Genre: Fantasy Running Time: 2 hrs. 2 min.
Release Date: November 21st, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Catherine Hardwicke Actors: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Cam Gigandet, Rachelle Lefevre, Peter Facinelli, Anna Kendrick, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone, Ayanna Berkshire, Edi Gathegi, Elizabeth Reaser, Billy Burke
he fact that Catherine Hardwicke’s “Twilight” (based on Stephenie Meyer’s pop culture phenomenon) is not completely appalling is perhaps its greatest achievement. This is especially true for audiences unfamiliar with the impossibly huge following the novels have garnered, which spans the gamut from teenage girls to middle-aged moms. But after viewing this plodding, contemporary spin on “Romeo and Juliet,” it is absolutely apparent that a suitable way to portray a vampire’s tremendous strength and lighting speed is nonexistent – at least for the visual effects designers of this sad production.
Young Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) leaves the sunny familiarity of Phoenix, Arizona to live with her disaffected father Charlie (Billy Burke), the chief of police in Forks, Washington. Going to a new school in the middle of the semester initially proves daunting for Bella, even though a group of unusually sociable kids (including Angela Weber, Eric Yorkie, Mike Newton, and Jessica Stanley) immediately befriend her. Generally preferring solitude, she has her eye on biology partner Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a 17-year-old boy whose unnerving mood swings, odd eye-color changes, inhuman speed, and unbelievable strength are incredibly off-putting to say the least.
As her fascination for him grows, he reciprocates occasional feelings, becoming overly protective and falling for her in return. Over an hour into the film, the dark secret behind Edward’s abnormalities is finally revealed – he’s a centuries-old vampire. Though that’s hardly a secret for anyone who has ever heard of the novel “Twilight” and its sequels, or for anyone who has glimpsed the theatrical trailers. But Edward’s family of vampires isn’t the standard breed of coffin-sleeping bloodsuckers. They don’t need sleep, they possess astonishing agility and swiftness, and they’ve learned to steer their appetite for blood toward animals alone (“vampire vegetarians” of sorts). Edward can also read minds, while his other family members have supernatural powers such as envisioning the future. As Bella and Edward fall deeper into love, a dangerous group of outsider vampires (or, standard vampires) decides to engage in a thrill-of-the-hunt battle over Bella’s tantalizing human blood.
Narrated by Bella, “Twilight” doesn’t quite seem to capture the appeal of the novel, especially in the lengthy romantic sequences between the ill-fated couple. When the mushier love scenes illicit giggles from fans, it’s evident that what is intended to be serious in the film isn’t always received that way by audiences. And “Twilight” is essentially one long love story, mimicking Shakespeare’s classic “Romeo and Juliet” pretty consistently, with its only, slight component of originality lying in the use of monsters (which has already been done plenty of times before, such as with werewolves in “Blood and Chocolate,” and with vampires in “Underworld” and “Near Dark”). Here, there’s a somewhat more human side to the mythical creatures of the night as the Cullen vampires try desperately to avoid being the bad guys. But the great twist, surprise ending, or unpredictable revelations that one might assume must be contained within this saga of indescribable fandom never comes. Even with munificent amounts of humor, believable chemistry, and enjoyable performances, it is still a plainly generic romantic melodrama.
With talks of sequels taking place before this first film was even finished, there’s no doubt that “Twilight” will make ungodly amounts of money, regardless of negative criticism, based simply on how many people are already familiar with the source material. It could be said that “Twilight” is the next “Harry Potter” series in terms of crazed fandom. But for all of its baffling appeal with young girls and older women alike, and it’s stark lack of innovation, the biggest downfall is the special effects – wireworks through trees, vapor trails to show speed, sparkles for diamond-like skin, and time-lapse and harnesses for gravity-defying nimbleness. Several of the scenes in which Edward must utilize his super powers garner laughter even from the most diehard fans. And one would think that they would be the ones taking everything the most seriously.
– Mike Massie