Director: Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown)
Writer: Melissa Rosenberg
Producer: Wyck Godfrey, Greg Mooradian, Mark Morgan, Karen Rosenfelt
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Cam Cigandet, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Ashley Greene
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 122 min
When it was announced that Stephenie Meyer’s wildly successful book “Twilight” was being adapted for the big screen, no one seemed to pay much attention but when fans started to buzz at the possibility of seeing their favourite (and for many, their first) sweeping romance on the big screen, the media took note. And who can blame them? Out of the woodwork came a devoted legion of fans, mostly female, ready to react with the fervour usually reserved, and expected, from fanboys; watching every trailer, reading every new tidbit of information, carefully dissecting and discussing every photo. Were the fans, a group of teens and women, vindicated by the greatness of the film adaptation? In one word: no, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a fan who didn’t walk away satisfied with what they saw.
It’s a simple story: girl meets boy, boy is apparently unattainable, boy and girl eventually fall in love. At its core, Twilight isn’t a vampire story; it’s an age-old tale of lovers divided. In the past these tales revolved around feuding families or class inequality but in this case it’s vampirism. What could be more dividing than the thought that you could be devoured by the man you love? Perhaps it speaks to the sensibility of the masses that love isn’t easy. There are hurdles to jump and often, giving up is easier than giving in but the fact that these two, Bella and Edward, stick it out suggests that sometimes, love is worth a fight to the death.
The film is a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the novel. The key players are all here as is all the action but it’s lacking the most important element: the character development. Melissa Rosenberg’s script touches on all of the main plot points and introduces the key characters but her script fails to create whole people out of them. Even Bella and Edward, the romantic duo, are only lightly shadowed. From scene to scene I found myself recalling the novel, filling in the blanks left by the script – the interactions between Bella and Mike, the tension with Jessica and the awkwardness of meeting the Cullen’s. There are vague attempts to fill in some of these blanks but these are left mostly to Bella’s limited voiceover and in every case, it is focused specifically on Edward. That leaves the young cast with the daunting task of filling in the blanks with their performances and the results are mixed.
For the most part, the supporting cast of “human” players, manage to capture the basic traits of their characters but given little dialog and small scenes, it’s impossible to make a clear assessment of who they are and what they want. As for the Cullen’s, they’re at an even greater disadvantage because they don’t even fit the typical teen “molds” and the film fails to distinguish between them other than to note that Rosalie doesn’t like Bella while Alice is keen on the opportunity for a new friendship. And then there are the leads. Kristen Stewart adequately captures the ferocity and passion of her character while Robert Pattinson has taken Edward in a slightly different direction then the novel. Though for the most part his direction seems to have read “brooding” and “more brooding”, he manages to create a character that is both removed yet appealing. A large part of it is projection from the novel but when he and Stewart share the screen, the sparks do fly.
Director Catherine Hardwicke, a woman with a knack for telling compelling stories of teens on the fringes (see Thirteen and the not quite as good but still compelling Lords of Dogtown) does a fairly good job of adding a feel of reality to the seriously contrived story and with the help of long-time collaborator cinematographer Elliot Davis, the film looks beautiful. The surroundings are lush, colourful and romantic and there’s a magical realism to the locale. It’s not the bland filmmaking one would expect from a middle of the road blockbuster, there’s serious cinematic talent at work here and it shows in the look of the film. But the reality is shattered by the sub-par effects that local critic Kevin Williamson compared to a ““Smallville” blooper reel.” There will always be an element of silliness to a story set in the “real world” where the supernatural is introduced and here it feels like Harwicke knew that it would look out of place and the film features the minimum amount of the supernatural, which I appreciate, but the scenes that are included are poorly rendered. I would have preferred a more subtle approach, like the opening scene where Hardwicke refrains from showing the movements and simply creates the feeling of the supernatural at play – the less is more would have been more successful.
Admittedly, the expectations weren’t high but Twilight managed to surpass them. Though it plays best as a companion piece to the novel than a stand alone film, it’s not complete rubbish. Non-fans will find a gorgeously shot romance which captures both the innocence and passion of budding love in a classic 50’s style where the kiss is the height of rapture (that “less is more” approach I mentioned before is used to great effect here), while those familiar with the story will be thoroughly engrossed and satisfied by the production.
Click “play” to see the trailer: