REVIEW: Twilight [2008]

“I don’t have the strength to stay away from you anymore”

It’s a case of which came first for me—Twilight or The Southern Vampire Mysteries? After watching the film Twilight I couldn’t help but think about the stellar HBO drama series based on the latter. For some reason, vampires are making a huge comeback and while the youngsters can’t watch the swearing and nudity featured with Sookie Stackhouse, they can swoon over Edward Cullen and wish to be Bella Swan. And unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately in a purely entertaining, surreal way), the girls at my screening did just that … shrieking as the title came onscreen, clapping and whispering characters’ names once they appeared, and actually having panic attacks when young Robert Pattinson finally graced us with his presence. How can one not enjoy experiencing a phenomenon such as this first-hand, especially when he didn’t know it was part of our youth’s lexicon, let alone this big a chunk? I honestly never heard of Stephenie Meyer’s series until the marketing machine started churning out the trailer for the film. And she’s written four of these things in just the past three plus years? Talk about prolific. Well, while it is no southern belle macabre tale as I’ve grown to love every Sunday night on “True Blood”, Twilight definitely is something. What that something is, I can’t quite grasp yet, however, I will say this … it wasn’t that bad.

One can definitely see why the tweeners love the vampire tales so much. It glorifies the life of an immortal, vaulting it to the status of godlike and virtuous. I mean, we are dealing with “vegetarian” vamps here—they have stifled their thirst by drinking only the blood of animals, thus allowing them to integrate with society, playing human yet never revealing their true identities, (sound like manufactured Tru Blood for mainstreaming vamps? It does to me). Now don’t get me wrong, I am sure these two literature sagas have nothing to do with each other, but it is an intriguing correlation considering they have come into the mainstream almost simultaneously. But Twilight has something on the scale of godlike itself—legions of adoring fans, young teen girls that will do anything in order to have their parents quench the bloodlust for a glimpse at this world, one they dream of living in, to find their own hottie vampire able to save their lives whenever necessary. It is a romantic vision of knights in shining armor and I credit Catherine Hardwicke for keeping it that way.

No one would have been surprised if Hollywood, needing to market this thing to the greatest common denominator, took the tale and made it about good versus evil, the kind immortals against the evil ones. But that would have been too easy and above all else, unnecessary. The millions of people around the world, (yes, it’s been translated in over 20 different languages), wouldn’t have stood for anything less than the love story they have grown to adore. It is about Bella and Edward finding each other and becoming the perfect couple in Forks, Washington. Differences aside, catering predilections forgotten, these two kids truly love each other despite the reality knocking at the door telling them they should get as far from each other as possible. There is just enough conflict, just enough of a taste for the vampire feuds and dormant rivalry with the Native Americans in the region—a none to subtle foreshadowing of werewolves—to keep your interest and not hurt the romance holding it all together.

I’ll admit that I bought into the relationship completely. Kristen Stewart and Pattinson work together as a couple with all the awkwardness of teenagers. I acquiesced to the strange courtship and eccentricity of it all because here is a man afraid of what he might do to his love. It may come across as comical because of the slowness of it all—the overlong anticipation for that first kiss—but it is actually completely serious. Edward needs to know for sure that the kiss won’t turn into a bite, giving him the taste of blood that he won’t be strong enough to fight against. With that said, there is a lot to chuckle about here. The romantic moments may play unintentionally funny, but the rest of the movie is very much intentionally unintentionally funny. That’s correct; wrap your head around what I just said. It’s not “so bad it’s good” it’s “we want you to laugh, but we are going to pretend we don’t, so whether you think we did or not, your laughing or lack of will both be justified”. Yes, they pander to us, hoping that whatever our reaction is, that’s the reaction we are supposed to have.

But you know what? I loved the humor. What new kid in school gets the kind of welcome that Bella gets here? Most films will have stuff thrown at her, the cliques laughing and calling her names, only the geeks giving her the time of day because finally they aren’t the butt of the jokes. Instead, Meyer has made these kids love Bella before they even know her. It was the most surreal thing in the world; I thought I was watching a “Twilight Zone” episode, and maybe, (due to the name), that is exactly what I was supposed to feel. She becomes Miss Popular as soon as she steps foot on school grounds … fantastic. And with the clunky, clichéd one-liners like the title to this review, the lion and lamb metaphor, and Billy Black’s “I’m down with the kids”, how can you not smile?

As for those involved, an admirable job all-around. Hardwicke gets a bad rap sometimes, and it could be justified, but here she does what’s needed. Nothing too flashy and because of the inherent campiness that appears to be wanted, the moments that seem cheesy actually work because they play that way. Everyone is hamming it up for the camera and roles by Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, and Jackson Rathbone work great. That’s not even mentioning the crew of kids Bella befriends on the mortal side of the fence. Even the parents, Sarah Clarke and Billy Burke, do well. And who doesn’t love that Hardwicke found room for the girl that jumpstarted her career, Nikki Reed. Probably the most intriguing vamp of the bunch, she’s not given much here, but hopefully the subsequent entries will beef up her somewhat jealous and spiteful mind. Yes, I believe I might actually see those sequels myself to discover if Edward and Bella can truly live happily ever after.

Twilight 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

Ps: What is with Taylor Lautner’s teeth (Jacob Black)? I thought I would go blind by the pristine whiteness each time he opened his mouth for talk.

[1] KRISTEN STEWART (left) and ROBERT PATTINSON (right) star in the thriller TWILIGHT, a Summit Entertainment release. Photo credit: Peter Sorel
[2] ROBERT PATTINSON (left) and KRISTEN STEWART (right) star in the thriller TWILIGHT, a Summit Entertainment release. Photo credit: Deana Newcomb


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