(The Twilight Saga:) Breaking Dawn Part 1 (PG-13) Movie: ; Disc: BUY on Amazon:Poster!
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If I can say anything for Breaking Dawn Part 1, the first half of the final film of the Twilight series, it's that it delivers exactly what the legions of Twi-hards want and expect--or what "Team Edward" wants, anyway: here, human heroine Bella Swan walks down the aisle with he, her chosen sparkly vampire and not werewolf Jacob, en route to undead wedded happily ever after bliss. But not so fast--after spending three films whining and begging Edward to turn her and finally agreeing with him to do so once they've become hitched, that deed done, suddenly Bella wants to put off her transformation, thus, of course, causing a huge mess for everyone around. Therein lies the root of the trouble with this story: beyond any fundamental objections to the cheesy teen angsty romance novel trappings of Stephenie Meyer's books and their oddball alterations to time-tested vamp/wolf conventions, which at this point are a shrugged-off given, characters and events now defy even their universe's own established internal "logic." There's no discernible reason for Bella to want to remain human other than forcing a contrivance to keep the story, which came to a fairly natural close with Eclipse, and to crassly continue to milk this cash cow--which is stretched to an even thinner level by splitting this book into two films. Not much of real importance happens between the opening and closing, with the graphic, gory details of (not a spoiler) Bella's violent vampire pregnancy as reportedly found in Meyer's book watered down to barely PG-13 levels on film, thus reducing what would be the movie's real hook into what is essentially a lot of sitting and waiting with an increasingly digitally emaciated Kristen Stewart. Celebrated director Bill Condon makes no bones about this being an easy paycheck gig with the complete autopilot work he does here, and the malaise extends to his cast, as Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, and the rest going through the motions, with, as usual, the only traces of energy offered from Anna Kendrick and Michael Sheen in their even more heavily reduced screen time in this go-round. Granted, the cutoff point to this half promises at least some actual stuff happening in the second, but if I'm looking forward to the next one at all it's only to get this "saga" over and done with already.
Much like what the studio does with the films themselves, Summit cannot be accused of not giving the formidable fandom of Twilight what they want and then some when it comes to the DVD releases. But to their great credit, their two-disc DVD special edition offers much information and insight for the more casual viewer. On the main feature platter, Condon provides a running commentary track that in one minute shows more intelligence than has been evidenced in the films proper combined, explaining why he excised the original opening scene featuring the evil vampire elder clan the Volturi (this film centering largely on Bella's pregnancy, he felt that nods to the more "epic" elements of the mythology ran counter to the fundamental intimacy of this particular story) and had Lautner doff his shirt only in his first scene, leaving him entirely clothed the rest of the way. The smart attention to detail continues in the centerpiece of the supplement disc with a six-part, 86-minute making-of documentary. While it is, for the most part, one of those all-smiles affairs (the main exception being some weather issues during a location shoot in Brazil), it does go into real depth into the technical aspects of the production, particularly the admittedly impressive digital and practical effects work that went into depicting Bella's emaciation. This isn't to say that shameless fangirl pandering isn't in evidence on the extras disc, and it has wisely been included separately from the more serious-minded material. The self-explanatory seven-minute "Jacob's Destiny" featurette focuses exclusively on Lautner's character's arc in the film, and some of the interview footage overlaps with footage featured in the longer documentary. More interesting is the "Bella and Edward's Personal Wedding Video," which is an in-universe matrimonial keepsake video, in which all the actors give in-character well wishes to the happy couple. The most shamelessly pandering extras are the "Jump to... Edward" and "Jump to... Jacob" features, which is the film proper edited down to only the scenes featuring Edward and Jacob, respectively. I found this extra as a comparison of just how much screen time each had in this film; final count: Edward, 65 minutes; Jacob, 37.
DVD specifications: 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen; English and Spanish 5.1 Surround; Descriptive Video Service; English and Spanish subtitles. (Summit Entertainment)