STARRING Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Peter Facinelli, Cam Gigandet, Taylor Lautner, Elizabeth Reaser, Sara Clarke
WRITTEN BY Melissa Rosenberg
DIRECTED BY Catherine Hardwicke
*** (out of ****)
I’m flabbergasted I gave this movie three stars, and I’m even more surprised that the movie deserves it. First and foremost, I must say I am not a fan of the TWILIGHT saga; I have read the first two books, skipped the third, and read a detailed synopsis of the fourth (out of curiosity – can’t start a series without wanting to know the conclusion). It was a interesting story, but Stephenie Meyer’s writing really separated me from it: the constant ‘he was so beautiful I felt my eyes lock upon his mighty…mightiness’ or her constant stupidity which comes out of her blinded, insane ‘love’ for Edward – these little things drove me insane. The family dynamic of Bella and Charlie, and the Cullens family – those things kept me interested more so than Bella and Edward’s love (and it’s not because I’m an insensitive dude; I enjoy the occasional romance flick – particularly the 2003 British comedy Love Actually and this year’s Definitely, Maybe). But enough about the book, the movie adaptation is upon us, and holy-potatoes, Batman (!), I enjoyed it.
Teenager Bella Swan (Stewart) leaves her sunny home in Phoenix and moves in with her father Charlie in the rain-filled town of Forks, Washington. Her mother is going on a road trip with her new husband, so Bella elected to get out of the way. At Forks, Bella is the newest sensation: everyone knows about her, and everyone wants to be her friend. Expect one particular dude – the handsome, yet mysterious and reserved Edward Cullen (Pattinson), who appears quite repelled by her mere presence. After a near car crash save by Edward in which he displays superhuman strength, Bella is intrigued by this strange character, and trys to find the truth to who he is. Turns out, Edward is a 109 year-old vampire, and has been 17 for "a while." And the apparent revulsion towards her was actually a internal struggle on his part trying not to kill her because he's so infatuated with her. The two end up striking a relationship because they love each other so, but Bella must confront the dangers of being involved with a vampire (even under the protection of the Cullens, his foster family) while also keeping the whole 'my-boyfriend-is-a-vampire' bombshell from Charlie. Things go fairly not good when a skilled hunter catches Bella's scent, and it ignites a frenzy inside him that he can't control - he must find Bella and take her blood for himself!
Whatever grievances I have with the story, I confess that TWILIGHT works. It successfully blends the romance, the violence, the threats of bad vampires, and the relationships of all the cast members into a nice, well-paced flick. I have one complaint, which considering I thought I would have 50, that's pretty good.
Direction under Catherine Hardwicke (THIRTEEN) is simply splendid. Honestly, the thing that most peaked my interest in seeing TWILIGHT was how they filmed it, and judging from the trailers, it looked rather not-good. Somehow, what I've seen on screen looks terrific, and when the script doesn't deliver the goods, Hardwicke (and the actors) do. Filmed mostly with camera jitters a la BOURNE (though it also reminded me of Frank Darabont's THE MIST, with small zooms every once and a while). One particular shot that made me go 'Woah' is when Edward takes Bella, who is holding onto him Yoda-style, up to the highest point of a tree and they look upon the town and forest; that was nifty. Hardwicke films it gritty, accomplishing a atmosphere of reality that something like this needed. While on the topic of direction, I admit: the editing was excellent. The 2 hour running time flew by, and everything transpired in a well-paced manner.
One aspect the movie lacks (and to an extent, the books did as well) is why Bella is so in love with Edward. Yes, I get that he is so indescribably beautiful, insanely swift and caring, and has this whole charismatic thing going on, but I’ve never truly understood why Bella loves him. Take away him being the pinnacle of gorgeous, and you have a guy who wants to kill you but is trying his damnest to resist (which is admirable and might excite some girls), quite reserved unless he’s spilling his guts about how much you fascinate him (a little weird, but flattering), and this dude also has snuck into your bedroom for a few months to watch you sleep (a world of creepy). Does any of that cry, ‘Oh, Edward! You’re the guy for me!’? I understand Edward’s fascination and infatuation towards Bella, but there’s really nothing I can tell that would peak a girl’s interest (again, aside from the ‘hotness’ factor). In fact, if this wasn’t a heightened romance story, any sane girl would be calling the authorities on this creepy guy who not only stalks but wants to kill you. When NEW MOON comes out, I would love for an explanation of why Bella’s with him to be addressed, but bloody hell, I know it won’t.
