Last year was an unexpectedly good year for Twilight fans. Not only did “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” earn $698,491,347 in worldwide box office receipts, it was also the first one of the “Twilight” movies to actually get halfway favorable reviews from critics.
When “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” opened in theaters last year, the “Top Critics” section of review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 67 percent rating, as opposed to the 38 percent rating its predecessor, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon”, acquired. Reviewers praised it for being “an improved blend of romance and action fantasy”.
While financial success isn’t going to be a worry for “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1” – the film has already earned US$283 million worldwide on its opening weekend – the film does have a much more favorably reviewed predecessor to live up to. Will the film’s director, Academy Award winning filmmaker Bill Condon, be able to acquire the same critical success “Eclipse” enjoyed, while at the same time fulfilling fans’ expectation of faithfulness to the source material?
At the end of “Eclipse”, Bella Swan has made a choice that could potentially upset the order of things in Forks, Washington. She has agreed to get married to Edward Cullen in exchange for her being turned into a vampire, at the cost of alienating her best friend, the werewolf Jacob Black.
And while the wedding goes off without a hitch, it looks like the honeymoon isn’t going to be as sweet. Because less than a month into their romantic getaway, it seems that Bella is pregnant with something, and it seems to be killing her from the inside out.
Complicating matters is the fact that the werewolves of the Quileute tribe see the creature Bella is carrying in her womb as a threat not just to their tribe but to the rest of the human population fo Forks as well. With danger coming at her from inside and outside, will Bella even survive to become the immortal creature she’s always wanted to be?
Among the four books in Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling series, “Breaking Dawn” is the most contentious and the one most likely to elicit the strongest opinions from fans and haters alike. If it’s not the controversial choices that Bella makes in the book, it’s the infamous birth scene that will have people working themselves up to a froth.
It’s amazing that despite all that drama, “Breaking Dawn” is also the book in the series where the least amount of plot happens. While tension builds up and monumental changes do take place, there is no climactic confrontation anywhere in the 700-plus pages of the that releases all of that pent-up emotion. It’s important to keep that in mind as one watches Bill Condon’s work on its movie adaptation.
By fan standards, the movie is extremely faithful to the book. All the important events are touched upon and explored, and some of the controversial parts of the book are even jettisoned completely. Jacob Black as a “stud puppy”? Gone. The slightly creepy way that Edward and Bella continuous try to outdo each other at being a martyr? Gone. It’s like Melissa Rosenberg and Bill Condon want you to leave the theater without drool dribbling down your chin.
Aside from a technical proficiency that has given the movie a stunning color palette compared to the previous films, Bill Condon also displays a knack for focusing and expanding on the small things. Several scenes expanded from the book – such as the wedding speeches delivered by the guests and Bella’s nervousness before finally having sex with Edward – gives the movie a beating heart.
Even the more controversial parts of the book that Condon had to keep – Jacob’s imprinting scene and the bloody birth of Renesmee – are toned down and made less disturbing, possibly not to alienate and/or horrify the fans who have only followed the movies and not the book. They’re still plenty disturbing though, make no mistake. The baby Renesmee that Jacob imprints on looks like a reject from the Sims, and the birthing scene was still gory enough to make some viewers gasp on my second viewing.
Wanted it to look like this though!
All these changes and additions, however, are not enough to salvage a story that is basically headed nowhere. As much excitement and tension as Condon manages to inject, the decision to cut the adaptation into two films has basically handicapped him from making a movie with a satisfying ending. If the readers can’t find a satisfying resolution at the end of the book’s story, what can one expect from a movie that only tackles half of it?
If the box office numbers are anything to go by, Twilight fans don’t care about that fact one bit. This adaptation, however, won’t be as palatable to non-Twilight fans the same way that “Eclipse” was, and one can’t even blame the director. The producers may be laughing all the way to the bank because of their decision to split the adaptation into two movies, but the fans were most definitely shortchanged.