodrama is pitched to. The sense of adolescent romance that drives these movies is hardly substantial enough to build anything more than a naïve narrative around. So it’s no wonder these movies have become a worldwide phenomenon.

However, with the newest chapter in the saga, Breaking Dawn – Part 1, the series enters the adult world and finally provides some fodder to build a compelling drama around, though its message is muddled. The event we’ve been taking a slow march towards finally occurs – the virginal human, Bella (Kristin Stewart), marries the certifiably hunky vampire, Edward (Robert Pattinson). The wedding is quite the affair (kudos to production designer Richard Sherman for the elegant yet naturalistic décor) and not without its share of drama. Seems that Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and his werewolf brethren are none too happy about the nuptials. That’s because they fear that Bella will be immediately added to the ranks of the undead, which would violate an ancient treaty between the two groups.

Wouldn’t you know it? That ends up being the least of their worries as Bella is impregnated on her honeymoon, an occurrence that neither Edward nor any of the other vampires thought possible. Adding to the young couple’s worries is the fact that the fetus is growing far faster than a normal child and seems to be literally consuming the young mother from the inside out.

The overarching theme in Myer’s novels seems to be that premarital sex is a sin though the desire to succumb to temptations of the flesh are nearly overwhelming. You would think that once Bella and Edward are married, their coupling would be acceptable yet the message here is that sexual intimacy of any sort is forbidden and the harshest penalty imaginable awaits those who indulge in it. (Spoiler alert!) The birth of Bella’s child is a bloody, violent affair that results in the death of the mother, hardly the sort of romantic ending or worthy reward one would expect after a period of prolonged abstinence. This is a curious path that Myers takes her Romeo and Juliet down.

It’s a confused message but, ironically, a compelling one. Director Richard Condon walks a fine line here. He keeps the story moving yet takes time to allow his characters to ponder the results of their actions and grapple with the confusion they all must deal with. The film doesn’t feel as bloated or sluggish as the first three episodes. While one would suspect that Myer’s final novel was split into two adaptations so that fans would have to pay twice to take in the full story, it seems to be a rather wise decision as far as the narrative is concerned. To be sure, there are still problems with the film – the werewolf effects are still unconvincing and Stewart continues to be the least appealing ingénue in memory. But despite this and its contradictory message, Breaking Dawn – Part 1 had me hooked from the start and has me eager to see how it all ends.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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