Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Cam Gigandet, Taylor Lautner
Release date: November 21, 2008
Catherine Hardwicke‘s Twilight is a love letter as well as a wink and a nod to all the diehard fans of the novel by Stephenie Meyer on which it is based. There’s no doubt that Meyer’s book sparked a pop culture phenomenon the likes of Harry Potter, but where the Potter film adaptations were big-budget huge effects fantasy efforts that are fun for the whole family, Hardwicke’s movie is really a small-time indie drama with a touch of supernatural aimed straight at the heart of young girls.
The film opens with Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) leaving her home in sunny Phoenix to go live with her father in the dreary town of Forks, Washington. Bella’s voiceover explains that she’s relocating so that her mom can go on the road with her new husband, a minor league baseball player.
Once in Forks, the shy Bella does make some friends, but also seems to have earned the disdain of Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a handsome yet mysterious boy who only socializes with his equally mysterious foster siblings. Bella finds herself attracted to her unnaturally pale classmate, even though he is openly repelled by her. She can’t understand what his issue is with her, until one day he saves her from a car accident and reveals his true nature as a vampire, and that what Bella thought was disgust was actually lust — for her and her blood.
Though Edward’s morals dictate the he only feed on animals — not humans — he still considers himself a dangerous killer, which is why he feels that Bella should stay away from him, especially because her natural scent intoxicates him, sending him into a frenzy. But, in truth, Edward is falling for this girl like he’s never done before. Unlike all the other folks of Forks, he can’t read Bella’s mind and his vampire allure and Jedi mind tricks don’t work on her either, which means that Bella’s love for him is genuine. To their detriment, they throw caution to the wind to be together, which attracts the attention of James (Cam Cigandet), a vicious vampire who’s also a relentless hunter and will stop at nothing to kill Bella.
Hardwicke’s vision of Bella’s new surroundings is a vast improvement from the novel. What was described as probably the most depressing place for a teenager to move to actually comes across on screen as quaint and at times charming. The Cullen family lives in Forks for practically reasons — the typically cloudy weather conditions provide cover for their true vampiric nature — but you’d think there’d have to be something appealing about the place for them to stand living there. The ambiance Hardwicke creates makes us comfortable in this typically bleak world.
People have wondered why Twilight has the massive appeal it does with not only young girls, but also with women old enough to be their mothers. The answers are obvious: Edward is gorgeous, devoted, and protective — common attributes that every female looks for in a man. Add to that the “danger” element, and you have the perfect guy and an arrangement that’s never boring. Edward will risk his life to protect the woman he loves, he promises never to leave her, and unlike most teen boys, he won’t pressure her for sex. Who doesn’t want that in a man? But Twilight is more than just about the perfect man; Bella is a character that every girl can dream of being — and NOT just because she snags the hunk. Her shyness and clumsiness come across as cute; she’s a pretty girl who maintains her femininity even when sporting work boots and flannel shirts and never has to succumb to the typical aspects of peer pressure. She’s instantly likable just the way she is without having to conform. And best of all, she’s strong, smart, and independent. While there’s nothing outstanding about her in particular, she’s not a drone, and she’s still able to win the heart of this extraordinary man … and keep him.
Stewart and Pattinson do a fine job expressing the passion as well as the struggle with “forbidden love” between Bella and Edward. When we see them together, we root for them, whether it’s during the meadow scene where they confess their love and Bella sees him in true form, or when Edward puts his arm around her to walk through school. They’re just a great couple. The only problem is, we don’t get to see them together as much as we should. Their bonding is fast-track for the sake of moving the plot forward, which might seem abrupt to anyone who’s not already familiar with the story.
For the most part, the acting is average at best. Stewart seems to stand out above the rest of the cast, and as I mentioned Facinelli is enjoyable, but most of the other characters had little screen time which they didn’t use all that wisely, except for Gigandet, who was badass as the villainous James. There definitely wasn’t enough of him in this movie. And I know I’ll get some hate mail for this, but Pattinson at times was painful to watch. The audience — which consisted mainly of diehard fans — was laughing during the scene when he first “smells” Bella in the lab, which isn’t meant to be funny. Whenever Pattinson had to convey that he was restraining himself, he’d just bulge his eyes as if he was choking, which again, would get a laugh from the crowd.
Strangely enough, while smaller details of the story were displayed on screen much better than I expected — like the incident in Port Angeles and the Prom — I felt that the more anticipated scenes were a bit of a letdown. Edward’s “sparkle” wasn’t so breathtaking, the flashbacks were much too brief, and the epic fight ended all too easy. Perhaps younger audiences will disagree with me, but the Bella’s Lullaby sequence was all wrong — Edward’s piano playing was nothing extraordinary and there was no interaction in it. Hardwicke really had a chance here to expand upon this part of the story to show us how special Edward is and what attributes of his Bella could truly love. Remember in Juno where Juno and Bleeker are sitting on the porch strumming acoustic guitars, singing to each other? That’s how you shoot a scene like this; instead, Hardwicke gives us an emo ballad music video camera-ready for MTV (or whatever MTV station actually plays videos anymore).
Several scenes were great fun to watch though, like the vampire baseball game where the Cullens play a powerful game of the great American pastime during a thunderstorm, and also when Edward carries Bella with lightening speed through the forest and shows her a view of the world from the top of some tall trees. Anything with Edward’s father, Dr. Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), is a real treat, as the good doctor is pretty much the most likable character in the entire movie (I think the good doctor deserves his own story/movie/book).
The film doesn’t really focus on the supernatural aspect — especially since these vamps don’t adhere to the laws of vampire legends as we know them. It reminded me more of Endless Love than it did The Lost Boys, so it’s doubtful that mainstream audiences will find Twilight to be anything special. The fans on the other hand? Well, like I said, Twilight was undoubtedly make for them, so yeah, they’ll go wild for it for sure.