Twilight Review


I come from the group that has never read the Stephenie Meyer books and knew little about them other than the general idea of love and vampires and such. I had put off watching “Twilight” based on reviews, what I heard and my gender, but finally — nearly a year later — gave in to my curiosity over what the craze is all about.

Now, I understand it. I don’t like it, but I understand it. “Twilight” and the book it’s based on is romance — melodramatic dialogue-filled romance about dangerous/forbidden love, something that’s been a major literary force for centuries. Combine that with human infatuation with vampires and there’s perfect reason for “Twilight” to be a success.
That said, the storytelling of “Twilight” is not all that good, speaking about the film at least (still haven’t read the book). Bella (Kristen Stewart), moves from Arizona to the Pacific Northwest to live with her dad. At her new school, she develops a quick crush on the mysterious Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a pasty-faced TD&H beaux from a family that is equally strange and equally as covered in distracting pale make-up. Bella, however, is a little odd herself. For reasons we never totally understand, she’s drawn to him and willing to trust him a bit quickly as she discovers he’s not exactly human. Edward, however, is much the same. The on-screen chemistry of Stewart and Pattinson gets an A, but the chemistry of their characters in the story gets an F for fake.

Once things get rolling and we get over the fact that we don’t fully understand why they’re suddenly in love with each other, “Twilight” becomes more interesting. Until then, however, it’s all sorts of awful. Never mind the low-budget visual effects and shoddy stunt work that look like something I’ve seen on the WB — that’s a whole other issue.

The problem is there’s no source of antagonism in the story for the first hour and change. Edward keeps telling Bella she should stay away from him and be scared of him and Bella wants to know why. Then she figures it out and he tries to scare her off some more. The conflict is inner tension entirely. People’s thoughts only make for good conflict in books — it doesn’t translate onto the screen the same way. Melissa Rosenberg, who wrote a few episodes of hit teen show “The O.C.” and the dance flick “Step Up,” doesn’t seem to have generated any creative ideas to make this story work more visually. I can’t speak for her adaption of the source material, but I can rightfully say the movie is not inspiring or captivating until an external force (a few bad vampires) enter the picture.

So “Twilight” has to sell hard on romance, which is what it’s all about anyway. This is the specialty of director Catherine Hardwicke, who directed the intriguing teen drama “Thirteen.” The intimate scenes between Edward and Bella, which are supposed to have a tentative, awkward feeling to them given the nature of their relationship, is really felt in her work. She’s definitely keen on the whole connection between vampires and sensuality. Stewart and Pattinson are both great selections for the film. Both weren’t just lucky casting choices — they have definite careers ahead of them.

What the movie needed to actually be entertaining to a bigger audience is a director with a better sense of action and suspense. Edward climbs a fair amount of trees with Bella on his back and it’s more reminiscent of Brendan Frasier in “George of the Jungle” than anything released in today’s visual effects era.

“Twilight” ultimately takes too much time establishing itself and the rules of its world, not showing them to us quickly in creative visual ways that give us a sense of the fantasy we think we ought to be enjoying. It’s like the “Mad Max” films with Mel Gibson: the first film ends just as it gets interesting and the second film is the one most fondly remembered. You only get a sense by the end of the film what the “Twilight” world is all about. I imagine “New Moon,” the second installment, will be somewhat better by this same concept (and also with a fantasy-grounded director in Chris Weitz). Problem is, “Twilight” didn’t convince me any future films will be better enough.

2/5 Stars

“Twilight” (2008)
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke
Written by: Melissa Rosenberg, Stephenie Meyer (book)
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson


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