- Rated PG-13
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All photos © Summit Entertainment
Reviewed by David Medsker
t would be an understatement to declare that “Twilight,” Stephenie Meyer’s chaste, estrogen-fueled tale of an awkward teen and the vampire who loves her, does not exactly speak to me. The book is overlong by 100 pages or more, and very little happens outside of Bella and Edward, the star-crossed lovers, talking for what seems like weeks. Bear in mind, I am about as big a fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” as you’re likely to find. So I get vampires, teenagers and teenaged vampires; I just don’t get “Twilight.”
But then a funny thing happened: the movie adaptation of “Twilight” righted several of the wrongs in Meyer’s book. The story has a purpose much sooner than before, and there are no extended sequences of talking ad nauseam. The movie’s tone is still way too brooding for something that has so much levity at its fingertips, but that brooding is what made Meyer’s books such a hit. She speaks to the jilted lover in every woman, even the ones who were never jilted. The vote is in: the brooding stays. Sigh.
Kristen Stewart is Isabella “Bella” Swan, 17 years old and a recent transplant from her mother’s place in Phoenix to Forks, Washington, the wettest city in the continental US and home of her father Charlie (Billy Burke). As the new kid in town, Bella attracts the eye of many of her male classmates, but the only one she finds appealing is the unattainable Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), whom her female friends advise her doesn’t date. At first, Edward seems to loathe the sight of Bella, but after an incident in the school parking lot where Bella narrowly escapes with her life thanks to Edward, she begins to suspect he might be, well, different. Sure enough, she discovers that he’s a vampire, and that Edward is in fact as drawn to her as she is to him. But puppy love must wait: another roving group of vampires notices Edward protecting a human, and decides to hunt Bella for sport.
Catherine Hardwicke was a good choice to direct “Twilight.” She understands kids, as her work in “Thirteen” and “Lords of Dogtown” will attest, and she keeps things reasonably grounded here. Of course, the movie has its supernatural elements – and a couple of inexplicable Michael Bay-style shots – but she dishes them out sparingly (the baseball scene rules), knowing that this is first and foremost a love story. The problem is that the love story could have used a little bounce. Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (“Dexter,” “The O.C.”) dramatically improves the dialogue and levels out Edward’s frequent mood swings, but clearly had notes from the studio and author to keep the romance heavy, as in gravity-on-Jupiter heavy. It gets wearisome after a while. For two people that are so much in love with each other, you’d think Bella and Edward were the most miserable people on the planet.
And yet, it’s still lighter than the source material. If she had more screen time, Anna Kendrick would have stolen the movie as Jessica, Bella’s pretty/vacant friend. She is the anti-Bella, and she lifts up every scene she’s in. The Cullen family is well cast, though Nikki Reed just doesn’t work as Rosalie. She has it out for Bella in the book too, but her behavior here is more petulant than hostile. Stewart does the old soul thing rather well, but Pattinson is not so lucky. Indeed, he acts more like a teenager than Bella, and you never get a sense of what she sees in him. And is it just me, or did Jackson Rathbone (Jasper Cullen) not blink once in the entire movie?
“Twilight” is sure to please its rabid fan base, but despite Hardwicke and Rosenberg’s best efforts to broaden its appeal, this does not have the massive crossover potential that the entertainment mags are predicting. It’s a better-than-expected adaption of a mediocre book, hype and cultural phenomenon be damned. Regardless of the box office results, Summit should take pride in the fact that they improved upon the source material. Few movies in history can make that claim.
Two-Disc Special Edition Review:
Summit Entertainment could have just as easily released “Twilight” as a barebones DVD and still made a killing, but the two-disc special edition is a nice thank you to its fans. The audio commentary with director Catherine Hardwicke and stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart isn’t particularly informative, but the 54-minute production featurette (“The Adventure Begins”) remedies that with an in-depth look at making the film. Also included are a handful of deleted and extended scenes (with director introductions), a sneak peek at last year’s headache-inducing San Diego Comic-Con panel, and music videos by Muse, Paramore and Linkin Park.