a critiQal film review Twilight (2008)

Plot: When her mother sends Bella (Stewart) to live with her father, she meets a mysterious boy named Edward (Pattinson), who's unlike anyone she has ever met. As they get caught up in a unorthodox romance, Bella discovers Edward is a vampire who hasn't aged since 1918.

951 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 45s)

After the huge success of Twilight – and the continued success of the novels – I was interested in finding out what the fuss was all about. So, when a friend at work offered to lend me the 4-part series to listen to while I worked, I jumped at the chance.

Now well into the 4th and (so far) final novel of the series, Breaking Dawn, I still can’t honestly say what all the fuss is about. While Breaking Dawn is actually getting interesting, the first 3 novels (Twilight, New Moon and Eclipse) honestly weren’t that interesting. Sure, they started off decently, and the concept of love between a vampire and a human is novel enough, but they tended to falter in the telling. While they introduced a new take on the mythology – which later expanded to include werewolves – the way they go about it is somewhat frustrating.

Since the entire plot is basically laid out early on, the reader continues to be surprised by main character Bella’s dimwitted-ness, and easily grows tired of her. The rest of the characters do appear more interesting – especially the rest of the Cullen clan – but the plot ventures into areas that just plain don’t make any sense (such as an undying love for an abusive and obsessive friend).

While it’s a decent storyline overall, it’s pitfalls make it not really worth writing home about, and Stephenie Meyer’s writing style leaves a bit to be desired, since it becomes somewhat repetitious over the course of the series. Since I was still befuddled by the huge popularity the series has garnered, I decided to take my friend up on her offer to lend us the DVD. Would the film version be able to satisfy my curiosity as to why this has become such a huge pop culture phenomenon, or would it fail me just as the first three books had?

Kristen Stewart easily slips into the role of Isabella “Bella” Swan, and seems a perfect fit to the character. Unfortunately, this perfect fit doesn’t take her very far, and she doesn’t even seem to be trying that hard to bring any real emotion to her performance. Instead, viewers are left with a rather cut-and-dried repetition of the character, one without any real vitality. Robert Pattinson’s attempt at bringing Edward Cullen to the big screen has a bit more punch to it, but the special effects (mostly centered around his actions, of course) detract a lot from any real draw to his performance.

The rest of the cast is rather non-descript, fitting into the characters without too much real effort on their parts. While the Cullens aren’t the beauties described in the book (in fact, they seem to be nothing more than somewhat pale people who like wearing white), they play their roles decently, if without much real effort. The only exception seems to be Alice Cullen, played by Ashley Greene, as she is the only one that really seems to give some substance to her role – and she isn’t around much to take full advantage of that.

While the idea of vampire/human love is as intriguing as it is in the novels, the film speeds through the beginnings of that love in a way that makes the whole idea seem even more implausible than ever. Seemingly falling in love over the space of a moment or two (only to catch the viewer off guard when Edward mentions it’s been months), the two characters seem to exhibit more characteristics of puppy love than anything else, making it hard for the viewer to really get into the concept of the characters willing to die for each other.

The special effects – the one aspect I was looking forward to most after reading the book – are the biggest disappointment. Whether Edward looks like someone is using the fast-forward button or seeming to float through the trees, slightly above the ground, instead of speed running (with one scene oddly reminiscent of that old “The Price Is Right” mountain climber game), the effects are disappointing throughout. Instead of trying to showcase his movements from Bella’s point of view (as the book does), making him almost too fast for the eye to follow – probably with the use of CGI – the filmmakers decided to go with just hitting fast-forward on their cameras. The effects are easily the biggest disappointment of the film, and give real worry to what will happen when bigger effects are needed in later films.

Maybe the whole reason I’m not grasping why the series is popular is I’m a bit too old. While J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series – and the movies themselves – have appealed to teens and adults alike, the Twilight series seems more aimed at young teens. Or, maybe it’s because I’m a guy, as the novels – and their tale of epic romance – seems to be more appealing to Heather than to myself.

As for me, with the rather disappointing novels in the back of my mind, I really thought Twilight the film was going to be more interesting. Sadly, that wasn’t the case, and the movie fell even further in my estimation than the novel it spawned from.

Still, there may be hope for the film series. While a certain other film series had better source material, even they had a rough time the first go around (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)). Maybe the same will be true for the film versions of New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn.

But will we be at the theaters to see how those future films turn out? Not unless The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009) manages to be a whole lot better than Twilight.

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