Breaking Dawn—Part 1
10:50 I duck out of the theater to grab some caffeine. On the way, I pass the line for my 12:01 a.m. screening, as well as lines for the 12:05, 12:20, and 12:40.So this is what a phenomenon looks like.
11:03 They let us into the theater, nearly an hour before the screening. Within 10 minutes or so, almost every seat is full.
11:10 An R.A. from a nearby university is taking orders for concessions from a large group of freshmen. Turns out their entire hallway has come en masse. It’s worth pointing out that these women—and they’re almost all women—were in junior high when Meyer’s first book was published, and were high school juniors (like Bella) when the first movie was released. Based on their frequent laughter during the Breaking Dawn screening, they seem to realize the Twilight movies are silly even as they willingly succumb to their charms. Or perhaps they’re just finishing what they started.
12:07 a.m. Just before the film starts, a manager warms up the crowd: “Is anyone here on Team Edward?” Team Jacob is much, much louder.
12:26 A few seconds into the movie, and Taylor Lautner’s already wet and shirtless. Team Jacob approves.
12:27 A lonely Edward gazes out the window. “Awwww,” says the crowd.
12:30 Flashback to the days when Edward was less in control of his bloodlust, although he only preyed on murderers, like Michael C. Hall on Dexter.
12:37 The wedding. Bella teeters on her high heels. “Just don’t let me fall, Dad,” she says. Easier said than done.
12:57 Nervous titters run through the crowd at the first sight of the marriage bed.
12:58 Bella hits the bathroom, brushing her teeth, fixing her hair, shaving her legs in preparation for her big night. For just a few minutes, she’s a teenage girl again.
1:02 The canopied bed is shattered as a result of their lovemaking. It’s supposed to play as a joke, but the series’ opportunity to grow a funny bone has long since passed.
1:05 Bella is covered in bruises, and Edward apologizes. “For a human,” Bella says, “I can’t imagine it gets any better than that.” Considering that she and Edward were both virgins, one hopes she’s wrong.
1:08 And, of course, Bella gets knocked up.
1:24 The family meets to discuss Bella’s pregnancy. Alice calls it “a fetus.” Rose insists on “baby.” Jasper says “maybe.” Welcome to the culture wars.
1:30 The werewolves meet to discuss how to respond to this new half-breed threat. The soundtrack fills with overdubbed voices representing their in-pack telepathy. One longs for the pre-CGI era, when a sequence this goofy would simply have been written out of the script. The alpha wolf decides that the baby’s presence is enough of a disruption to the established order to void the fragile peace between vamps and wolves. Jacob objects, but a wolf pack is not a democracy.
1:52 Bella considers baby names. E.J.—Edward Jacob—for a boy, and, wedding their mothers’ names, Rene and Esme, for a girl: Renesme.
1:56 The baby is born. Please don’t be Renesme. Please don’t be Renesme.
2:00 At long last, Jacob imprints, although not on a romantic mate. With his first glimpse of Renesme he goes gooey.
2:04 The wolves—minus Jacob’s splinter faction—attack the Cullens’ house, with Bella and baby inside.
2:09 Bella’s newly vamped eyes open, to what sounds like the end-credits sting from Lost.
2:10 It’s over, but a brief post-credits scene with the Volturi sets up Part 2. As the camera zooms into his face, Sheen glowers, “She has something I want.” See you on Nov. 16, 2012.
Postmortem: The Twilight films have gotten more professional over time—the Breaking Dawns are directed by Oscar winner Bill Condon—but also more lifeless. Hardwicke’s cringe-worthy Red Riding Hood certainly proved she’s fallible, but she also grounded the series in an approximation of real life and palpable teenage psychology, which has steadily drained from each successive film. There is, as Dana Stevens points out in her review, some genuinely, and commendably, weird stuff in Breaking Dawn, Part 1. But it’s weirdness without conviction. Condon is merely photocopying Meyer’s pallid vision for an audience that’s already two steps ahead of him. Unlike the Harry Potter films, which got progressively stronger as the producers learned to trust directors with stronger voices, the Twilight movies have become impersonal to the point of anonymity. They don’t even feel like product any more. They’re more like the Styrofoam product comes packed in.