Twilight Movie Review

PG_13, 122 min, 2008

Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Writers: Melissa Rosenberg (screenplay), Stephenie Meyer (novel Twilight)
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke

Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight, an (I guess faithful) adaptation of the universally-astronomically popular novel by Stephenie Meyer, is for a niche audience – and that niche ain’t me.

For reasons passing understanding, the increasingly decent Kristen Stewart plays Bella Swan, the sullen, pale, dark-haired, moody teen who moves from inclimate Arizona and living with her mom (Sarah Clarke) to proverbial small Pacific Northwest hamlet Forks, Washington with her Sheriff father (Billy Burke). She quickly makes friends in school, including a mysterious cadre of sullen, pale, mostly blonde, moody teen outcasts known as the Cullen clan, a group of “adopted” kids belonging to Dr. Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli), who is as creepy and off-putting as he is mysterious and lacking in skin pigment – he looks like an albino.

Before long, it becomes clear to Bella that something isn’t quite right with the Cullens, led by handsome “young” Edward (Robert Pattinson from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), who catches first her eye and then her heart. He saves her from a potential car accident with alarmingly lightning-like speed and agility, and even then won’t tell her what’s up. Then he tells her: he and his family are vampires. He’s very very old.

The film has been directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who is no stranger to teen angst (Thirteen) and would-be hip and popular franchises (Lords of Dogtown and The Nativity Story), lacking for the most part in any noticable style or wit; this film is so utterly deadpan serious about its tale it’s impossible to laugh at, no matter how hard you want to.

Stewart, an up-and-coming young actress since David Fincher’s Panic Room (2002), where she was Jodie Foster’s resilient (and androgynous) daughter, does the best she can, I guess, with a role that is pretty thankless; why is this Bella Swan such a pop culture icon? Pattinson similarly plays the good-looking, tall, dark and handsome male lead who is also very popular, I guess.

Never having read the books, I find it quite unfathomable what makes this series so popular – at least on the evidence of this film. There’s something of a vampire renaissance in pop culture right now with the very adult book series that has inspired the very good HBO series True Blood, also involving mind-reading and vampires and forbidden romance between the races and starring Anna Paquin. And there’s the terrific literary adaptation from Sweden, Let the Right One In, which is infinitely more thoughtful, affecting and just plain scary than this piece of popcorn entertainment aimed at tweens.

The film has one fine scene – the vampires inexplicably decide to play baseball in a lightning storm and the whole scene is filmed with alarming hyperkinetic style. If the whole film was pitched at this velocity, Hardwicke could’ve maybe had something – or, at least, I’d get a headache and have a more interesting review to write. This is a dramatic dead zone.

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Filed under 2008

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