Like the Harry Potter series, the Twilight movies have served as a farm club for directors in the middle range of their careers. The Potter producers eventually settled on David Yates, while Twilight has gone through Catherine Hardwicke, who in Thirteen had shown a facility with teen girls and their sensibilities, Chris Weitz, surprisingly, since he is mostly known for the American Pie series, though he did also do The Golden Compass, David Slade, auteur of the girl power movie Hard Candy, and now Bill Condon. Mr. Condon isn't an entirely unlikely choice. Though he did the lavish and hollow musical Dreamgirls, his roots are in horror, having written both Strange Behavior and Strange Invaders, and directed the biographical essay on James Whale in Hollywood, Gods and Monsters.
But than Mr. Condon combines two areas of expertise in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1, since it isn't really a horror film but a romance. In vampire lore, a breaking dawn is a hazardous astronomical event, as the nocturnal creatures evaporate upon feeling its rays. Here it more likely refers to the emerging marital love of Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson), who are finally married in this penultimate entry in the series (the films divide the last book into two, adapting another Harry Potter trick). Edward and his cohort are the undead, but they can walk around during the day, when they sparkle, and don't sleep in a crypt at night. They are also action figures, as is de rigeur these days. These undead, especially the bad guys, reside in that twilight region between ordinary human life and the spectrum of everlasting might over mortals, and are more like the modern zombie, quick footed and ruthless, than the classic Dracula type vamp. In turn, the zombie has become more like a vampire, since the first iteration of the zombie was as a living being turning into a somnambulistic slave hypnotized by a village witch doctor. Our modern zombies are now the literal dead, reanimated by their hunger for brains, human and otherwise depending on the mythology of the film under scrutiny.
In this one, the pair have a big wedding, though not on Godfather proportion, though with an equal amount of tension, since werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) is jealous, and doesn't want Bella to become a vampire, part of the marriage contract. Meanwhile, Bella soon becomes pregnant. Perhaps this installment should have been called Breaking Water.
This iteration is a branch of wedding magazine porn, with some hybrid fear of bloody defloweration inscribed into Bella's nightmares. The honeymoon is romance novel porn without the explicitness. Then Bella becomes pregnant before Edward has a chance to convert her to vampirism. If the officiator had asked anyone to speak now or forever hold their peace, Jacob should have risen on his hind legs and howled.
The whole series has always struck me as terribly cast. Ms. Stewart has patented the eye rolling reactions that the supposedly meek use to hide their arrogance, while the flat-nosed Mr. Pattinson seems pallid without charisma. Mr. Lautner has a neanderthal blankness, and the rest of the cast is unmemorable, consigned as they are to be plinths beneath the edifice of the Belward love. Granted, they aren't given much to do. Like a soap opera, it is mostly talk, on couches, on telephones, in living rooms, in woods, in bedrooms, with attendant weeping, recriminations, et cetera, before ending up with a child kidnapping out of Sons of Anarchy. This semi-climactic, semi-cliff-hanging ending should please the series's legion of fans, but only a sociologist will be able to glean any insight about love and marriage from this branch of soap opera fiction.