Twilight (2008)

Isabella Swan is one gloomy teen.  When we first meet her, she’s an impossibly pale beauty living with her mother and stepdad, a minor league baseball player, in sunny Arizona.  The cheery topics of death and leaving home are very much on her mind.  Instead of joining them on their trip to Florida, she’s off to Forks, Washington instead.  In this dreary small town of 3000 resides her father, the chief of police.  He’s a good man but their relationship is unexplainably strained. 
 
Isabella, or Bella as she prefers to be called, starts attending Forks High School in the middle of second semester.  During one cafeteria lunch hour with her new girlfriends, she learns about the Cullens, an odd clique of students who were "adopted" by the town’s doctor and his wife.  That’s when Edward catches her eye. 
 
So begins Twilight, an overlong, slow-paced melodrama that features one of the most awkward, unconvincing screen romances I’ve ever seen.
 
Edward is played by a terribly miscast Robert Pattinson, the British actor who previously popped up in a couple of Harry Potter sequels.  He looks more like a gay werewolf before the transformation than the "vegetarian" vampire he actually is.  (Vegetarian meaning he drinks the blood of animals, not humans.  Yeah, I didn’t get it, either.)  He also looks too old to be in high school.  However, for some unknown reason, Bella (Kristen Stewart) is drawn to him.  When they first lock eyes, he offers a puzzled glare that seems to say, "What are you looking at?"  I was wondering the same thing.
 
Their next encounter occurs during Bella’s first biology class.  While she’s standing in front of a fan near the front of the room, Edward has an odd reaction.  He seems repulsed and can’t even look at the dark haired cutie.  He soon tries to get removed from the class altogether but to no avail.  Not too long after that, he goes missing for a few days.  When he returns to class, his attitude completely changes.  He’s actually friendly to Bella who is conveniently seated next to him.  But their conversation is far from spectacular.  It’s hard to imagine two other actors having less chemistry together.
 
After Edward saves Bella’s life in the school parking lot, he’s back to the old hot-and-cold routine which inspires the Bella comment:  "Your mood swings are giving me serious whiplash.".  Eventually, Bella learns the real reason for his odd behaviour.  He’s a 90-year-old vampire deeply torn about his feelings.  He wants to grow close to her but worries about losing control and giving in to the temptation that her blood presents.  Curiously, Bella isn’t unreceptive at all to being bitten on the neck despite Edward’s warnings.  (It’s not like her demeanour would change, if she did.  She’s not exactly the life of the party.)  She also doesn’t seem to mind that the guy follows her wherever she goes, is exceedingly nosy and even sneaks into her bedroom to watch her sleep which fascinates him.  (Like the members of his clan, he’s always up and atom.)  He’s also not exactly the warm and fuzzy type.  He can be rather rude at times.  No matter what he does, though, he can’t repulse her entirely.  What a darling couple.
 
Meanwhile, a couple of local citizens have been killed, one of whom (Ned Bellamy) was a longtime friend of Bella’s dad.  (He previously played that scary Vietnam vet that Elaine kept promoting out of fear at the J. Peterman catalogue on an episode of Seinfeld.)  Law enforcement suspects these were animal attacks but the audience knows better.  The real culprits soon make life difficult for Edward, his adopted family and Bella.
 
By the second hour, Pattinson and Stewart continue to have such little heat between them, she has to tell the audience during one of her periodic voice-overs that she’s in love with him.  You would never know otherwise. 
 
Twilight was originally a best-selling novel by the lovely Stephenie Meyer (who makes a brief cameo as herself during one of the diner scenes).  It has to be better than this detached film version.  The beautiful Stewart is reduced to looking and sounding sullen and unhappy throughout the entire picture, even when she falls for Edward or engages with friends and family in a positive way.  Even her chuckle sounds worldweary.  She comes across as very uncomfortable the whole time.  Her Bella is not exactly cold.  She’s more indifferent than anything else.  Her distant personality makes it very difficult to root for her and care for her well-being, especially during the film’s last act when a tracker vampire lays a deadly trap for her. 
 
