Rated PG-13 for disturbing images, violence, sexuality/partial nudity and some thematic elements
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 was the first film in the series that felt like a real movie.
The movie starts the day before Bella and Edward get married. They're both terrified about what lies ahead, and poor Jacob is still on the outside looking in. The wedding goes off without a hitch and soon the two lovebirds are on their honeymoon at a private island off the coast of Rio. They do what you expect couples to do on their honeymoon, except that has Bella is still human, Edward has a hard time not hurting her. But then the remarkable happens - Bella gets pregnant. It's almost unheard of in the vampire world and the baby is slowly killing Bella from the inside. The only way to save her is to turn her into a vampire at the exact right moment, otherwise both mother and child could be lost. Meanwhile, the werewolves, who are sworn to protect humans, realize that if the baby kills Bella, they must kill the baby. Jacob turns against his pack but when the moment arrives, he may not be able to control himself.
The first film in the series was laughable with poor acting and even worse directing. The movies have certainly gotten better as they've gone along and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 is definitely the best of the bunch. With the Oscar winning director Bill Condon at the helm (though admittedly, he won his Oscar for writing), this was the first film in the series that felt like a real movie. The picture was clean, the movie was well paced, the performances were the best so far, and the story was clear and concise. There were a few too many slow motion close-ups for my liking (and sitting in the third row didn't help) but otherwise I thought it was really well done. I liked that the movie jumped right into the story with no need to recap everything that has happened so far. This movie is really for the fans - I don't imagine there will be many who start with this one. I'm definitely not the target audience for this movie, but the teenage girl audience will love the romance behind the wedding and really the entire trip through when Bella finds out she's pregnant. The speech scene was pretty funny and the wedding was what I imagine a lot of people dream of. The place they go on their honeymoon was tremendous, and they did a great job of making Kristen Stewart look absolutely stunning. It helps that she wasn't wearing a lot of clothing for most of the honeymoon scene, but she looked tremendous, which made her look even worse in the later scenes - by design of course. Edward was his usual pale self, but at least Robert Pattinson's acting has improved with time and he no longer always looks like he's about to throw up. And for the ladies, it took 44 seconds before Taylor Lautner ripped off his shirt. Though from what I remember, it may have also been the only time he was shirtless. The rest of the cast was in the background as you might expect - I think Jackson Rathbone may have spoken 2 words the entire movie - but they did what they needed to do.
That being said, the overall premise of the series is still rather hokey. At least there were no shimmering vampire scenes this time, but while the plot was simple and straightforward, it was almost too simple. There was virtually nothing to tie this move to Part 2 - due out in theaters a year from now. There was a small coda at the end (so don't leave when the credits start) but even that only hinted at what was to come. I thought they could have shown the Volturi a little more during the movie to help tie the two films together. To give us more of a cliffhanger at the end. The way the movie ends now was certainly cool, but you also knew it was going to happen. The book of course did a better job (as poorly written as those books are) at making it feel like a long narrative. Yes, the movie is breaking the book into two parts, but they still could have done more with the story to make the transition to part 2 seamless. The movie clocks in at just under two hours, so it moved along rather well, but there were a few scenes that seemed to be almost like music videos where you'd have some mellow song playing and people starting into each other's eyes. At some points the movie became unintentionally comical because of these types of scenes. That being said, the crowd was still pretty into the whole thing. Oh yeah, I also thought they did a really good job with Bella's makeup as the movie went on. As I said before, she looked amazing during the honeymoon, but as her pregnancy went along she started to look skeletal. Her face was sunken, her shoulders started to pop out. It was an amazing transformation that didn't look like it was an effect - it looked like it was actually happening. It was also something I don't think could have been pulled off in the first three films.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I liked The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1. It's definitely the best movie in the series so far, with everyone stepping up their game. A slightly more involved story would have helped make the film feel like there was a reason for part 2, but all in all it's worth seeing if you're a fan. If you're not a fan, none of this will make any sense to you, so don't bother.