Blame the Part 1 choice on "Harry Potter." Stephanie Meyer wrote only four books in this franchise, as opposed to J.K. Rowling's seven. So stretching out the conclusion is understandable - in box-office terms - with Bill Condon ("Gods and Monsters," "Kinsey," "Dreamgirls") helming the final two installments.

As this segment of the series begins, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) marries vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattison), much to the dismay of shape-shifting werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). Their dreamy woodland ceremony is lavish; the bride's gown is by Caroline Herrera. And the newlyweds depart for a tropical honeymoon on a secluded island off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. After a tempestuous night of lovemaking, Bella wakes up with bruises on her body and soon discovers she's pregnant. Having a half-vampire/half-human baby is fraught with dire complications, but Bella is determined to deliver this child at any cost, even her own life. After a particularly gruesome birthing sequence, Renesmee is born and - to avert a fatal battle between werewolves and vampires - Jacob spiritually "imprints" on her, becoming her lifelong protector. So much for plot.

Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg dutifully transitions Bella into examining the complexities of marriage and the dilemma facing a vulnerable woman who discovers that she is carrying a vampiric embryo. Some interpret this as an abstinence parable; feminists have criticized Stephanie Meyer's socially conservative portrayal of teen sexuality, marriage and pregnancy. But what is vividly portrayed is the message of taking responsibility for one's choices, like mating with the undead and transitioning into a vampire.

Unfortunately, while emaciated Kristen Stewart, brooding Robert Pattison and hunky Taylor Lautner have acquired confidence in their characters, they still lack the acting chops necessary to make this far-fetched, melodramatic fantasy even remotely believable. On the other hand, the CGI-generated special-effects are diverting.

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On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" is a banal, bloodsipping 6. Be sure to stay for the brief epilogue about the future threat of the Volturi.