So I finally watched Twilight, the movie, last night. I wasn’t one of the 30-something women who wore my “I ♥ Edward” t-shirt to opening night, and I didn’t throw a Twilight DVD release party, where everyone dressed up as their favorite character from the book. I’m not what you’d call a diehard fan of the series – I’m more of a casual reader who appreciated the epic and thrilling aspects of Bella and Edward’s saga, while still critiquing the series’ flaws and mediocre parts (see my reviews of all four books here).
I had heard mixed reviews of the movie, and that’s about how I feel after watching it. As a story of a misfit teenager who falls in love with a vampire, it works well. As for its attempt to be a suspenseful film that wows you with riveting action and clever special effects, it falls flat.
What I Liked:
- The Setting – The producers got this part right. The town of Forks, the high school, Charle’s house, the beach at La Push, and the lush forests all set the right tone of gloominess amidst Bella and Edward’s fiery romance. I especially liked the contrast of colors in the forest scenes, with the beautiful shades of green jumping off the screen. The use of near constant rain and the occasional ray of sunlight was also effective. Overall, the scenes were pretty to look at:
- The Chemistry – Despite all the pre-release debate about whether or not Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart were the right actors for the roles of Edward and Bella, they had great on-screen chemistry. Sure, it was a little creepy at times how they would just stare into each other’s eyes (particularly when they were laying in that mountain top field), but I much prefer their silent admiration of each other to what we got in the book, which was Bella’s constant gushing about how perfect and beautiful Edward is. Both actors did a nice job of conveying their mutual attraction, from the moment Bella first saw Edward in the cafeteria, to the tense science lab scenes, to their steamy kiss in Bella’s bedroom:
- Edward Cullen – I wasn’t crazy about Kristen Stewart as Bella, mainly because her acting felt very one-dimensional to me (same way I felt about her in Jumper – awful movie by the way). However, as I mentioned above, I felt like she and Pattinson had good on-screen chemistry. I was wary of seeing young, fresh-faced Cedric Diggory turn all dark and brooding vampire, but Pattinson did a nice job. I don’t consider him the most beautiful man in the world, or even close to it (something about his nose and eyes isn’t quite symmetrical enough to fit the classic idea of physical perfection, but I digress), but he exuded strength, restraint, and ferocity just beneath the surface of those furrowed brows, brooding thoughts, and dark eyes.
- The Baseball Game – I thought the impromptu game of vampire baseball was weird when I read it in the book, but since I knew it was coming in the movie, I actually enjoyed it. It did a nice job of showing how the Cullens have fun together and use their special abilities to their advantage, and it also set up the subsequent conflict. For a brief moment, Bella and Edward and his family were content, laid back, and really thinking that everything was going to work out.
- The High School Scenes – Just because I liked these scenes doesn’t mean I liked the actors (I found Mike, Jessica, and Eric very annoying, and Angela was only slightly better). I’ve always had a soft spot for teeny bopper flicks, and this movie had scenes that were reminiscent of that genre. We had the cafeteria moment when Bella got the “who’s who in school” lesson, with the focus on the mysterious Cullens. (You’ve gotta love the overabundance of slow motion camera work that always goes into these moments). And the science class scenes reminded me of the tv show Roswell, since it was during science lab that Liz Parker and alien Max Evans got to know one another. The best part of the high school segments were those in the parking lot. The awkward stares, the furtive glances, the suspicious looks – oh, and the whole out of control van incident that really kick-started Bella and Edward’s relationship.
What I Didn’t Like:
- Jacob Black – Um, since when do poor kids living on a reservation have shiny, flowing hair right out of a shampoo commercial and perfect pearly whites? I suppose the casting director was all about making the cast easy on the eyes, but I just wasn’t buying Taylor Lautner in this role. I expected Jacob, especially in this first installment of the series, to be scrawnier, a little less confident, etc. I can’t believe Lautner is only 17! Actually, a lot of the teens in this movie really are still in their teens, even though they look older. I guess that works well for the teen vampires, since it helps establish that they have been around for a long time. Anyway, I don’t have anything against Lautner as an actor. He was okay in his role on the short-lived My Own Worst Enemy. And maybe I will like him better in New Moon. Mostly I was too distracted by his perfect appearance to believe him in the role of love-sick Jacob.
- Carlilse – When Peter Facinelli first appeared on screen in this movie, when Bella was in the hospital, I couldn’t believe how comical he looked. The fake blond hair, the rosy cheeks, the painted lips, the turquoise shirt – he looked more like a Cirque du Soleil performer than an ancient, noble-hearted vampire. What was that?! Why couldn’t they cast someone with naturally blond hair, and kinder eyes, to play Carlilse, who was one of my favorite characters in the series? They turned him into a caricature. I’m used to seeing Facinelli play the creepy, arrogant type, so it was hard for me to accept him as a humble, wise father figure to a clan of “vegetarian” vampires. Such a shame. This is not the image of Carlilse I had in my mind:
- Rosalie – Another of the Cullens whose movie-version I didn’t like was Rosalie, played by Nikki Reed. Based on other photos I’ve seen, Reed seems to be a natural brunette, so maybe that was part of my problem, since something was off about her blond hair. Mostly, though, she just didn’t possess the breathtaking beauty that Rosalie is supposed to have. Not to say that Reed is unattractive, but her features have a certain harsh quality, and I expected Rosalie to be more graceful.
