November 27, 2008

Movie Review: Twilight

twilight1_smallA teenager moves to a new town, but not by choice. Said teen is sullen, doesn't get along well with others and would rather be any place else. That is until a meeting with someone of the opposite sex. It is a meeting that will forever change both of their lives. They are almost immediately taken with each other, but it takes a few dance moves to get them into time. This is when the true danger of their union becomes apparent. However, despite all of the hardships set before them, they are set to take on the dangers that the vampires present them with.

Sounds a bit like Twilight, doesn't it? It isn't. That was a bit from the description of the 1987 vampire hit The Lost Boys. This is one of the two films that kept floating through my head as I watched Twilight unfold on the screen before my eyes. The other? That would be the 2006 release of The Covenant. This is not a good thing, as that film fell pretty close to the bottom of that years releases. It concerned the Sons of Ipswich, essentially teenage warlocks with addictive supernatural powers and their classmates at an exclusive private school.

twilightpic1As for Twilight? Color me unimpressed. Of course, I was completely unaware of the book series, nor their apparently immense popularity. This is a fact that became abundantly clear the closer to release we got, as I read about hundreds of screenings selling out weeks in advance of opening night. Even reading that I did not believe it would be that big, but it was a piece of anecdotal evidence that really drove home the fact it was becoming something of a phenomenon. That fact would be the local theater selling out not one, but two midnight screenings topped by the 7:30 screening on Friday night selling out at least a day in advance. A second nail was driven home when I traveled an hour to see Bolt in 3D and witnessed a huge line of Twilight fans waiting to get in for the prime seats. It was something else, I tell you.

I went in with pretty low expectations, I mean, the trailers did look pretty bad (which fed my disbelief of the hype that was forming around it). As the film wore on I quickly discovered I was not the target audience (well, duh. I had an idea going in, but still). I have enjoyed other films that did not target my demographic, so why not this? For one thing, I found it to be rather dull and lacking in genuine conflict.

TwilightAs the story begins we learn that Bella Swann (Kristen Stewart) is moving in with her father in the small Washington State town of Forks, which seems to be in a perpetual state of cloud cover (perfect for vampires who like to avoid direct sunlight). She is a stand offish, clumsy, and really does not fit in with the rest of her classmates. In particular, the Cullen clan of odd adopted kids who seem to come and go as they please, but among them is Edward (Robert Pattinson), the pretty, single one of the pale faced clan.

There are a ton of characters introduced during the two hour movie, but Bella and Edward are the only ones that matter, although the screenplay seems to want you to believe the others mean something (I guess that comes in the sequels). Anyway, Bella and Edward exchange long, lustful glances that seemingly last for hours (if you cut them out, the movie would probably struggle to make it to the hour mark). Before long, well, before too long Edward is outed as a vampire, but one of the nice kind that doesn't drink human (described as being a "vegetarian"). This only attracts Bella more, apparently she likes pale, icy skinned boys that wear lipstick (he is wearing lipstick, right?). As it turns out, Edward likes her too, she smells like a good meal, one that he has been watching since she was young, going so far as to slip into her room to watch her sleep (sounds like a creepy stalker, he is also considerably older).

twilightpic11This romance goes on for awhile. They exchange glances, endure awkward visits with the family, and come close to going too far (oh, the overtones). We get to see Edward demonstrate his abilities like running, climbing, and the way his skin gets glittery in the sunlight (oohh, pretty!). The dating scene goes on and on, with no conflict arising until we are past the mid-point, but by then it was too little too late. Not to mention the attempt to add a larger scope with some mentions of treaties with Native Americans with the added mention of wolves (hmmm, related to the Underworld rivalry?).

A trio of meat-eating vampires arrive on the edge of a thunderstorm while our good-vampire clan play baseball (I know, I thought it was silly too). A bad vampire gets a whiff of a human snack and the hunt is on. This is what passes for conflict in the world of Twilight (why is it called that again? They can come out during the day). The inevitable confrontation comes, and considering this is a series, guess who wins? We get some dancing and a conclusion that is a tease for the next film while having no impact here.

twilightpubaWhat can I say? This movie was dull. It is punctuated with poor acting and a poorer script. I particularly liked the "You're my brand of heroin" line. Dialogue was at best laughable and at worst unimportant. There was no real conflict, no one of any depth to care about, much less root for. Beyond that, I cannot say I much like this take on vampire lore, like the sparkly skin, no fangs, random abilities that conveniently when the need for a device to advance the plot is required ("I can read everyone but you," "I can see the future, but it can change" perfect for when you get stuck in a narrative corner).

I am sure some will say that to truly appreciate the movie I need to read the book. If that truly is the case, that just makes this an even worse adaptation than it is a film. Adaptations need to stand on their own, they need to make sense in itself without the need for outside work. Look at the Harry Potter films, they are good films that make sense and stand on their own apart from their source material. Twilight seems to require familiarity with the book. No, it is not hard to follow, it is just hard to care about.

Bottomline. I have seen worse films, so I will not step to that unwarranted level, but I will say that it is not a very good film. It did not involve me as a viewer, it was overlong, dull, and did not really go anywhere. I was obviously in the minority based on the applause at the end (or maybe they were glad it was over too. Nah). The story definitely has its fans, and I am sure they will enjoy what this film has to offer. I didn't.

Not Recommended.


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