Harrowing is not usually a word one would expect to open a review of the latest Twilight film but Breaking Dawn: Part 1 marks a tonal shift in the series as it goes from sexless and bloodless 12A glaring to a 12A orgy of indecent amounts of eye-contact, ferocious shirt removal, tepid thrusting and horribly suggestive blood stains (the less said of which the better).
How does such a shift come about? Well in the first movement of the film Edward and Bella finally get married. Edward invites scowling, howling Jacob as a surprise to the wedding and everything looks like it’s going to work out fine. Bella and Edward smile quite a lot and by the time they get to Rio for their honeymoon the smiling stops and Edward and Bella put their oh-so-serious sex faces on and get down to some oh-so-serious sex. However, Bella soon realises she is somehow pregnant and it soon transpires that whatever is growing inside is not doing wonders for her constitution. The men start to fight and Bella predictably puts her feet up, grabs a bloodshake (yes really) and proceeds to enter into a Christian Bale style diet of no food and presumably massive health complications.
Whilst the first Twilight film was entertaining and a little grungy, New Moon had me trying to slit my wrists with my cinema ticket. Eclipse on the other hand was a proper film made by a proper director (take a bow David Slade) and showed what the franchise is capable of when Bella isn’t sucking the fun out of everything. Yes, in its previous iterations the series has often lead me to audibly cringe at its whey-faced look at clichéd romance, but something the films have always had in their favour is that they are a mainstream hit that not only raises some very interesting ideas but does so in a mildly bonkers and unconventional way. I’m sure Breaking Dawn: Part 1 does have some interesting things to say, but I couldn’t hear them over all of the screaming.
Whereas the opening act is perfect fan fodder as Bella and Edward at last get down to consummating their love, once the honeymoon is literally over it’s metaphorical counterpart packs up and finishes too. The sudden lurch into body-horror is not one the film takes gradually. Soon enough Bella is horrifically emaciated and we are watching people sitting in rooms or badly rendered CGI wolves having preposterously rubbish telepathic chats (you can practically hear the jaw clenching). But none of this prepares you for the yet further lurch from boredom to childbirth, a lurch which kicks the film into another league of crazy and almost into a 15 certificate.
I’m not sure what it is about Breaking Dawn: Part 1 I didn’t like but in the main all I can say is that it didn’t sit well as a complete tonally coherent piece. Whilst many seek to read much into the feminist politics and sexually conservative undertones of the Twilight series the fourth in the franchise is happy sitting in the corner rocking back and forth and licking its nearest window. It’s all a little bit insane.