- The Trio of Bad Vampires – Certain aspects of the movie were cheesy, including the glittering effect of the sunlight on Edward’s skin, the flashback to the Quilheute tribe’s origins when Jacob was telling Bella about the legend of the pale ones, and pretty much anything having to do with Laurent, James, and Victoria – the three vampires who infringe upon the Cullens’ territory and start killing its inhabitants. Talk about campy. The way these three would zoom in and say silly one-liners, crouch like animals, and have a spontaneous wind and fog always blowing around them, was quite comical. Were we supposed to be afraid of them, because I certainly wasn’t. Rachelle Lefevre is too sweet, girl-next door looking for me to believe her as the fierce, vengeful Victoria. Plus, she looked ridiculous in all that fur. Edi Gathegi did a decent job as Laurent, but I also didn’t care for Cam Gigandet as James. He’s supposed to be a cunning, ruthless tracker, but instead he came across as a punk who was mostly talk.
- The Shoddy Camera Work – I’m referring specifically to the jerky camera movement during scenes in which characters were having conversations (as opposed to action-oriented sequences, which I was okay with). These scenes, mostly indoor ones, were very distracting. It was as if someone was filming with a hand held video camera, which was unnecessary and out of place in scenes where your focus should be on the characters’ dialogue rather than on the disorienting, shaking position of the camera. Sometimes it almost seemed like the cameraman was nodding off – not surprising really, since much of the dialogue was quite boring.
- The Soundtrack – This movie came across as flat to me. Part of that was due to a stale screenplay, and wooden acting, but it also didn’t help that many of the scenes lacked background music. I’m talking about instrumentals. There was plenty of pop music, which is typical of today’s teen movies, but I found those songs more distracting than involving. The most effective scenes, musically, were when Edward played Bella’s song on the piano, and when they danced to “Clair de Lune” in his bedroom (by the way, I wish my room looked like that!). That music was nice to listen to, and in both cases, the entire scene was understated, which acted to enhance the emotional impact. All the Guitar Hero-type, edgy music that played during the evil vampire trio’s scenes was just silly. I would have preferred more classical instruments, and less obnoxious, throwaway pop music.
- The Rushed Climax – One of my issues with the books has always been that the climaxes are less than stellar, and sometimes lackluster. That being said, the pivotal events in Twilight were enough to keep me turning pages until the end. Can’t say the same for the movie. If you blinked, you missed the crucial conflict. The gang is playing baseball. The wind blows Bella’s hair. Oops. James is bent on tracking her now. Suddenly, Bella is in Arizona, sneaking away from Alice and Jasper, and falling into James’ ballet studio trap. A few broken mirrors and a bonfire later, we’re waking up with Bella in the hospital, and all is once again right with the world. Maybe if the writers had spent less time having Charlie and Billy act ridiculous (“I’m down with the kids.” “Yeah, you’re the bomb”), or less time with Jessica bragging about her cleavage, they could have created more suspense and drama about the Cullens trying to protect Bella from James.
- The Beginning and the Ending – I’m not talking about the overall story here. I’m referring to the opening and closing scenes. Bella’s narration at the beginning was fine, as she explained why she was moving from Phoenix to Forks. However, why show us the deer running in slow motion, and then (presumably) Edward closing in on it? What is the symbolism they are going for there? Is that supposed to represent Bella and Edward, or Bella being tracked? I didn’t get it, and I didn’t like it. As for the ending, I didn’t mind Edward and Bella’s prom dance in the gazebo, but when it panned up to Victoria watching them from a window, and then zoomed out to show her walking (in slow motion, accompanied – of course – by some rockin’ guitar chords) down some stairs with a vengeful look in her eyes, I had to roll my eyes. She didn’t look like a spiteful vampire who had just lost her lover. She looked like a little girl playing dress up in her mom’s formal wear, who was about to go steal some jewelry out of mom’s dresser drawer. This final scene simply didn’t leave me with the impression of foreboding that I think the director was going for.
- So the points above are the things I liked or disliked about the movie, and everything that I didn’t mention falls somewhere in between.
- I am indifferent about the other Cullens in the movie. In this first installment they don’t have much development anyway. Esme (played by Elizabeth Reaser of Grey’s Anatomy fame), only had a few spoken lines, Emmett mostly jumped around a lot (Rosalie even called him her monkey man), Jasper just stared at everyone with a wide-eyed, empathetic look on his face (I thought that was rather decent casting since Jasper can affect people’s emotions and such – that actor has very large, emotive eyes!), and Alice had the right mix of small stature and spunky personality. We’ll see how well these actors fare in the New Moon movie.
- I already mentioned that I thought the interaction between Charlie and Billy was silly, and these two actors weren’t given much decent material to work with. Then again, those characters are rather dorky in the book, too, so maybe the writers were just being true to the source material.
- The plot was about as scattered as I expected: the random scenes of the evil vampire trio killing unsuspecting victims, the inane conversations Bella had with her “normal” friends at school, Edward’s awkward introduction of Bella to the family at their house, etc. Overall, though, the movie seemed to carry over the atmosphere and important plot points of the novel.
- The super-speed effects – I’ve heard people make fun of the vampires’ warp speed and their tendency to sparkle in sunlight. Edward’s sparkling diamond moment was pretty bad, but I didn’t mind all the speedy gonzales moments. It was pretty weird, though, when he started climbing all those trees with spider monkey Bella on his back:
This movie was just average – nothing special, but not completely awful. People who read the book will enjoy the movie. People who don’t know anything about the book will wonder what all the fuss is about after watching the movie. People who like vampire mythology will find some interesting food for thought in Twilight. And people who like to watch cheesy teen movies will find much to amuse themselves. It’s pretty to look at, but sometimes painful to listen to. So, not bad for a popcorn movie, but definitely not at all award worthy.