DVD Release Date:  March 21, 2009
Theatrical Release Date:  November 21, 2008
Rating:  PG-13 (for some violence and a scene of sensuality)
Genre:  Drama, Romance, Thriller, Teen
Run Time:  122 min.
Director:  Catherine Hardwicke
Actors:  Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Peter Facinelli, Cam Gigandet, Anna Kendrick, Taylor Lautner, Michael Welch, Justin Chon, Edi Gathegi, Rachelle Lafevre

Before diving into the story of Twilight, readers are advised to take a look at the above list of actors in the movie. Don't figure out whose names you might recognize, but focus instead on the number of people listed. Those 14 names represent only a partial cast list of Twilight, and yet all of these actors portray characters who are prominently introduced, if not fully fleshed out, in this first installment of a promised series of films. The film is based on the first book of a popular four-book franchise from author Stephenie Meyer, a Mormon whose work has found some fans among readers who admire the chaste relationship between its two lead characters.

The movie's central relationship, between new girl in town Bella (Kristen Stewart) and brooding mystery man Edward (Robert Pattinson), will have teen hearts aflutter. For the film's core audience—females familiar with Meyer's books and those drawn to the deafening buzz around the story and its leading man, Pattinson—that should be more than enough. But those interested in character motives beyond unspoken physical attraction may find the film wanting.

After her mother remarries, Bella relocates to Forks, Wash., to live with her father. Rather than being treated as an outcast, she's greeted warmly by some of the new classmates who had anticipated her arrival. Eric (Justin Chon) and Michael (Michael Welch) may have more than platonic friendship in mind—Bella's a low-key beauty, and they're not blind—but Bella is more intrigued by the Cullens, a group of pale siblings who keep to themselves.

Edward Cullen is the one who draws Bella's greatest interest, and when he locks eyes with her, it appears that the attraction might be shared. Why, then, does Edward flee whenever Bella's near? And how did he halt an out-of-control vehicle that came within inches of colliding with Bella? She demands to know the source of his supernatural power. ("I planned to confront him," we hear Bella say in one of the film's randomly inserted, redundant voiceover moments.) Turns out Edward and his family are vampires, but they're "vegetarians":  Only animal blood—not human—for the Cullen crew. But if Edward gets too close to Bella, he might not be able to control himself. She might become more than his girlfriend; she might become his next meal. It doesn't help that Bella is ready to give herself entirely to Edward, even if it means relinquishing her humanity.

The dance between Edward and Bella is the heart of Twilight, and as a metaphor for budding teenage sexuality, it has some power. But the filmmakers haven't taken pains to explain why Bella is ready to surrender so wholly and quickly to Edward. Is it pure physical attraction? Perhaps, but lustful looks don't constitute good drama. It's unfortunate, then, that the dialogue between the two lead characters, which may have worked on the page, is laughably bad at crucial moments. ("Your mood swings are kind of giving me whiplash." "I've never wanted a human's blood so much in my life.") The actors do their best to overcome the flat dialogue by intensifying their soulful stares at one other, but by the time Bella declares that she's "unconditionally, irrevocably in love" with Edward, we're still not sure why she feels as strongly as she does.