Billy Soistmann

Review: Twilight

In Catherine Hardwicke, Reviews, Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Summit Entertainment, The Forum on November 24, 2008 at 5:28 AM

(This is an article I wrote earlier in the year for another publication. I have estimated a date and added it here late so please excuse any time discrepancies.)

It’s 12:01 a.m., November 21 and the theater is packed. The anticipation is tremendous as the movie begins. Teenagers, young girls, and their moms all squeal with excitement. This is Twilight.

Based on the book by Stephenie Meyer and directed by Catherine Hardwicke (ThirteenLords of DogtownThe Nativity Story), Twilight is the story of Isabella Swan (Kristen Stewart), and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), who happens to be a vampire. After moving to Forks, Washington, to live with her dad, Charlie, Bella meets Edward and “instantly” falls in love.

Edward is weird, yet he is the best-looking guy at school. He stares at her, acts like a jerk, and follows her, even when she goes to a larger city with her friends. When she confronts him, he insists that they should not see each other. After a little detective work and a quick Google search, Bella deduces that he must be a vampire. The rest of the film deals with Edward’s “conflicted” feelings – he loves Bella, but he’s worried that he won’t be able to control his urge to suck her blood.

Twilight has created an enormous amount of hype in the months leading up to the movie. Breaking Dawn, the fourth in the Twilight series sold over 200,000 copies on its first day, August 2. As sophomore Kellie Wood puts it, “People are obsessed with immortality… or something like that.”

Fans have gotten even crazier upon the release of the movie. “Nothing is weirder than a 45-year-old lady coming in to watch the movie and she has every book with her,” says senior Alex Hall, an employee at Movies 10.

After all the hype dies down, after all the anticipation is satisfied, after all the screaming fangirls have left the theater, does Twilight deliver? Is it enjoyable to those who have not been en(twi)lighted?

First of all, is Twilight a action-packed vampire movie? While there are doses of action here and there (and a surprisingly good fight scene during the climax), Twilight is definitely a love story.

The main problems with the movie are the poor directing, shaky soundtrack, horrible special effects, and the overall cheesiness of the film.

The directing was not blatantly horrible, though. However, there were virtually no appealing shots or interesting angles. For example, in one scene, Bella and Edward are in a tree and the camera tracks away from them and sweeps in a circle around the tree. Then it is cut off prematurely, only to be followed by another shot with the same basic motion. In another scene, Edward and Bella are lying in the grass and the camera flies from directly over them and zooms back into the sky. This would have been a great way to conclude the scene, but instead it cuts back to them lying down. Lastly, another mistake is the overuse of slow motion. Several scenes contained slow motion, although only one use of the effect had any real impact.

Also, the soundtrack did not quite fit in with the visuals onscreen during most of the movie. There were some scenes which were enhanced by the soundtrack, such as when Edward and Bella look at each other across the schoolyard, but overall, the music seemed as if it were picked mainly to sell CDs, which it did well when the Twilight soundtrack debuted at number one on the album charts.

In addition, the special effects were awful! The worst effect was the super-speed that the vampires possess. Every time they ran at warp speed, an ugly blur followed them. It was on par with a low-budget, sci-fi TV show, not a 35 million dollar movie. Even worse than the super-speed was when Edward climbs up a tree with Bella on his back. It’s surprising that the special effects team even bothered to paint out the wires. His hands didn’t even touch the tree when he climbed. He just shot up like he was Superman.

Finally, the general tone of the movie was flawed. A large percentage of the movie was unintentionally humorous. The worst offenders were the rival vampires (who actually eat people, not just animals as the Cullens do). When they arrived and confronted the Cullens, they did not come off as a serious threat. In addition to the involuntary cheesiness, there were a few genuinely funny jokes. The movie would have been better had it taken itself more seriously.

However, after these problems there were a few redeeming qualities. The best part of the movie was definitely the Cullens, the coven of vampires that includes Edward. From their first appearance, Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), Esme (Elizabeth Reaser), Alice (Ashley Greene), Jasper (Jackson Rathbone), Rosalie (Nikki Reed), Emmett (Kellan Lutz), and Edward just emanate weird. From their pale skin to their blank faces, they are excellent as the “outcast family that no one likes.”

In addition, Pattinson (Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) did a fantastic job as Edward. He talked in a particular way, stared at Bella just right, and, overall, projected Edward’s peculiar nature perfectly. Also, the supporting cast of Charlie (Billy Burke), Bella’s dad, along with Jessica (Anna Kendrick) and Mikey (Michael Welch) – her school chums – did well in creating the world in which the main characters live. On the other hand, Kristen Stewart didn’t really flesh out Bella’s character as well as she could have. Most of the time, her acting seemed forced, which took away from the story.

While the vampires in Twilight definitely aren’t the vampires of old, they were an intriguing take on an old idea. For example, the Cullens live in Washington because of the heavy cloud cover and therefore, see very little sun. Small details like that were clever and added to the realism of the story. Sophomore Becky Ronan said, “The vampires aren’t stereotypical. You can relate to them.”

However, even these glints of hope cannot rescue what is ultimately a second-rate teen romance. There is so much fertile ground for really intriguing questions that are never explored. Twilight could have been a much better movie had it spent more time on Edward’s internal conflict. Instead, it is given the back seat to Bella falling in love with him. The audience is never shown Edward’s side of the story.

The bottom line is that, while most fans of the books will enjoy the movie, judged solely as a movie, it was only a mediocre teen romance with some vampires thrown into the mix.

Taking into account the 69.6 million dollars of tickets sold domestically during its opening weekend, Summit Pictures announced that they had green-lighted New Moon, the sequel to Twilight. Maybe fans of the book are all the franchise needs after all.

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