At The Picture Show
Will someone give these vampires some fangs?
Dull 'Twilight' merely goes through the motions
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Screenplay: Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Taylor
Lautner, Anna Kendrick, Cam Gigandet, Nikki Reed and Peter Facinelli
Rated PG-13 / 2 hours, 2 minutes
Opened November 17, 2008
(out of four)
To answer your question, no. I did not read the Twilight book series. I confess.
The primary reason for this is that I am not a 14-year-old girl. Don't blame me, I
can't really help it.
Thus, I cannot speak to the film's faithfulness to its source material. And besides,
fidelity is one of the least important factors when it comes to novel-to-screen
Anyway, faithful or not, Twilight is one of those movies that does little to expand
on its premise. It offers few contributions to the cinematic vampire mythology,
instead anonymously blending in with a host of other films in which the natural
meets the supernatural. Have I ever seen a movie about a detached high-school girl
who falls in love with a vampire? No, but it felt like I had.
The HBO series TrueBlood mines similar territory
and, frankly, isn't particularly good. But at least it attempts to inject new creative
approaches into the vampire motif. Twilight fails to stand out - though I will give
it credit for stripping the vampires of most of their Gothic sensibilities. It was time
for a change of setting and wardrobe.
Aside from that, we discover that vampires are pale, sexy and dangerous . . . you
know the stuff everyone's already gone over before. (Oh, and also - they love
baseball. Didn't know that.)
All of that might be fine if director Catherine Hardwicke (thirteen, Lords of
Dogtown) and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg had found ways to inject urgency
and life into these characters and this story. Sadly, the most interesting character
arcs die off in the second half when the Plot gets in the way, and the story
arrangements that drive the last hour of the movie are so spare that the resolution
almost seems cheap.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
First of all, it was a wise decision to select a
director, like Hardwicke, without a fantasy background. She is able to establish a
nice, realistic and appropriately ominous setting in rural Washington, where our
heroine, Bella (Kristen Stewart) moves in with her father while her mom and
stepdad are off at spring training. We are effectively lulled into this atmosphere,
with normal high-school kids, a normal mustachioed dad, normal friends, normal
neighbors. Hardwicke makes this a tangible reality while also nudging us toward
the eventuality that there's something eerie about it all . . . particularly the
reclusive Cullen clan.
The Cullens, of course, are the enigmatic family of vampires - the patriarch,
Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) and his slew of teenage-looking "children," led by the
thoroughly ridiculous-looking Edward (Robert Pattinson). I have no idea what that
guy's hair is trying to accomplish, but let's just move on.
These are nice vampires. They steadfastly refuse to feed on human flesh - opting
instead for animal blood - not because they don't have a crippling desire to do so,
but because it's just plain good manners. Never is that desire more fierce than it is
for Edward when he first sets his eyes on Bella. Of course, the two come to cope
with it after he saves her life, reveals his secret and the two fall hopelessly in love.
As you do.
Naturally, Twilight is not your typical high-school movie - but that doesn't save it
from cringe-inducing dialogue like, "Your mood swings are giving me whiplash."
The scenes between the two - obviously intended
to be the soul of the film - too often fall flat. Unfortunately, the relationship
between Bella and her dad is more interesting than anything that goes on with
Stewart - previously seen in Panic Room and Into the Wild - was a solid choice for
the lead role, often making a more interesting character than the screenplay
deserves. But when the major conflict finally comes - setting off the inevitable
battle between the Good vampires and the Bad ones - her interesting character
elements get thrown to the side in favor of the old "damsel in distress" standby.
Twilight is not an incompetent or terrible film, as I feared it might be. But it isn't a
good one, either. Something should have been done with the story beyond this
most generic approach (especially the second half).
As it is, for all the hype surrounding it, this is just another vampire story.
Read more by Chris Bellamy