With three films' worth of story to catch up on, I fully expected to be lost, but as it turns out, Breaking Dawn: Part 1's story is incredibly
simple. The Cliff's Notes version, for anyone who wants to save 117 minutes: Girl (Bella) marries vampire (Edward), gets pregnant and gives birth to a
baby vampire, and then becomes a vampire herself. This is surrounded by three dozen supporting characters that the film never bothers to reintroduce,
but since none of them have any impact on the plot, it doesn't really matter.
Breaking Dawn: Part 1
's defining feature is its long, pointless montages, which invariably feature a glowering Edward, a glowering Bella, or a glowering Jacob. It gave me a
lot of time to contemplate the rules of this world. There's a lot of angst about whether or not Bella should become a vampire. But why not
become a vampire? It looks pretty awesome. You get to be super fast, super strong, and super sexy. In fact, you're basically Superman, if Superman
occasionally had to drink elk blood. And for all the debate about Team Edward versus Team Jacob, I was left with a different question: How can anyone
be Team Anyone? Edward is dour, unpleasant, and monotone; Jacob is whiny, petulant, and arrogant. Then again, Bella & friends live in
Forks, Washington; when the population is less than 4,000, you'll take what you can get.
There's a sort of interesting (but ultimately half-baked) metaphor buried somewhere in Breaking Dawn: Part 1—something about how the loss of
virginity is accompanied by a loss of innocence. The conversation Edward and Bella have before their first time is believably awkward, and his fears
about hurting her would be just as applicable to a non-vampire who's having sex with his new wife for the first time. Unfortunately, Edward's worst
fears are realized. Like Dracula's Lucy before her, Bella is violently punished for her sexual appetite: She immediately gets pregnant with a
darling little vampire baby who threatens to tear her apart from the inside. A sharper movie might make this some kind of commentary about the travails
of young marriage. But this is a movie that opens with an 18-year-old marrying a 110-year-old and closes with a 17-year-old falling in love with a baby,
so that's probably expecting too much.
I was alternately bored and disturbed by Breaking Dawn: Part 1, but of course, I'm not exactly the target audience (nor are critics in
general, who have collectively saddled Breaking Dawn: Part 1 with 27% positive reviews). The Twihards enthusiastically responded to the film's
strange cocktail of conservative sexual values and birth-horror. The fan service was constant, and the fans obviously felt served. Taylor Lautner takes
off his shirt, for reasons that are entirely unclear, within the first three seconds that he's onscreen, but he doesn't really need a reason—because taking off his shirt is why he was cast in the first place. I found the long Edward-Bella wedding scene and the even longer honeymoon
scene almost indescribably dull, but based on the swoony sighs all around me, I was the only one.
For all the reviews of Breaking Dawn: Part 1 I've heard so far, the most telling was one that I overheard from a preteen girl as she walked
out of the theater. As she gushed "that was the best movie ever," into her cell phone, I was reminded of the times I dragged my parents to the Star Wars rereleases—"the best movies ever"—when I was a child. Having seen Breaking Dawn: Part 1, I definitely
don't get it, and I suspect I never will. But Twilight is for her, not for me.