After their wedding, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) travel to Rio de Janeiro for their honeymoon but soon Bella discovers she is pregnant with a rapidly growing baby. The Quileute wolves and the Volturi close in on the expecting parents, whose unborn child poses different threats to the both the wolf pack and the vampire coven.

2.5
After all that foreplay, the new Twilight saga is a limp anti-climax.

Given all the pent-up lust, longing glances and simmering feelings between Edward and Bella in the first three movies, Twihards might be hoping for an explosion of passion in the latest instalment.

Alas, the moment of consummation in their relationship is a massive anti-climax, a limp, unerotic coupling which would not be out of place in a Mills & Boon novel.

That’s just one of the shortcomings and disappointments which render The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 the least entertaining and compelling of the quartet.

Which begs the question: How could a director with the pedigree of Bill Condon deliver such an unexciting, uninvolving and unremarkable film?

True, Condon had no experience in special effects or in the action/adventure genre, but he knows how to shape a narrative and how to get the most out of his actors, as evidenced by his work in Gods and Monsters, Kinsey and Dreamgirls.

Perhaps he was tempted by the biggest pay cheque of his career and the lure of orchestrating the final two editions of a hit franchise; almost certainly he placed too much trust in Melissa Rosenberg’s stodgy screenplay adapted from Stephenie Meyer’s novel.

At 117 minutes the film is tediously long, the CGI-created creatures seem less realistic than in earlier editions, and the major action set-piece takes place at night as a blur of warring critters.

The audience at the preview screening – 85 per cent female, average age around 16-17 – clearly were in the mood to be uplifted. They cheered when the Summit Entertainment logo appeared. They guffawed again when werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) ripped off his shirt in the first minute after receiving an invite to the wedding of Bella Swan (Kirsten Stewart) and ageless vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Thereafter, apart from a sprinkling of laughs at some of the corny lines (eg Edward: 'I’ve waiting for a century to marry you Miss Swan), they were ominously quiet. At the end, the reaction seemed muted.

None of which suggests Twihards the world over won’t rush out in vast numbers in the opening weekend for what in Hollywood terms is a pre-sold commodity. Box-office pundits were predicting a three-day tally of $US150 million in the US, which would beat New Moon’s $142.8 million and Eclipse’s $120 million. But I’m guessing there’ll be a steep fall-off in the ensuing weeks as word spreads that this vampire saga is toothless and tame.

Jacob turns up late for the wedding and gets in a snit when he learns the new Mrs. Cullen has decided to postpone her transformation into a vamp.

After the reception, the newlyweds immediately zip off to Rio de Janeiro and thence to an island resort, the bride evidently being immune to jetlag. The virginal, 18-year-old Bella displays a few wedding night nerves which disappear after a spot of moonlight skinny-dipping, filmed so tastefully all we see is white torsos. They go to bed, cueing 30 seconds or so of Mills & Boonish coupling.

The next day the four-poster bed is all but demolished and Bella has bruises on her body (did they really have rough sex?), but she gushes, 'It was amazing." Two weeks later, still on honeymoon, she’s pregnant and throwing up.

Back home there’s a fierce and potentially intriguing moral debate between Bella, Edward and the rest of the Cullen family about whether she should abort or have the demonic baby and risk dying. But all this is handled in soap opera fashion, as when a furious Jacob tells Edward 'You did this!" in a statement of the bleeding obvious, while Bella looks very gaunt and pale, perhaps channelling Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby.

Fortuitously Edward’s dad Dr Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli) has a fully-equipped operating theatre in his house and Jacob agrees to protect them from his agitated werewolves brethren.

As someone who enjoyed all three previous editions, I couldn’t engage emotionally with Breaking Dawn until the last 20 minutes or so, and even then it was a stretch given the lurid, drawn-out finale.

Condon and his cinematographer Guillermo Navarro love close-ups, a technique which merely exposes the limited range of expressions displayed by Lautner, Pattinson and others such as Billy Burke as Bella’s dad; Stewart is such a gifted, resourceful actor she’s capable of holding one’s attention.

The music is abysmal, an ill-fitting mixture of Carter Barwell’s syrupy score, turgid ballads and instantly forgettable rock songs.

The key question now: Can Condon lift his game in Breaking Dawn - Part 2, due out in late 2012?