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Case Number 23333

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The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1

Summit Entertainment // 2011 // 117 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // February 16th, 2012

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All Rise...

Judge Roman Martel was crying during the wedding...well, laughing so hard he was crying.

Editor's Note

Our review of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 (Blu-ray) Extended Edition, published March 18th, 2013, is also available.

The Charge

Yes! I was invited to Bella and Edwards wedding! I'll be sitting with the werewolves, since they're getting all the muffins at their table. I love muffins.

Opening Statement

The Twilight series (I refuse to call it a saga; a saga implies some kind of dignity is involved) elicits strong reactions from folks. There are those who defend it as a modern take on gothic romance filled with flawed characters making tough choices and a heaping helping of sudsy drama. Others see it as a horrible set of characters and plotlines that destroy the progress women have made in society by giving us one of the worst female protagonists in history.

I say, they're both right, which is why the Twilight films are beautiful in their own sparkly way.

Facts of the Case

Grab some hankies and rice, it's wedding time! Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart, The Runaways) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, Water for Elephants) are tying the knot and everyone is invited. That means the vampiric Cullen clan, their extended family, and a select few muffin-eating werewolves. Oh, and Bella's human family and friends.

Sadly, Jacob (Taylor Lautner, Abduction) just can't accept that Bella has picked the sparkly glory of Edward over his shirtless self. Well, that and he's convinced that once Edward turns Bella into a vampire, a full-fledged war between the Cullens and the local werewolves will result.

He obviously didn't read ahead in the script, because it gets a whole lot worse. Edward and Bella consummate their marriage on a Brazilian island and not only does Bella survive the encounter but she gets pregnant. This bizarre hybrid baby starts draining the life out of Bella, much to everyone's dismay.

Now some heady decisions have to be made. Will Bella keep the chid that is killing her? Will Edward accept her decision? Will Jacob be able to contain his anger and help his love in the way she needs most? Will Bella's dad Charlie (Billy Burke, Red Riding Hood) shave off his awesome mustache? Breaking Dawn, Part 1 answers all these questions and opens up a whole can of new ones. What did you expect? Part 2 is still on the way.

The Evidence

My experience with the Twilight series is based around the movies. I tried to read the first book and found it very difficult to get into. Not my cup of tea, to say the least. But the movies are a lot of fun. Yes, a lot of that fun is not intentional, but I've had a good time watching them.

Breaking Dawn, Part 1 shifts the focus away from the more large scale events of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse to bring us back to the heart of the series—the romance between Bella and Edward. For those of you who were enjoying the battles between werewolves and vampires, there is little of that going on here.

Bella becomes the focus of the first third of the film. We follow her as she anticipates her wedding. We experience the fears and jitters through her eyes. When the wedding occurs it's the perfect fit for the series, just not as sparkly as I would have hoped. I wanted a scene where Bella looks over the crowd of vampires in the audience and it was like looking into a field of rhinestones.

But I digress. Not only is the wedding the big event here, but we finally get the physical consummation of this slow-burning relationship. It's a PG-13 movie so things are tastefully spicy, but I did like Bella's nervousness around making love to a superhuman being who has been alive a lot longer than she has (and all the experience that may entail). It's a nice touch and Stewart pulls it off.

But once Bella realizes she's pregnant with some kind of mutant spawn, the story shifts to Jacob's point of view. This gives Lautner a bit of material to chew on, as he deals with conflicted emotions. He wants Bella to be happy, because he truly cares about her. And yet he's horrified by the creature growing within her and all the fallout that may result. To be fair, he does a good job with these scenes, even if some of the dialogue gets silly.

In the end, the movie finishes just as you'd expect. What's strange is that the series could stop with that final scene and be pretty much wrapped up. The credits start and we get a short scene that hints at the conflict in Breaking Dawn, Part 2, but I wonder how that movie won't feel like an extended epilogue. The main goal of any romance is to get the characters together, married, and happy (or kill one of them off if it's tragic). Breaking Dawn, Part 1 pretty much gets all that in place.

In general, the Twilight films have been improving with each installment. One of the biggest problems with the series has been the stuttering dialogue and huge pauses between lines. Those issues are virtually non-existent here. Instead, director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) keeps the pace moving forward at a good speed, especially in the first half. The cast are comfortable in their roles, and just seem to be putting a little more effort into this installment. Plus, the make up and effects used to make Stewart look emaciated and weak are pretty disturbing, adding impact to the final moments of the film.

Fans of the series have a lot to enjoy in this two-disc special edition DVD. The standard definition 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks great, with blacks that are nice and deep. The Dolby 5.1 Surround is well-balanced, with Carter Burwell's score never overpowering the dialogue, and the pop songs coming through nice and clear during the montages.

In terms of bonus features, the first disc includes a commentary track by director Condon. The second disc contains a six-part documentary covering many aspects of the production, from creating the wedding to handing the final crucial scenes. There is a separate featurette detailing Jacob's story arc. We also get a nifty video of the wedding, looking a lot like something done by a pro-videographer. It even has well-wishes from all your favorite Twilight characters, some of which are pretty funny. My favorite feature is the "Fast Forward" option, which allows use to speed through the film watching only the scenes you like best. These are split into the Edward version and the Jacob version. Since everyone in my house is on team Jacob, we gave that a spin. It's great stuff! You get the opening title followed by the film playing at hyper-speed (complete with sped up images and sound) to the first scene with Jacob. When that scene is done, it fast forwards again to the next Jacob scene. All the scenes are chapter stopped, so you can jump ahead (or rematch) your favorite. Ingenious!

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Twilight haters, you'll continue to hate. In fact The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 will add a whole new set of reasons to hate everything about the series. Bella is still the very model of the weak willed girlfriend (now wife) in a abusive relationship, and she's got the bruises to prove it. Edward is still a passive aggressive creature who epitomizes many fantasy ideals—as well as dark and disturbing elements—impossible to list them all. Jacob is just as bad, except he can't keep a shirt on.

But here's the thing, haters. Don't take these movies so seriously. There is so much goofiness, horrible dialogue, and jaw-dropping insanity on display the only logical response is laughter. These movies are comic gold!

Yes, the acting improved, but that doesn't mean all three leads aren't still making faces which imply nausea or insanity when they are supposed to be making goggly eyes at each other. The dialogue is often so ripe, even a chunk of Limburger cheese would be offended. The vampire makeup looks pretty bad. The whole werewolf council scene had me on the floor laughing. Throw in Bella's crunchy bones and a scene where it looks like we are sucked up her nose and into her bloodstream and I ask you readers: How can you not laugh with this movie?

So haters, stop hating and embrace the awesomeness that is the Twilight series. Maybe if we all laugh more now, those who love these movies will feel a little better when they revisit them down the road and wonder "What the hell was I thinking?!"

Closing Statement

I got a lot of enjoyment out of Breaking Dawn, Part 1 and look forward to Part 2. I'm also anticipating the inevitable Rifftrax commentary; the ultimate way to watch these gloriously silly films.

The Verdict

Oh, it's guilty all right.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 83
Acting: 72
Story: 69
Judgment: 74

Perp Profile

Studio: Summit Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• English (SDH)
• Spanish
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Adventure
• Blockbusters
• Drama
• Fantasy
• Horror
• Romance
• Teen

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary
• Featurettes
• Short Film
• Fast Forward


• IMDb
• Official Site

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