• Twilight

    by  • November 23, 2008 • Movie Reviews and Features, Writing

    Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke
    Starring: Robert Pattison, Kristen Stewart, Billy Burke
    Rated: PG-13 for some violence and a scene of sensuality.
    Parental Notes: The scene of sensuality is pretty mild, it’s a makeout session cut off by Edward’s fear he is about to lose control and bite Bella. The violence is brief and not graphic or particularly realistic.

    Coming Up In Film
    Got a film event you want listed? Email reviewer@ealasaid.com with details.
    DECEMBER 2008
    * December 1-14, Camera Cinemas Sing-Along Nights, The Sound of Music. See www.cameracinemas.com/singalong.shtml for details.
    * December 3, The New York Metropolitan Opera’s production of Berlioz’s “La Damnation de Faust.” See www.fathomevents.com for details.
    * December 17-18, Glenn Beck’s “The Christmas Sweater” broadcast in local theaters. See www.fathomevents.com for details.
    * December 20, The New York Metropolitan Opera’s production of “Thais” broadcast live in local theaters. See www.fathomevents.com for details.
    JANUARY 2009
    * January 7, The New York Metropolitan Opera’s production of Massenet’s “Thais” broadcast in local theaters. See www.fathomevents.com for details.
    * January 10, The New York Metropolitan Opera’s production of Puccini’s “La Rondine” broadcast live in local theaters. See www.fathomevents.com for details.
    * January 15-21, Berlin and Beyond Film Festival. See www.berlinandbeyond.com/ for details.
    * January 16-17, Midnight Movie Madness: “Army of Darkness.” Midnight screenings at Camera 7 (Friday) and Camera 12 (Saturday). See www.cameracinemas.com/midnight.shtml for details. See www.fathomevents.com for details.
    * January 21, The New York Metropolitan Opera’s production of Puccini’s “La Rondine” broadcast in local theaters.
    * January 23-February 1, Noir City Film Festival. This year’s theme is newspaper noir. See www.noircity.com for details.
    * January 24, The New York metropolitan Opera’s production of Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice” broadcast live in local theaters. See www.fathomevents.com for details.

    “Twilight” is based on an immensely popular series of books, and if you love the books, chances are you will love the movie. The film stays very close to what little I’ve read of the novel, changing things mostly to make them fit the flow of a movie. Large chunks of dialog are identical, as are many of the scenes.
    This is a story thoroughly reminiscent of the self-indulgent scribblings vampire fans do in the backs of their notebooks during high school classes, tales of beautiful and mysterious beings who whisk ordinary girls away from their ordinary high school lives to whirlwinds of adventure and romance. It covers the same ground, and is about as well-crafted.
    Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart, “Into the Wild”) moves to the rainy, green, forested town of Forks, Washington to live with her father after her mother remarries. She hates it there, until she meets the beautiful and mysterious Edward Cullen (Robert Pattison, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”) — who is, she eventually discovers, a vampire.
    Bella and Edward are little more than cyphers for the audience to project themselves onto. Bella is the sort of girl every high school age girl fears she is: clumsy, awkward, out of place. She’s also the sort of girl every high school girl wants to be: all the boys in her social circle ask her to the dance, and she is mysteriously bonded to an inhumanly beautiful, elegant, and rich young man who turns out to be a powerful vampire.
    Edward has no personality to speak of; his only motivations revolve around Bella, so he’s easy for the audience members to reshape however they like. Pattison has mentioned in interviews that he had difficulty preparing for the role because even after reading all five hundred or so pages of the novel the film is based on, he had no feel for Edward as a person. This is because Edward is not a person, he’s a collection of traits: gorgeous, passionately in love with Bella, afraid that he will lose control and drain all her blood. It’s very romantic, but doesn’t give him much of a personality.
    The vampires in this tale are a bit unusual. Some of them have extra powers — Edward can read humans’ minds (but not Bella’s, which intrigues him), and his sister Alice can see the future. Also, they sparkle. Literally. They cannot go out in direct sunlight because their skin sparkles like an overenthusiastic tween with a Bedazzler got a hold of them. There’s even a sound effect for it so we can hear the shininess. Edward thinks (woe!) that his pale, sparkly skin is the mark of a killer. Bella thinks it’s beautiful. But then, Bella thinks everything about Edward is beautiful. That is, apparently, what makes her love him. Most of the rest of the time he irritates her: first, by refusing to explain his obvious superpowers, then by refusing to make her a vampire too.
    That’s the biggest problem I had with this film: Bella and Edward are meant to be “unconditionally, irrevocably in love” as Bella puts it. But we don’t really see it. The kindest thing Edward says about Bella is that she smells really, really good — she’s like his “own personal brand of heroin.” Bella trusts Edward and thinks he’s beautiful. That’s it. Romeo and Juliet at least had the grace to deliver the occasional monologue on why they adore each other. With Bella and Edward, we are simply to accept by fiat that they do, because the script says so in a few brief lines.
    Ultimately, what you think of “Twilight” will depend on how eager you are to relive teenage fantasies. Are you eager enough to forgive the lacking character development and thin story? If so, you will doubtless enjoy the beautiful people and overwrought story. If not, avoid it. There are plenty of good vampire movies on DVD to rent.

    About

    Ealasaid is a technical writer, freelance movie reviewer, bookbinder, and geek-of-many-trades based in Portland, OR.