You have to hand it to Edward Cullen—for a vampire, he’s rather traditional when it comes to love and marriage. Despite being a bachelor for the past century, he’s willing to wait until the right girl comes along. And my parents thought I waited a long time to get married.
If you’ve been hiding under a pop culture-shielding rock for the past few years and have no idea who Edward, Bella, and Jacob are … well, sorry. Much in the same vein (seriously, no pun intended) as other multi-part epics such as the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings series, Breaking Dawn Part 1 doesn’t waste time catching us up on what has already transpired. Bella has finished high school and is now preparing for her marriage to Edward (even though cold feet seems to have finally caught up with the “make me a vampire now” girl from last year). As we already know from the previous three films, everything has been leading up to this—Edward and Bella are destined to be together, but before he’ll agree to (a) consummate their love and (b) officially make her part of the J Crew-model Cullen family, fangs and all, she has to marry him first. Such an admirable vampire.
The supernatural love triangle wouldn’t be complete, however, without a last disapproving growl from Jacob, who runs off in anger upon receiving the invitation to Bella and Edward’s wedding. It has to be mentioned that Bella shares a close connection to Jacob that would raise the hackles of any groom. Nonetheless, not only does Edward accept their relationship, he apparently condones it by allowing Jacob to show up at the wedding to wish Bella well. Again, what a guy.
Jacob is, of course, a rising member of the sometimes-shirtless werewolf clan that despises all thing vampiric. They’re the lycanthropic McCoys to the Cullen’s Hatfields, if you will. While he would love to literally bite Edward’s head off, he wants Bella to be happy, and he’s also bound by an ancient peace treaty that prevents the wolves and vampires from killing each other off.
Immediately after the wedding, Edward and Bella depart for an island paradise off the coast of Brazil for their honeymoon. Here they finally get the passionate somethin’-somethin’ they’ve been denying each other for years. A two-week montage of newlywed awkwardness (yes, it feels like two weeks, also) follows, and then … morning sickness? Bella and Edward are flabbergasted. Is this even possible? What will happen now? Not even Carlisle, Edward’s physician “father” knows.
Meanwhile, Jacob’s clan finds out about the demon-bun-in-the-oven, and the wolf feces hits the fan. The child won’t be able to control its feeding like the Cullens have, it would threaten the wolf/vampire covenant, and it could even destroy Bella in utero. It will be an evil abomination, they think. It must be destroyed. Jacob is torn—he loves Bella and cares for her safety, but he’s also lower on the wolf totem pole and has to follow the pack leader. If only he could assert himself somehow…
As a standalone film, Breaking Dawn Part 1 is somewhat shallow on plot. Not a lot happens here, but it’s somewhat forgivable since we know it’s essentially a buildup chapter to the final installment (much like the penultimate Harry Potter film—another story where not a whole lot happens, but with that one it felt as though there was a lot more on the line). And, it does drag at times, although it does successfully build up to an emotionally satisfying ending.
Kristen Stewart, who has always seemed too tomboyish and monotone in the past for Bella, comes across here as ladylike. I never completely bought the Jacob/Edward feud over her before, but I did here. The Twilight films have never lacked for melodrama, but these are teenagers prone to be that way by nature. That being said, there are a few scenes where the melodrama is turned up to 11, and one moment in particular that is meant to be intense comes across instead as laughable—even the giggly fangirls in front of us couldn’t help but LOL.
The secondary characters have always brought some gravity to the other films, and they do well here, too. Edward’s family becomes more and more likable in each new installment, as do Bella’s parents. Bella’s dad deserves a special mention. He has continually been one of my favorite characters, and here he shows great emotional depth during his daughter’s wedding as he gives her away in a way he couldn’t possibly understand.
If I have one lingering complaint, it’s that the special effects aren’t always consistent. Back in the day when it had a lower budget, it was understandable. Nowadays, though, Twilight is a bonafide blockbuster. To be fair, it looks great. The cinematography is one of the film’s strong suits. As for computer trickery, one visual effect presents an emaciated body and is done flawlessly, but any scenes that involved animated wolves did little to convince me that I wasn’t watching a video game.
On another note, as Jacob grows into adulthood, we are meant to accept his position as a powerful figure in the wolf clan. There’s just one thing—Taylor Lautner still sounds like a 14-year-old. It’s no fault of his own, but it makes his voiceovers less authoritative.
All things considered, though, Stephanie Meyer deserves a tip of the hat. She has taken some heavy-handed concepts—love, devotion, family, respect, sacrifice, celibacy, choice—and made them relevant to teenage girls. Meyer knew early on who her target audience would be, and she imbued her characters with the kind of traits she felt her readers should honor. Bella, Jacob, and Edward may be odd choices for role models, but the ideals they hold important are a welcome message for young adults in a culture that tells them these things don’t matter anymore. Long story short, parents, if your 16-year-old daughter wants to date a 100-year-old vampire from a good family, there are worse alternatives.