18 March 2009

Movie Review: Twilight


2008, 120mins, PG-13
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Writer(s): Melissa Rosenburg, Stephenie Meyer (novel)
Cast includes: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Nikki Reed, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Cam Gigandet
Release Date: 21st November 2008

In the world of the teenage girl Twilight is nothing short of an obsession, a series of books penned by Stephanie Meyer that thanks to its swooning and fantastical central love story has captured the hearts of females aged 12-20 everywhere. Falling outside of that demographic I suppose it’s fair to say that this Vampire romance was not designed with me in mind and for that reason one has to restrain his criticisms and in truth Twilight isn’t a terrible film. As a fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and bloodsucker mythology in general I found things to like about the picture and for its first 40 minutes it does hold you in a trance like fashion but on the whole the plot and characters are to insubstantial to support a feature. This is a problem that might be corrected in sequels where a more epic tale can begin and characterization feel more completed but as an individual piece of cinema Twilight is to fluffy and vacuous to satisfy anybody outside of its rabid fanbase.

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) has been dragged to live with her father in the small and boring town of Forks, a place where little happens and where she is now set to live out the remainder of her teenage years. She loves her father (Billy Burke) and is even given the generous homecoming gift of a second hand truck but overall this quiet and rainy town is too much of a contrast with her old life in Arizona. At school she fares well with the other students and begins to make friends but one person in particular catches her eye, the pale and mysterious Edward (Robert Pattinson) who along with his ridiculously good looking and mysterious family is one of the schools most peculiar assets. After a failed first attempt at making friends with Edward the two slowly form a bond of friendship and then something more. However Edward and his family harbor a secret that is unknown to the rest of the town they are Vampires, albeit ones who only feed upon animals and leave the human beings leave. As Edward and Bella get closer and her family begin to accept her everything is looking peachy but trouble is never far away with Vampires, a rival clan of bloodsuckers have just crashed the local scene and they’re none too pleased with Edward and Bella’s romantic relationship.

As a romance Twilight is far more successful than it is as a supernatural thriller, granted at times things get a little to dreamy and saccharine but essentially the love arc works. On the other hand the sparse action scenes and laughably executed chase finale are limp; the movie never cooks up tension or excitement beyond the relationship of its two central characters. That again will probably be enough to ensure that Meyer’s fans are appeased but for those looking for a more rounded cinematic experience the uneven quality control and tone are bound to frustrate.

In the lead roles both Pattinson and Stewart are reasonably good, one suspects the former is maxing out his abilities but for the purposes of this role he gets the job done. Stewart is given the double whack of having to lead and narrate the story a task the young actress performs well, she is engaging and rarely irritating a nice duet for a 21st century youngster to boast. I wouldn’t go as far to say that the chemistry between her and Pattinson sizzles-more simmers, but in the end of the day the romance is believable and the pair makes a decent onscreen couple. As Stewarts father Billy Burke gets alot of the movies best lines but the script never really develops him into a proper character, similar complaint could be made of Edwards’s family who are badly written rather than poorly performed. An exception can be made for Nikki Reed playing the sibling who is reluctant to accept Bella, she gives the part a bit of sass and energy in a film lacking in it. The movies bad guys are weak, the primary one portrayed by Cam Gigandet as a vampire with super senses determined to feed on Bella. Gigandet hams it up big time as what has to be one of 2008’s least intimidating villains, and in the same year as Quantum Of Solace, Max Payne and Vantage Point that is a pretty competitive mini league.

I quite enjoyed Twilight’s beginning but as soon as things got dramatic and the ropey special effects start to occur it becomes tiresome and it’s lightweight story cripples under the increasing runtime. One suspects that at 80 minutes Hardwicke might have been pressed to have the story satisfy the runtime and so her choice to extend the movie to two hours is baffling. The overstretched finish is undercooked and unexciting whilst despite being largely enjoyable the central romance could still be as successful with 10 minutes shaved off. Pacing is a skill Hardwicke will need to develop for the future, because on this evidence her concept of the art isn’t great.
Fans of vampire lore are actually going to be impressed by the painting the film portrays of the mythical beasts, the prospect of a bunch of do-gooding vamps isn’t that appealing but Hardwicke and screenwriter Melissa Rosenburg have actually done a good job peppering the story with little additives to the Vampire legend. Alot of these I quite liked and the despite largely playing the heroes the script never neglects to highlight the internal struggle these creatures suffer in the company of a potential meal. You may not like the film but ultimately you can’t deny they treat the Vampire lore with an admirable degree of respect.

On the whole Twilight is at best average and to flawed to ensure that those beyond the books fanbase buy into a prospective franchise. The central premise is well handled but little else can make the same boast, the plot is thin, the action tame and the special effects largely shoddy with some truly dire wire work thrown in. I can’t say that Twilight is worth the trip to the multiplex unless you’re already in love with the characters or story, but hopefully in a few movies time the problems will be fixed and this will turn into a more sprawling adventure that we can all enjoy. That’s definitely not the case at this early juncture however.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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