Outside of a rather devoted fan base, the phenomenon known as Twilight caught many people off guard. However, in the weeks leading into the movie premiere, this snowball gathered steam until it became a supernatural force to be reckoned with, hitting the box office over the weekend to the tune of $70.5 million.
But did the audience get its bang for their buck?
The thoughts on that are somewhat mixed.
Having not read the Stephanie Meyer’s books on forbidden vampire love prior to my own movie going adventure, I wasn’t quite sure how to receive this movie going in. My wife had read the entire series and had been loading me full of information for several weeks prior to the opening, giving me a basic understanding of the plot, as well as where it was leading in terms of continuing the story lines in future sequels. I have to tell you though, that most likely played well to my advantage, as my wife was going to town on inaccuracies in the film; saying this didn’t happen here, that didn’t occur at all, and that relationship was completely different, to name but a few. As an outsider though, I wasn’t bogged down by preconceptions of what the movie needed to be and instead could take it in as it was interpreted by the director. On the other hand, having not read the source material, I was also bogged down with preconceived notions of vampires to the point where some moments didn’t make work for me based on those mythologies.
The film starts off with a decent enough lead-in, setting up the initial reasoning for Bella’s (Kristen Stewart, Into The Wild) move to dreary Forks, immediately creating empathy for the main character by showing that she’s making sacrifices for others right out of the gate. Bella’s move to Forks is met with enthusiasm, as the small town immediately starts clinging to her like a new toy, simultaneously welcoming her while unknowingly pushing the withdrawn Bella away. This apparently helps to set up the introduction of Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire), to whom Bella immediately shows a longing toward, in part due to Edward’s equally withdrawn personality.
From that point, the constant battle of should they be together or shouldn’t they is fought, alongside Bella’s own search for answers about Edward and his family. Once the two finally decide that their future is together, the pace of the film, and the plotline with it, sort of get lost along the way.
For all of the source material that Catherine Hardwick (Lords Of Dogtown) had to work with when directing the film, she seemed more intent on getting the film from point A to point B, without really showing how the characters got there. Lost in the torrid pace of the film were many of the supporting characters, aside from Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) whose main purpose in the film was to set up the sequels rather than further the storyline. You get bits and pieces of the other Cullens, but nothing to substantiate their place in the film or its subsequent follow-ups. They end up serving as more a backdrop or an additional piece of the scenery rather than any characters with depth.
So in terms of acting, discussing the roles played becomes relatively easy, as Bella and Edward are basically the only characters with substance throughout the film. Kristen Stewarts portrayal of Bella is a sort of hit and miss performance, meaning I’d have liked to “hit” her with something because she was “missing” any sort of emotion or likeability. Again, this may have been how she was portrayed in the books, but she came off feeling more drab than Ben Stein; making the viewer wonder out loud which actor was intended to play the undead.
Pattinson easily becomes the focal point of the film, as he seems to sink into his character a little easier. Looking like a cross (no pun intended) of The Fonze and Eddie Munster, Pattinson’s luckily not bogged down by the make-up effects. He’s neither warm nor abrasive, which is something you look for in a vampire role, a character that plays somewhat hard to get while also inviting those to take their chances. You can tell he’s wrestling with his desire for Bella and his own demons throughout most of their interactions.
Overall, the film isn’t poor, as it’s worth the experience of seeing it, but maybe more so as a video rental than a theater excursion. Twilight doesn’t give you the feeling that it will hold up against more contemporary films, making it seem more like a niche film than a serious attempt at maintaining a long-term audience.. Its pace and flow makes it tough to follow at times, making one wonder how many cuts were made to the film to fit it into a two-hour time window. In the end though, I think it will work well for its target audience, as will the news of its recently green-lighted sequel, New Moon. Given a different directorial perspective, I could see this film working better, but in the end, I’m left wondering where the rest of the movie is, as this one felt a little empty.