Twilight Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson Running Time: 2 hrs. Rating: PG-13
I DIDN'T READ THIS BOOK ... if you want to read a review from someone who did -- click here for Jeff Bayer's review.
Plot: Bella Swan (Stewart) is forced to trade her teenage life in the desert of Phoenix for the cold, rainy woods of Washington when she moves back in with her lonely father. Here she finds a new set of friends and an inconvenient attraction to the mysterious Edward Cullen (Pattinson), whose intensity both scares and fascinates her. Slowly, Bella and Edward’s paths entangle, their relationship heats up, and the terrifying truth comes out—Edward is a vampire, and he would like nothing more than to suck Bella’s blood. But, he’s also a good guy, and though he and his family abstain from feasting on human flesh, the desire to indulge is just under the surface. And as Bella is about to learn the hard way, they are the exception instead of the rule.
Who’s It For? Just like Stephanie Meyer’s series of best-selling books that inspired it, Twilight appeals best to the tween-to-teen crowd, with young adults and twenty-something not too far off base.
Expectations: After the books’ seemingly meteoric rise to cultural prominence in the past six months—not to mention Pattinson’s already-solidified status as Zac Efron 2.0—the stakes are high for this romantic thriller. Fumble even a little, and feel the wrath of the ready-made fan base.
Kristen Stewart as Bella: Not unlike British look-alike Emma Watson, Stewart doesn’t quite sell her character’s persona. Is Bella emo? Is she hipster? What’s with her instant popularity? It’s tough to tell whether Bella even likes Forks (the small town she moves to) until she just comes out and says it. That said, Stewart does manage to carry the movie and brings an air of cool-chick substance into her character’s flighty, melodramatic tendencies. And her chemistry with Pattinson is palpable. Score: 7
Robert Pattinson as Edward: There’s a reason Pattinson (or “R-Patz,” as his most loyal spastic fans have lovingly christened him) is such a new age heart-throb. Not only did he play the tragic hero Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but his look has been carefully purposed for maximum swoonage. Everything from his sky-high hair to his trendy shades begs for “that kind” of attention. His performance starts out nothing short of rancid; his awkward nervousness when Bella sits next to him in Biology literally embarrassed me. But as he breaks into his character and starts spinning the elaborate web that is Edward’s personality, things don’t look quite as bleak. Score: 5
Talking: The film often sounds exactly like what it is—an adaptation. Having not read the book, I could still pinpoint the dialogue and puns that were ripped right off Twilight’s paperback page. As Bella and Edward’s unconventional romance develops, this becomes even more noticeable. Score: 4
Sights: Twilight is set in one of the country’s most beautiful regions, and it plays off the environment well. Washington is featured prominently, even celebrated. In fact, it’s almost enough to distract from the sure-to-be-Razzie-nominated costume design. What was that? They don’t give Razzies in costume design? Don’t worry—they will. Score: 4
Sounds: As cringe-worthy as the idea of a game of vampire baseball sounds (and admittedly is), it’s exactly what happens during one sonically-charged scene. Ultimately, setting it to music and punctuating it with sharp cracks (from both thunder claps and lucky strikes) proves it isn’t imagination Hardwicke lacks with Meyer’s Twilight—it’s the ability to execute. Score: 4
Best Scene: The best thing Stewart and Pattinson have going for them is each other. Their sexual tension is very real, and ultimately the best thing about the movie. That’s why one scene midway through the film, when hormones almost get the better of both of them, is one of the most resonant.
Ending: Ultimately, things end up much they way they began. Whispers of what promises to be a complicated relationship with Bella’s childhood friend Jacob Black, whose family has a long and mysterious rivalry with the Cullens, leaves a sour taste in audiences’ mouths. Despite the sickly sweet final prom scene, it remains an after taste.
Questions: What exactly is Bella Swan thinking when she sticks by Edward, a stranger, and an obvious threat? What are we supposed to think about her? It’s easy to dismiss Edward’s character as just “complicated,” but the story is driven by Bella’s decisions. And yet, despite plenty of wasted opportunity on Hardwicke’s part, I don’t really understand her.
Rewatchability: Even though it’s a lackluster first viewer, something tells me Twilight is a potential grower. It may never get any better, but you may not care as much.
It’s tempting to rip Twilight apart for it’s paper-thin plot, cardboard dialogue, chronic overacting and made-for-SNL costume choices, but credit is due to Hardewicke’s ability to set a scene and a pace. I didn’t believe in the characters or the story much, but I believed in where they were, how they got there and significance of place and time in the story. It moved along well, and I felt a kinship for Forks by the closing credits.
The going is tough for films that are preceded by too much hype, as Twilight was by all accounts. With so many adoring fans, and so many cynics with giant hooks waiting in the wings, it was almost impossible for this teen reader to be more than “not awful” under the sheer weight of expectation. “Not awful” Twilight is, ultimately—and as promised, it isn’t much more.
Final Score: 5/10