Taylor Lautner does what he can with the limited screen time he has playing the mysterious Jacob, an old childhood friend of Bella’s who is obviously too friendly and good looking for her to consider as a potential love interest.  If only he looked like a more worn down Adam Lambert and acted like a dick, he’d have a shot.  Billy Burke is effective as Bella’s dad.  It would’ve been nice to learn why they have such an odd relationship, though.  It’s not always awkward between them but we have no idea why they’re not closer.  Did he side with her mom in the divorce?  Was her father a different man back then?  It’s all a frustrating mystery.
 
As for Bella’s new friends, Justin Chon, who plays the overbearing Eric Yorkie, is easily the most irritating.  One wonders how anyone can tolerate him for more than a few seconds.  Peter Facinelli seems a little young to be playing Dr. Cullen, Edward’s vampire father, and as always, he’s too much of a Tom Cruise clone.  (Perhaps he should change his name to Peter Facsimile.)  It doesn’t help that he looks like Lestat from Interview With The Vampire, either, with that blond hair of his.  The other vampires, both good and bad, aren’t terribly memorable and aren’t given much to work with.  How they’re all able to keep their secret in such a small town seems a bit of a stretch.
 
I will say this for Twilight.  It looks great.  There are lots of inviting exterior shots and the film is generally well photographed.  What’s missing is the atmosphere.  For a romance fraught with complications, it’s strangely mute in its old fashioned sensibility.  When Edward and Bella finally kiss in her bedroom, it’s about as convincing as Liza Minnelli and David Gest’s public displays of affection, minus the gag factor.  There is absolutely no chemistry between them.  It feels like the screenplay is more interested in bringing them together than the actors.
 
Because Meyer wrote three more novels involving these characters, more movies in the series are on the way.  (New Moon was released this year and Eclipse is due in 2010.)  With a character actor stiffly pretending to be a leading man and a romance that is utterly without passion or intrigue, the Twilight sequels have their work cut out for them. 
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
7:46 p.m.
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Published in: on December 1, 2009 at 7:46 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great post Dennis, indeed. I was more than disappointed with the way the movie was put together. I feel like the took the ‘meat’ from every chapter, filmed a scene and spliced it together. I would love to have seen what ended up on the editing room floor. I’m sure they could have used a cell here and there to help make the movie flow. I also agree that there was not a lot of chemistry between the two. I can tell you that it changes in the new movie. I expected much of the same quality, or lack thereof, for New Moon and went in with very low expectations…and could not have been more pleased at the quality of this new film. You have to keep in mind, this is fantasy, and geared towards 7-14 year old girls. Sparkling vampires and ‘vegetarian’ vampires are fun, when you consider the alternative. I am a little disturbed however at the image that Bella portrays. She is completely devoted to Edward, and no matter what he does, she is practically groveling at his feet. Quite a scary through when you think that little girls are looking up to. Anyways, I’ll end my babble now, and thank you for post!!!

    Steph

  2. Thanks, Steph. The DVD offers extended sequences and deleted scenes. I don’t know if you’ve seen those or not. Scenes like the conversation in the diner between Bella and her dad (the one where they both reach for the ketchup bottle) and Bella checking out Edward’s music collection (where they end up dancing to Claire De Lune in his bedroom) feature a bit more dialogue. In my view, seeing all that discarded material didn’t change my overall feeling about the characters, the scenes and the film as a whole. Had any or all of it remained in the final cut, it would’ve just added to the already long running time. Nothing truly significant was lost. No alternate takes or bloopers were included in the package, unfortunately. The ultimate problem with adapting a novel for the movies is time limits. Unless, you can afford a two-fer (it took two movies to fully adapt Mario Puzo’s The Godfather and the last Harry Potter novel is going to be split into two flicks), some sacrifices will have to be made which means cutting down parts of the plot, merging supporting characters into individual composites, etc. I’m very surprised you disliked Twilight and enjoyed New Moon. The sequel has received terrible reviews whereas the original did have its champions. Regardless, I want to see number two and hope to catch it on DVD next year.

  3. […] but come on, she’s never had a winning personality.  In fact, when we first met her in Twilight, she was about as warm as a […]

  4. […] It’s because of this terminally unconvincing romance that I’ve never warmed to any of the four previous films in this […]


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