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“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn” is franchise’s best – REVIEW

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Beds are broken. Bonds are tested. Wombs are decimated. And a werewolf imprints his soul upon an infant vampire.

It must be time for our annual traipse through Stephenie Meyer’s loopy fan-fiction – “The Twilight Saga” – which hands its reigns over to Oscar-winning filmmaker Bill Condon (“Gods and Monsters,” “Kinsey”) and, not coincidentally, produces the franchise’s sturdiest installment.

With Condon driving the stake, there’s elegance amidst the endless exposition and a legitimately foreboding atmosphere of danger that was missing from previous efforts. I can’t think of a safer set of films structured around a werewolf and a vampire’s lustful battle for the heart of a human conquest. Yet by focusing on Bella’s loss of innocence (and the lethal repercussions), Condon shapes a fittingly mature and downright freaky chapter from Meyer’s best-selling prose. The “Twilight” films, as a rule, have been tailored specifically to the obsessive needs of Meyer’s devoted readers. “Breaking Dawn, Part 1” is the first in the series to cater to non-fans by paying attention to performance, fluid editing and – most important – soundtrack selection.

Not that a non-fan necessarily would try and pick up this soap opera midstream, as “Breaking Dawn” extends a story laid out in the previous three “Twilight” films while venturing down some twisted avenues. Undead Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and his teenage bride, Bella (Kristen Stewart), tie the knot and escape to a tropical island for their vampire honeymoon. Back home, brooding werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) laments his lost love until an unexpected twist involving Bella’s soon-to-be-born fetus provides him deeper purpose.

“Breaking Dawn” endures the same clunky obstacles that have become the series’ backbone. I still imagine screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg dotting every “I” with a heart as she adapts Meyer’s extended diary entries into feature-length scripts. Either you’ll swoon when Edward tells Bella, “No measure of time with you will be long enough, but let’s start with forever,” or you won’t. And “Breaking Dawn,” by this point, likely isn’t going to change your mind.

There’s no denying, however, that the cast has grown comfortable in their roles, and the series shows considerable improvement from its nascent steps in 2008. Condon retains the bare minimum of melodrama necessary to get to the gothic scares in the film’s third act – this film’s real payoff – and “Breaking Dawn, Part 1” breaks nicely with a sadistic tease for “Part 2.” And for the first time since this “Saga” began, I can honestly say I look forward to the next chapter with anticipation, rather than dread.

“The Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn, Part 1” : **1/2 out of four stars

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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One Comment

  • December 15, 2011 | Permalink |

    I can’t wait for the next movie!!

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