22 November 2008

Twilight the Movie

I went an saw the Twilight today. Oh, yes, I did. Whether you hate it, love it, or have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure you're wondering what's got teen fans trampling over each other at San Francisco's Stonetown Galleria.

You'd think that the theater would be pretty empty at 10:45 am on a Friday morning, but there was a surprising number of people out to watch Twilight this morning. I guess there are a lot of people dying to see the film, just at a matinee price. There were also more dudes than I expected, a few of them weren't even in tow of some swooning female.

Here's the SYNOPSIS for those of you how have been unexposed to Twilight Fever.

Bella, a pale, accident-prone teen, unaware of her hotness or enticingly fragrant blood, moves to Forks to live with her father, who she has not seen since she was four. Despite the fact that boys at her new school are throwing themselves at her feet, Bella is inexplicably drawn to a classmate (even paler and hotter than herself), a boy who has a tendency to glower at her or just outright threaten her life. Of course, their angst-ridden attraction is complicated by the fact that, said boy, Edward Cullen, is a vampire (Shh, don't tell.). Sure, the story sounds simple, but the possibility of a romance is further complicated by a gang of predatory mallrats, busybodies from the "Res", and a coven of menacing vampires, who are not that into baseball. Will Bella ever find out that Edward is a vampire? (Of course) Will Edward turn Bella into a vampire? (One can only hope) Will Bella and Edward go to the prom? (But, she doesn't have anything to wear!)

So, what did I think of the film? I'm glad you asked...

First of all, I should note that it is rather difficult to adapt the Twilight novel into a film, for several reasons: 1) Because, it's pretty long. 2) The vampires are described as "inhumanly beautiful." Good luck casting an inhumanly beautiful human. 3) A large part of the novel relies on the narrator's introspection. I have to give props to the screenwriter (Melissa Rosenberg) and director (Catherine Hardwicke) for taking on such a daunting task, especially knowing that die hard fans will tar and feather you if you mess up their beloved book.

The film is not mind-blowing, but it didn't make me want to blow out my brains either. It wasn't bad, actually. Despite her penchant for out-of-place close-ups and these awkward, sepia-toned, iMovie quality flashback sequences, the director was able to depict a seemingly genuine portrayal of teen life in a smalltown in Washington. Bascially, to my relief, the film never felt liked "Vampire High School Musical." Maybe it was due to the lack of sunlight, but there was an unexpected sense of gritty realisim. (By "gritty" I mean Law & Order SVU gritty). Despite its fan base, the film, for the most part, didn't feel like it was catering to a teen audience. The filmmakers also did a good job of capturing all that the Twilight novel has to offer - romance, suspense, action, and a bit of fantasy and folklore. There's even a bit of intentional humor (thanks to the screenwriter, I think). It's a smorgasbord of genres!

I hesistate to say that a person who is not familiar with the novel will enjoy the film. I think one area where the film falls short is the intensity of Bella and Edward's attraction. In the movie, Bella comes off as rash and a tad obsessive, while Edward just seems like a big ol's stalker with major mood swings. To a certain extent, this is also true in terms of the novel, but the book also allows you to follow Bella's perspective such that your curiousity about Edward grows along with the narrator until you too become obsessed with Edward Cullen. Bella's feelings for Edward does not translate very well to the big screen. Had I not read the book, I probably would have sat there thinking, that girl is to cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

Another notable weakness of the film were the casting choices. To my surprise, I really liked Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen. I had seen all those photos of him looking scruffy and unwashed, but he was quite swoonworthy in film. He did a fine job of portraying Edward's conflicting emotions, and looking naturally pale, I might add. In contrast, I had thought that Kristin Stewart would do a decent job as Bella Swan, so I was quite disappointed. She may look the part, but she has a really peculiar way of acting. Whenever the character got a little agitated, she'd break into this stilted manner of speech, a cross between a stammer and asthma attack. It was very distracting. As for the rest of the Cullens, the actors were adequate, but forgettable. Even the villains were lackluster, but I attribute that to their bad hairdos.

This leads me to my biggest beef with the film: the bad hair. I'm not even lying. The hair in the film really bugged me. I would have enjoyed the film significantly more if I hadn't been so distracted by the bad hair on the supporting cast. If it was so important to keep the supporting characters blonde, as described in the book, then the director should have hired more convincing blondes. The bleach jobs were atrocious. You'd think that after centuries of life, vampires would find a shade of hair that complimented their powder white skin. Also, Alice (one of the cooler characters in the novel, but kind of lame in the film) had a terrible soccer mom hair cut that also kind of drove me bonkers.

This film can be enjoyed by a wider audience, but I think it would be better appreciated if you read the book first. I know that a lot of people like to criticize the book and pass it off as inane teen fare, but I think it's a cool little book. I'm not heralding it as the next literary masterpiece, but I've taught in the classroom a number of times, and all of my students have loved it. In addition to all the romance and suspense, I think young readers can also connect to Bella's and Edward's self-consciousness, lonelinesss, sense of being different, and attraction to the forbidden. Plus, there's something interesting about loving someone who brings out the best and the worst in you.

I know there are a lot of Twilight haters out there, but I just have to say, don't front. You know that you went out and read New Moon (and Eclipse and Breaking Dawn), all the while, telling people that you just wanted to know how the "train wreck ended" or that you "wanted a good laugh."

You don't have to lie. We know that you got bitten.


Anonymous said...

why, is a vampire in high school??
Vampires are all super old, right?
And vampires can not have children.
they should set the story in another dimension, say an alternative time line. Robert Jordan's(may he rest in peace) wheel of time novel is a better example of good fantasy fiction.

Anonymous said...

hey you should start another blog - just on critiquing movies. i think your insight and comments about the movies you watch are quite entertaining and informative. meaning you're not shy about sharing your opinions, and seem to do a fairly good job of summarizing the film. in fact you could announce the film that you are planning to watch - if you know far in advance enough, then invite a guest "critic" or have several rotating ones, and whalah - another sisket & ebert, ebert & roeper... it would be fun to see comments from you - against someone else... meaning similar, opposite, no clue about them. but i guess it would depend how often you do go see films, but you could always review "dvds" too.

yet another project...lol.


Anonymous said...

i agree, please post if u do