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Twilight (2008) **

October 12, 2009

written by: Melissa Rosenberg (based on a novel by Stephanie Meyer)

produced by: Wyck Godrey, Greg Mooradian & Mark Morgan

directed by: Catherine Hardiwicke

Rated PG-13 (for some violence and a scene of sensuality)

122 min.

U. S. release: November 22, 2008

DVD & Blu-Ray release date: March 21, 2009

It’s been said before that some books should not be made into films. Not having read the book, I couldn’t tell you how that applies here. I’m told by loyal and rabid fangirls of the brooding teen world writer Stephanie Meyers has created that the book is better. There’s no way a film adaptation of such a beloved series of books could hold up to the frenzied fervor that females (are there any guys as smitten?) across the nation (maybe the globe, I’m not keeping up) display. That could be why those of us who have not read a Harry Potter book can easily enjoy the films. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for this film.

The story starts by introducing us to Bella (Kristen Stewart), a Phoenix teen who for some reason has decided to try living with her father in Forks, Washington. It’s a small town known for rain and tree-hugging clouds. Not only does she have to figure out life with her police chief dad (Billy Burke) but also has to assimilate herself into the local high school.

Surprisingly, she finds some warm and welcoming kids there but then she’s struck upside the head by the looks of pasty-faced hunk, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a rude kid with severe social issues. Obviously, she’s pulled in by his mystery rather than his personality. So much for girls wanting a guy with a sense of humor. He probably likes her cuz she’s just as pale but the film never bothers to expand on the inner workings of this Johnny Suede heart throb. But apparently, it’s Edward’s fault cuz as a vampire he exudes chick magnet pheromones that are hard to resist. While all the dreamy drama plays out, bodies start to pile up in surrounding counties and we know who the killers have to be. Hey, a vampire’s gotta feed.

After Edward saves Bella from certain death (that seems to exist to showcase Edward’s powers), it doesn’t take long for her to do the math and say “vampire” to his face (at his request, no less).

It doesn’t take long for Bella to fall for this immortal enigma even after he brings her to meet his family in the mountains. This, along with the thunder baseball scenes (who knew vampires love to smack a few balls outta the park?) turns out to be one of the few hilarious scenes, intentionally or not. At least his family have made the decision to be vegetarians, eating strictly animals instead of humans. Unlike the trio of rival vampires making the Cullen family look bad.

While Edward and Bella sit in a tree (no literally) and prancing around in public, evil vampire tracker James (the inane Cam Gigandet), can’t seem to get enough of Bella’s sent after that baseball game and is now hungry like the wol, er….wait.

Well, there ARE Native Americans that have a back “story” relating to actual werewolves. One of them, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), a childhood friend of Bella’s is actually one of the more likeable characters in the film, as is his father, but we’ll see more of them in the sequel. Now Stewart is an actor I like cuz I see potential in her each time I see her act. But she really needs to reach out in a totally different direction altogether. How many times can we see her as a troubled, annoyed and awkward teen?

I found the film to be a self-conscious and sleep-inducing fiasco. How much brooding and longing are we expected to handle? I guess I prefer tragic or cool vampires over emoting top models. It could be director Catherine Hardiwicke’s fault that this film essentially winds up being a misfire. Maybe she was picked cuz she has previous experience working with young actors, like in “The Nativity Story” and “Thirteen”, but she is missing any element that would make us care about the two leads. In a fantasy/horror setting that element is kinda essential.

To outsiders like me, I felt this film assumes most of the audience is already in on it and drinking the bloody Kool-Aid. I had a hard enough time wrapping my brain around how fast everyone can get from Forks to Phoenix….in cars! I hope Meyers story is more thought out and that the vampires are more complex than what we see here….at least, I hope so.

I’m told that Hardiwicke is to blame for the problems this film has and maybe she is the main problem but she didn’t taking the “bite” out of this film herself. Her color palette and lighting feels appropriate for the tone and environment but the lack of characterization here is what really hurts the film. After all, its clear this film is not about vampires but rather another story involving “two teens on the wrong side of the tracks” told in a trendy genre. Therefore, it’s these two that need a more fully-realized transition to screen. If Hardiwicke could only have “culled” more from the book about the inner workings of the two leads, at least Bella, then viewers may have had more to work with.

The worst thing Hardiwicke has done though is make Pattinson an undeserved star. Clearly it’s due to his looks alone cuz his Edward doesn’t do much beyond brooding, zip-lining through the air and growling. I’ll give the guy a break though cuz now he is doomed to always be Edward. Here’s hoping he’ll be able to stretch his acting chops. The best thing Hardiwicke could’ve done is motivate someone like me to read Meyers books and then go back and watch the movie. Rinse and repeat. Well, I already have a stack full of other books calling my name. Despite disappointments in the book’s screen adaptation, there’s clearly still something about the film that makes fans insatiable loyalists.

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