Film review by Rebecca Richardson
“The Twilight Saga” ripens with age. Once bland, the story of Bella Swan’s transformation from innocence to adulthood grows increasingly textured with each new outing.
When we first met Bella (Kristen Stewart) in the original 2008 feature, she was a quiet and withdrawn high-school student surviving adolescence in Forks, Washington. Just a few years later, Bella’s not only graduating, she’s walking down the aisle as a blushing bride. “I wonder if she’ll be showing,” says her friend Jessica (Anna Kendrick) as she mingles among the drooping white wedding blossoms. “Why else does anyone get married at 18?”
This is probably the strongest moment in the film, because, in a split second, Kendrick’s character opens the door to all the disbelievers and cynics through humor. Bella is obsessed with Edward, and no matter how many obstacles are thrown in the road of their inter-species romance, she can’t stop herself from swooning over the handsome, centuries-old bloodsucker.
In this first part of “Breaking Dawn,” she finally gets her wish. After lusting over Edward’s icy body, Bella gets her chance to commune with the dark side and consummate her love.
The film director is Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls,” “Gods and Monsters”). Recognizing the dramatic importance of the wedding, he visualizes the whole thing in several different ways. First, we get Bella’s dream sequence of a gorgeous ceremony with white flowers — only to watch it turn deep red in a flood of blood. With the help of Stewart’s strongest performance to date, Condon successfully conveys the depth of connection between the two lovers. Every time Bella looks into Edward’s cold amber eyes, we can feel the hunger. But it’s not the vampire’s lust that leaves a mark; it’s Bella’s human yearning that digs its nails into the flesh.
Ordinary girls from small towns don’t usually get a shot at immortality with a hunky rich boy, so it’s no wonder why Twilight has become one of the favorite modern fairy tales among the tween-set Twihards: It’s Cinderella with a heavy dose of sexuality. Finding just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek humor, non-revealing nudity, and overhead shots of a canopy bed crumbling like a shoddy temple, we experience Bella’s moment of corporeal bliss. The encounter leaves her altered in every way. Not only does she enjoy the carnal communion, playing it over and over again in her mind with an addict’s glare, she also conceives a mutant human-vampire baby.
Edward is angry at himself for even succumbing to carnal desire in the first place, because vampires, apparently, can kill human women through the act of lovemaking: They are just too big and strong. Leaving Bella bruised was bad enough, but knocking her up could be lethal, and Edward does everything he can to “get rid of it.” Of course, it’s all too late for that. The baby must be brought to term, even if it means Bella’s life may be sacrificed in the process.
Stewart and Pattinson convince us they are desperately in love. They find the right glances, the right body language, and the intangible static energy that draws two souls together. Stewart seems to delight in the added depth and her first shot at genuine transformation, because she carries this movie single-handedly on her delicate shoulders. Thanks to her brown contact lenses, the innate spunkiness in Stewart dulls to a matte finish and we immediately believe her as the plain Jane who becomes a blood princess. It goes without saying that this movie will be meaningless and boring to anyone who has not seen or read the previous installments, but for those Twihards seeking a solid execution of their favorite story, this Twilight is probably the best yet.