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Moody Twilight Launches a Teen Franchise

  • Christian Hamaker Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2008 11 Nov
  • COMMENTS
Moody <i>Twilight</i> Launches a Teen Franchise

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.

The story is filled out by three bad vampires who show up in Forks and start a killing spree. They don't share the Cullens' vegetarian tastes, nor Edward's resistance to Bella's blood. The problem with the fearsome trio is that they aren't particularly scary, nor are they interesting. With Twilight hinting that some of these same characters will factor into the movie's sequels, viewers can only hope that the villains develop into more intriguing personalities.

Nor does the excess of other characters on the periphery of the central story in Twilight help matters. Perhaps these characters also are crucial to future chapters in the film series, but those unfamiliar with the full arc of the Twilight stories will be left scratching their heads about the bevy of personalities introduced early in the film, then dropped for most of the remaining running time.

Despite these drawbacks, it's not difficult to enjoy Twilight during its first hour. Director Catherine Hardwicke, who directed Evan Rachel Wood so effectively in Thirteen, gets another good performance out of her female star (Stewart) here. She also surrounds the tortured Edward with a group of siblings strange enough to keep even the most jaded viewers watching and wondering about their identities. However, once Bella and Edward declare their feelings to each other, the film begins to fade, shifting its focus to the trio of lackluster villains and their inevitable confrontation with the Cullens.

Twilight is a film that fans of the book may savor. For the rest of us, it's a mildly interesting first taste of a story with lots of room to develop.


Questions? Concerns? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@verizon.net.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Drinking; a character refers to another character as their "own personal brand of heroin."
  • Smoking:  None.
  • Language/Profanity:  Lord's name taken in vain; some foul language.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Passionate kissing; Edward and Bella kiss and lay next to each other in bed; Bella is shown in bed, in a negligee; a girl says a dress makes her cleavage look good; Bella's mom asks if Bella is "being safe."
  • Violence/Other:  A security guard is chased and killed; a man in a boat is attacked by three vampires; reckless driving; Bella imagines Edward biting her neck; other scenes of vampires biting necks; a vampire is killed and burned; a prolonged fight between vampire clans.