THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN - PART 1 (2011) (**)

This is a movie for fans. While I haven't read the books it feels like every detail is here, because it's a slog to move through. If you don't care about these characters going in, it's not really going to change your opinion. For non-fans it really is like getting invited to a stranger's wedding.

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This is a movie for fans. While I haven't read the books it feels like every detail is here, because it's a slog to move through. If you don't care about these characters going in, it's not really going to change your opinion. For non-fans it really is like getting invited to a stranger's wedding.

An exorbitant amount of time is spent at the beginning preparing and celebrating the wedding of Bella (Kristen Stewart, THE RUNAWAYS) and Edward (Robert Pattinson, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS). We are introduced to a host of new and old characters that have no meaning to those who have not memorized Stephenie Meyer sacred tome. Hey why is Shannon from LOST or The Ice Truck Killer from DEXTER on the guest list? But I guess this will make more sense in PART 2. Or maybe not because this isn't a series interested in developing the enormous amount of supporting characters.

Then the film spends an exorbitant amount of time on Bella and Edward's honeymoon. From the rage-filled reaction of Bella's adoring werewolf admirer Jacob (Taylor Lautner, ABDUCTION), sex between a human and vampire is a dangerous experience. So the tension of the entire honeymoon sequence is whether Edward will hurt Bella during sex. Their rental place gets trashed a few times in the process.

The real drama sets in when Bella discovers that she is pregnant and that the mutant baby is killing her as it rapidly grows and steals all her nutrients. Edward wants to get rid of the "thing," but Bella is determined to have the child of the love of her life whether it kills her or not. The child, who the vampires didn't even think was possible, scares the wolf pack, which set out to kill it. Jacob must now choose between his family and Bella.

The plot is straight up soup opera material. It's like the time characters got possessed by demons on DAYS OF OUR LIVES. I have a very good reason for knowing this happened if you care to ask. What this film does have going for it is that Bill Condon (KINSEY) is the best director the series has seen. He doesn't dwell on the most salacious moments. He plays some melodramatic moments for mild laughs. He strikes a balance between sudsy, camp and genuine that serves the material as best as it can.

The problem really is that with so much detail it drags. Minor conflicts seem silly compared to the bigger issues swirling around. Should I or shouldn't I wear the sexy nighty or worrying if your breath stinks seems ridiculous compared to could an Edward orgasm send me rocketing into space. And even that conflict seems ridiculous.

The baby presents a real conflict. Meyer's anti-abortion theme stays intact, but is down played. While this section is certainly better than the first two, there is no tension. They say Bella's life is in danger but you don't believe it. The chance Edward can turn her into a vampire at the last second kills any real threat. The wolves are in a holding pattern outside the Cullen house. What are they pussycats or wolves? If the demon child is such a threat why aren't they storming the castle? They don't take it as an imminent threat so we don't. And does anyone believe that Jacob would kill Bella's newborn whether it has fangs or not?

Even though the film is based on only part of the final book, it does feel like a full story with a beginning, middle and end. That's one thing is has on HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS - PART 1. But trap me in a tent with Harry, Ron and Hermione any day over being stuck in a house with these sappy, mopey glittery blood lovers. I felt like taking Jacob's advice when he said, "I know how this ends and I'm not sticking around to watch."

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