– Summary –
Director : Catherine Hardwicke
Cast : Kirsten Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Billy Burke, Cam Gigandet, Rachelle Lefevre, Edi Gathegi, Sarah Clark, Christian Serratos, Michael Welch, Anna Kendrick, Gregory Tyree Boyce, Justin Chon.
Year Of Release : 2008
Length : 90 minutes
Synopsis: A human girl falls in love with a vampire. Gushy, mushy romantic pap follows.
Review : An unconvincing muddle of ideas, barely fleshed out beyond the merest contrivances of cinema, make Twilight a simple, doddle of a film and hardly worth the effort.
Apparently, this film is based upon the first of a series of successful novels, a la Harry Potter. Unfortunately, unlike the boy wizard, Twilight as a film has neither the coherency or the depth of characters to hold up under any kind of scrutiny. Bella (Kristen Stewart) arrives at a new school, and finds herself attracted to the mysterious Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), who, as it turns out, is a vampire. And lives with a few other vampires in the woods outside of town. Edward, somehow, finds himself attracted to Bella as well, and although their human/vampire love is shunned by Edward’s family, they persist with it to the detriment of both their lives.
I have to admit, I haven’t read any of the Stephenie Meyer novels in the series on which this film is based, so I cannot compare the differences, good or bad, between the film and the book. What I can do is compare this film to good ones, so I am adequately able to determine just how mind-numbingly tepid this “blockbuster” film actually is. I watched this film from start to end, and about half way through began to wonder just how all those teenage girls could possibly find this film as good as they claim it is. I admit, as a post-30ish guy with little time for tweenage-screaming-fanaticism towards the latest Zac Ephron clone, perhaps the point of this film is lost on me in terms of how “cool” it is, rather than anything resembling quality storytelling, but for me, director Catherine Hardwicke has utterly missed the mark as a filmmaker.
Twilight begins fairly innocuously, with Bella arriving at Forks, a small town in North Western USA, to live with her father for a while. She attends the local school, where she quickly integrates with other classmates who “show her the ropes”, so to speak. She soon meets local shut-in Edward Cullen, a member of the Cullen family who happen to be the local freaks…. you know, the sort of people everybody talks about when they’re not around. Edward and Bella strike up an unusual friendship, before she finds herself wanting to be much more than simple friends. Edward, meanwhile, has a secret that prevents him from getting too close to Bella, a secret that will no doubt cause untold trouble for both of the two potential lovers. Yes, Edward (as well as the rest of the Cullen’s) is a vampire. The living undead, a drinker of blood and general suave sophisticated immortal. Yep, if I was immortal I’d like to hide away and never stick my neck out (so to speak) in society….
There’s a moment in this film that made me really groan in disbelief: the Crouching Tiger moment where Edward carries Bella up into the treetops of the nearby woodland to look out over Forks (seriously, why name a town that?) and gush their undying love to each other. It plays like a badly written soap opera, and I don’t know whether to be annoyed at Meyer for writing this rubbish as a novel, or Hardwicke for filming it in such a way that it truly is so trite and clichéd you’re better of going back to The Bold And the Beautiful for some real quality. Truly, this film is so melodramatic and highschool-play styled in it’s emotive content, it’s truly ordinary at best. Still, if this is what the tweens of today want, then I guess this is as good as it’s likely to get. Pattinson looks like he’s constipated for the entire film, hardly the sort of thing you want dating your daughter, and the luminous Stewart (who many will recognise as Jodie Fosters young daughter in Panic Room) does a relatively good job with the material she’s given. I will admit, their on-screen chemistry is startlingly good, though: the first kiss moment the pair share is decidedly charged, a sexy, romantic moment that is perhaps the only true highlight of the entire film.
Characters appear and move through the film with little or no development: the three “bad” vampires of the movie just appear from nowhere, snarl and hiss at the Cullen family, and then decide to not be friendly any more, and there’s almost no discernible reason for this animosity. Bella’s fellow classmates, whom I would classify as “generic characters” get no development at all, they’re ciphers for Bella to get to Edward, and nothing more. Bellas father, played by Billy Burke, gets a little more than short thrift from the script, but again, it’s a thankless character with little depth other than to be “protective” of his daughter. Then there’s the massive problem with the Cullen family outside of Edward. His siblings and “father” don’t get any explanation at all, except for some cryptic “they’re mysterious” pap at the films beginning. They’re so unmemorable I have even forgotten what they’re names are, and that’s pretty bad. Okay, the film isn’t about them, but if you’re going to introduce us to characters in a film, that appear to have a major influence or input into Edward’s life, then you’d better be sure we understand, know, like or hate them. To have characters who don’t engender an emotional response at all is almost criminal in it’s audacity in a major film like this.
The “vampire” elements of the film, that is to say the effects, are handled well, with a baseball match taking place during an aggressive thunderstorm really underlying the power and strength of the vampires, until it’s halted midway through by one of the most inordinately hard-to-follow conclusions of any modern film. The jumble of ideas at the films’ ending are an indication of just how convoluted the script must have been in trying to maintain the adaptation from Meyer’s original novel, and keeping it real for a film audience: the script by Melissa Rossenberg is almost fatally lacking in any real action or impetus. There’s the appearance of a trio of other vampires who arrive on the scene, cause some havoc, and then get written out…. kind of. There’s just no congruity to the whole show, and while I understand it’s only the opening stanza of a series of films, that’s no reason to skip over important things like, oh, character building and good storytelling. If this is as good as it gets in part 1, I can definitely skip the rest.
It’s fair to say that the only people who will enjoy this film are those it’s directly marketed to. A little like High School Musical, which has no redeeming features except to make it’s lead cast look as hot as possible for the teenage girl market of screaming pre-pubescent kiddies. And while I personally find key cast-member Pattinson as sexy as a botched abortion, there’s no doubt a plethora of fans out there who would gladly take Bella’s place as his immortal love interest. Staggeringly inept, Twilight is a vapid, vacuous and utterly unconvincing effort to capture the reader demographic who so demonstrably catapulted Harry Potter into the stratosphere. It’s hardly interesting, badly edited/structured and utterly un-captivating.
November 2009: Postscript:
Having now read the novel Twilight, I can appreciate more easily the way the characters have been portrayed on screen. The characters, in fact, the entire film, follows the book almost to the letter, skipping some of Meyers more extraneous moments. Pattinson and Stewart encapsulate perfectly the way Meyer wrote them, Pattinson more so than his female co-star; but the caveat with the film remains. If you haven’t read the book, and come to this film cold, then you’ll remain aloof to the nuances of the story. The reasons and motivations behind much of what occurs on screen is lost in translation from the original novel, and while you’d expect this to some degree, the extent to which Meyer’s novel is rendered defunct is minor to the extreme. I’d suggest anybody who doesn’t understand what this film is about, or finds Twilight just a little bit tepid, like I did, should read the book and get a more expanded history on why the film was the way it was.
The problem for me still, though, is that fact that I shouldn’t have to read the book to better understand the film. Which is why I can only revise my earlier review from a 4 to a 6.