Ironically, both the adoring and critical masses don’t associate any edition of the “Twilight” book and film series with the fuel of sorts that drives its vampy leads: blood. It’s the romance, and all of the politics that come with it, that have people swooning and snickering every time Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart appear on screen as Edward Cullen and Bella Swan.
Who then could have guessed that our first glimpse of the Cullens’ nuptials in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn” would be more gory than gooey?
A colorless Bella first heads down the white-washed aisle, an anything-but-blushing bride to be of the vampire that waits at the other end. As an orchestral number takes on a more ominous tone, so does Bella, only to find that her wedding gown train is running red with the blood her loved ones, gutted and stacked in a pile at the foot of the alter.
We’re still talking about “Twilight” here — not Hitchcock. The nightmare ends up washing into wedding scenes that pull at the heart strings swelling within the series’ romantic fan base. But before Edward delivers his speech about love and forever and rainbows, director Bill Condon implores us to feel something other than sentimentality (or disgust). He makes us laugh, bringing fringe characters into the spotlight for comic relief.
Condon anchors his adaptation to points where Bella meets milestones: marriage, loss of virginity, birth, death and birth again (kind of). Portions of this full sequence are strangely arranged, strung together by nonsensical plot developments that are unavoidably bound by awful literature. But at every notch in the lifeline, Stewart and Condon do their best to deliver all of the right emotions with a certain flair.
Young virgins are nervous, awkward and excited. Author Stephanie Meyer chooses not to dwell on these natural reactions to avoid downplaying the build up of what she sees as a sacred act. But Condon and Stewart bring us back to reality, as Bella twitches nervously.
The “Breaking Dawn” experience is also grounding thanks to reminders of how violent a movie about vampires could and should be. The shockingly red ring staining Stewart’s teeth when Bella needs to satiate her monster baby’s thirst for blood, the makeup and computer effects used to make Stewart look all kinds of gaunt, close-ups of her seemingly lifeless eyes…it was all cringe-worthy. Quite frankly, it’s about time a “Twilight” movie made audiences react in this way to something other than Taylor Lautner’s “acting.”
“Breaking Dawn” will always be a “Twilight” movie. That means there are going to be supernatural creatures. That means Meyer’s Mormon agenda will creep in. That means there is going to be pretty bad acting by gorgeous people. But thanks to Condon, there will be blood, too — and laughter, but not at the same time. The director’s acts of artistic liberty and his fresh focus on emotions underplayed in the novel bring both lightness and a good kind of heaviness to a story that reeks of melodrama. It’s refreshing, so it was…good.