Catherine Hardwicke
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz

Joanne Ross

March 30, 2009


The film version of Twilight has finally hit the big screen – and now DVD – to the delight of author Stephanie Meyer’s legion of steadfast fans. Meyer’s seems to be instrumental in reinventing, even reviving, the vampire franchise. But Twilight isn’t really a horror story; it fits mostly comfortably into the categories of fantasy, thriller, drama and romance. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who gave us Lords of Dogtown, it’s definitely an entertaining, if ultimately disappointing work.

The most obvious thing about Twilight is the change in the vampire genre status quo.
Vampires are getting younger. And, vampires are getting nicer, too, in the sense that they seem to have a reverence for human life that compels them to seek their supper in the animals living in the woods nearby rather than nosh on the usual human fare in such abundance. At least that’s what the vampires in Twilight do.

Teenager Bella Swan (the lovely Kristen Stewart) moves from Phoenix, Arizona to Forks to live with her father Charlie (Billy Burke) now that her mother has remarried. She undergoes what any typical teenager encounters when starting fresh in a new town – enrolling in a new high school, making friends, and fending off the interest of no less than four eager young teenage boys.  What she doesn’t count on is meeting real-life vampires -- the impossibly handsome Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and his equally attractive family headed by patriarch Carlisle (Peter Facinelli).

Falling in love with a vampire can have its drawbacks aside from the most obvious one. It’s bad enough when the young man you love has to fight against himself to stop from sucking your blood.  But when your vampire beau accidentally exposes you to a trio of rogue vampires who don’t share the same ethics one of whom develops a taste for your blood, your chances for survival, already low due to said boyfriend, become nil.

Whenever a film is made from a novel, the obvious question arises:  is the film faithful to the book? Which is better?  For the first question, the answer is yes, the film is faithful to the book with some tweaking, which you must expect given the challenges of translating the story from one medium to another. As to the second, my vote is for the book. Meyer’s book doesn’t read edgy or hip, but the director infuses some of that type of energy and atmosphere into the film. It’s not necessarily the wrong approach, but it does undermine the novel’s tone, one of the aspects that made the book appealing to its fans. Meyer’s work reads intelligent, thoughtful, and introspective. The first part of the book is less about action and more an expression of Bella’s interior state; specifically, what is going on in her heart and mind as she thinks about the mysterious Edward and contemplates her growing feelings for him. The film completely misses the main point of the novel – Bella is the catalyst for everything that happens. She is driven by her obsession for Edward which is what drives the story – and puts her in constant danger.

Meyer aspired to give to us in Edward and Bella re-imagined updates of some of the greatest literary and cinematic star-crossed lovers who face insurmountable odds – Romeo and Juliet, Healthcliff and Cathy, Yuri and Lara. Unfortunately, Hardwicke didn’t weave the novel’s quality into the film’s edgy surface and fast pace, so the sense of profound romance is only a shade of what it should have been.

Having said that, I’m happy to report there’s no problem with romantic chemistry. The attractive young leads Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson embody the very definition of star-crossed lovers. With just a soulful gaze, a burning look, and a whisper touch, they communicate so much longing and restrained passion it’s too bad their intense and wont-be-denied need for each other didn’t come across in anything more than a cursory way.

Though it aspires to be a grand romance in the spirit of the classics, Twilight the film falls far short, which is a shame given the book’s worldwide popularity. However, flaws notwithstanding, Twilight is a fast, fun and exciting thriller with two talented young actors who have tremendous chemistry and appeal, and promising careers ahead of them. My vote:  Rent it.*-JR


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