Sunday, November 20, 2011

TWILIGHT (2008) - Review

The cinematic adaptation of the famous "Twilight" saga had been in developement hell for three years before eventually being delivered to worldwide audiences in 2008 by director Catherine Hardwicke and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg. This is a bit curious, because studios are usually quick to cash in on material as successful as Stephanie Meyer's books. After seeing this first movie in the series, I am convinced that the biggest problem with the big screen version is pretty much in the process of crafting a convincing transition from written page to moving picture. Did they succeed ? I guess it's all very relative.

The plot is you average Romeo & Juliet affair with a supernatural twist. Seventeen-year-old Bella (Kristen Stewart) moves from Pheonix to the remote coastal town of Forks, to live with her father, Charlie (Billy Burke), after her mother remarried. She eventually fits in among her fellow students, despite not being a very outgoing kid, but her life really changes when she meets Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Edward seem distant at first, but as you may suspect, they eventually warm up to each other ... a lot. Well she does really, because he's a vampire, as in undead, which means he can't warm up. Bella only starts to suspect there's something different about Edward when he stops a van from crushing her like a Final Destination victim, using only his hands.

She soon discoveres his true nature, they fall in love, and, before you know it, Edward introduces Bella to his family of vampires, the Cullens. Also, we find out that Edward is over a hundred years old, but being the immortal creature that he is, he'll forever be 17-years-old, which means he's doomed to be stuck in high-school foerver. As for the Cullens, they're really old too and they aren't the kind of serial killer vampires you remember from other significant works of horror fiction. They made a pact to feed only on animals and avoid harming a single human being. They accept Bella among them, despite the fact that she gives off quite a scent, it seems. It's enough for a vampire to barely catch a whiff of her smell and they go crazy-hungry. Problems arise when three nomadic vampires arrive in the area and put Bella on their menu, which prompt the Cullens to defend the young girl.

Yes, quite an intricate plot isn't it ? It sounds more complicated than it really is, because what it lacks in quality it makes up for in quantity. Lots of characters, lots of dialogue, nothing of real significance. The love story is in focus here and Hardwicke plays the pseudo-goth romanticism with maximum cheesiness. The director has some valid experience with teen angst from her previous works, but nothing she displays here feels as authentic. The mood is generally depressing and the romance feels devoid of any real drama and just aims for the pop-culture effect.

Stewart and Pattinson get some solid chemistry, though, and manage to build serviceable performances, a miracle of sorts, all things considered. The characters are so sketchy and shallow that you'll have a hard time connecting to anything that's happening on-screen. What makes matters worse is how terribly unexciting it is. There's not real suspense, the fight sequences are horribly choreographed and the visual effects are like a flashback to the early days of CGI. The vampires are supposed to be extremely fast, so much so that they can go from point A to point B in the blink of an eye, but the visual effects meant to create this illusion are unconvincing and dull. The only real treat is the beautiful cinematography, which makes the most of the picturesque locations in Oregon.

Overall, this movie works a lot better than the next two, event though that's not saying much, because there's still a sense of discovery attached to it. Even when I was bored out of my wits, or just amused by the silly plot, I was still willing to go on and see what happens next. This is something "New Moon" and "Eclipse" lost, because the plot escalates into absolute absurdity. At this point in the franchise, it's still watchable, but it works better if you're already a "Twilight" fan.

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