However, Stewart and Pattinson’s chemistry is undeniable, that I admit. Their scenes together are filled with intensity; they both brought their passion and attraction to the front, and helped elevate potentially bland scenes (eg, the prom, the meadow scene) and escalated them into some damn fine sequences between two people in love (despite how implausible it may be).
Stewart recently sat down and talked to Entertainment Weekly, discussing the project and how she and Rob approached their performances, and she has ended up delivering not only one of my favorite quotes in a while, but something that sums up their abilities well:
Within the giant cast, there are a few standouts, but everyone is mostly regulated to a few scenes or less, so one can't really adequately comment. First and foremost is Jacob Black (Lautner, TV's My Own Worst Enemy), who once you get past his annoying Predator-like hair, is pretty good as Bella's friend and future love-triange flair (huh, that rhymed). Black plays a more prominent role in the upcoming installments, so let's how he gets a haircut and more scenes to be interesting. The best supporting actor performance is Billy Burke (FRACTURE) as Charlie - this guy was able to convey his love for Bella, while simultaneously keeping the awkward factor when around her, because he's unsure of his ability of being a father and/or what to do. Additionally, the two sequences he has with Pattinson are fantastic, from the loading of the shotgun to accepting Edward, Burke delivers the goods.
"We were like, 'We're going to play this real' and the studio was like, 'But it's fun. Lighten up!''' says Stewart, who launches into an imaginary rant at the studio suits: ''You knew what you were getting when you hired actors who aren't Disney kids! We're actually going to consider the characters, and not just smile on our marks, and hope we're in focus."
Members of the Cullen family have hardly any screentime to develop, but these are my general impressions: Dr. Carlisle Cullen, played by Peter Facinelli, freaks me the hell out when I look at him, though I think it's because of his slicked-back hair; Nikki Reed as Rosalie was annoying in every scene she was in; Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) appeared constipated; Ashley Greene as Alice Cullen is beautiful and underused; Elizabeth Reaser as Esme is your standard beautiful, concerned and caring mom; and Kellan Lutz has nothing to do but look like a wannabe gangsta basketball player.
Cam Gigandent (NEVER BACK DOWN) comes off as nothing more then another pretty chest for the girl's too go ga-ga over, and never strikes any fear into any scene he's in; hell, when he's beating up Bella, there's no menace to it at all. Also, the aging whilst beautiful Sara Clarke, who 24 fans will recognize as the sidious Nina Myers from seasons 1-3, plays Bella's mother. Given two telephone conversation scenes, and two non-phone scene, Clarke hardly gets her duo, but she comes off as a caring mom and not a secret agent, so there's a plus.
The score by Carter Burwell was superb! Thankfully, the complete score will be avaliable 09 December. Initially, the composition reminded me of Alan Silvestri - and that's a compliment. Burwell creates a wonderful sense of menace when necessary, and during intense sequences, a listen to the tracks alone will pump your blood. It's not James Newton Howard or Hans Zimmer level of awesomeness, but I loved it. Next time you watch TWILIGHT (admit it people, you'll be seeing it again), pay attention to the score.
Overall, TWILIGHT wasn't nearly as horrible as I anticipated, and I'm happy for that, because it's a damn good, well-executed flick. It may seem like I have a few harsh things to say about it, but that doesn't mean I don't like it.
Summit Entertainment has just snabbed the rights for the remaining three books, and currently scribe Melissa Rosenberg is hard at work penning the screenplay for NEW MOON, which Summit announced they're starting production on (er, actively putting into production). If they can expound the relationship between Bella and Edward, and hopefully alter some bad bits from the next book (from what I remember, there are some just stupid developments in it), then I'll be one of the people in line in 2010.