"Breaking Dawn - Part 1" review: A slow race to the end

This photo provided by Summit Entertainment shows Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in a scene from "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn." The makers of the "Twilight" movies have sued two people they claim are responsible for leaking images of unfinished scenes from the series finale "Breaking Dawn" on March 31. (AP Phioto/Summit Entertainment, Andrew Cooper) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Andrew Cooper
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in a scene from "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn- Part 1."
Andrew Cooper

(CBS) Twi-hards everywhere can rejoice. Bella, Edward and Jacob return in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 1," the movie adaptation of Stephanie Meyer's fourth and final novel in the mega-successful series, which lumbers to the big screen today.

Pictures: The L.A. premiere
Pictures: The London premiere

The highly anticipated penultimate (the last book will be the subject of two movies) installment of the vampire saga is set to take the relationship between Bella and her vampire beau, Edward, to a new plateau. Fans everywhere will revel in the fact that the two finally tie the knot.

Director Bill Condon ("Dreamgirls" and "Gods and Monsters") is charged with bringing the two-part finale to the screen and staying true to Meyers book in a series that has grossed almost 2 billion in worldwide movie-ticket sales.

He continues to explore the main characters' journey towards adulthood. The film opens with Jacob (Taylor Lautner) furious to discover the girl he adores is about to marry his nemesis. He runs out of his house, and to the delight of young tween girls everywhere, tears off his shirt, transforms into a werewolf and charges off into the distance.

Bella (Kristin Stewart), meanwhile, is practicing for an elaborate walk down the aisle and a date with her destiny, while dealing with pre-wedding jitters. Just like any other young bride.

After the nuptials (which go off remarkably smoothly), Edward (Robert Pattinson) whisks his new bride off to a secret, tropical destination, where the two blissfully consummate their marriage. While honeymooning, Bella discovers she is pregnant and Edward, fearful of what the consequences might be for Bella's health, rushes the two back to the Cullen home.

There, he tries to convince Bella that she cannot go through with the pregnancy for fear of losing her life. Bella, however, has made the difficult decision to keep her baby. Jacob, meanwhile, learns Bella is back and goes to see her, only to discover she's pregnant and still human. His character goes through a range of emotions, alternating between trying to be supportive of his best friend and loathing the vampire she has married. The pregnancy violates the treaty in place between the werewolves and vampires and infuriates the pack.

"Breaking Dawn Part 1" is Bella's journey from young girl to young woman, juggling a new marriage with an unexpected pregnancy and childbirth. Part two will shift from creating her family to protecting it. At more than 700 pages, Meyer's finale was substantial, but not substantial enough to make two robust, independent movies.

After the wedding, which happens early on in the movie, the film, deceptively, moves at a pretty steady clip through to the honeymoon, but then stalls once the pregnancy occurs. There just isn't enough character drama to sustain the second half. Exchanges between Jacob and Edward, though volatile, are fleeting at best, and interactions with the Cullen family are insignificant.

Condon's cast also does not rise to the challenges that adulthood provide. The result is a film that looks more like a soap opera than a major motion picture.

There are some strong moments, particularly from Lautner, who shows true angst as he tries to support Bella and yet stay true to the legacy of his pack. Stewart shows glimpses of strength, turning in a convincing performance as a young woman coming to grips with an unexpected pregnancy.

Fans of the books will not be disappointed because the plot stays true to Meyer's vision, (Myers actually served as producer for the "Breaking Dawn" films) and fans of the previous films can expect to see all their favorite characters return, with more clans from around the world set to appear in Part 2,

But uninitiated filmgoers, drawn to the movie by all the hype, may leave theaters scratching their heads and wondering what all the fuss is about.