Each generation has fallen in love with their special breed of vampires, and over the years, they have grown from frightening monsters, to erotic sex symbols. From the classic Dracula—the deadly black-cape-wearing older man with fangs...to Anne Rice's terrifying yet lustfully sensuous, Lestat...to Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer's sexy vampire-with-a-soul, Angel...to our current generation's vampire coven, birthed from the creative mind of Stephenie Meyer, and her Twlight Saga novels, featuring heartthrob vampire, Edward Cullen.
A special note: If you have never read Stephenie Meyer's vampire series, and are going into the movie complex thinking you will be viewing a film packed with guttural language, fangs, blood mixed with gore, and overt sexual encounters of the lustful kind...please read on...
Edward Cullen (the leading man-vamp, played brilliantly by Robert Pattinson) is not only one of the few vampires with a last name; he is also: a fangless, walk around on a cloudy day, never slumbering, impervious to death by sun, vampire...with control over his bloodlust for human plasma. Ok , Angel could control his thirst for human blood, but that was because he had a soul. Edward is a vampire without a soul, but with an aching conscious. He and his "family" are a new breed of vampires, who consider themselves vegetarians, as they only feed on animals; purposely leaving humans off their dietary food chain.
© 2008 Summit Entertainment, All Rights Reserved
The human lead is Bella Swan (played beautifully by Kristen Stewart), a normal angst-ridden teenage girl. Like many teens, she is the product of a divorced family, and in the opening scene, she moves to live with her father in a small rainforest town in Washington State. Like most teens from a broken family, she has issues of insecurity mixed with a healthy dose of independence, she knows how to take care of herself, and of course, she is somewhat a loner.
The story revolves around the tug-and-pull relationship between the super-cool vampire who has been seventeen "for awhile," and the young lovely vulnerable human, with average good looks and an over-attractive scent.
And this is where the story differs greatly from predecessor vampire flicks...Twilight is a love story between two tormented lonely souls...a meeting of soul mates...and to the movie's credit, it never lets you forget that the love story is the bones and blood of the plotline.
It is never easy converting a novel to the big screen, especially such an enormously popular novel with a devoted international fan base. To say that screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg and director Catherine Hardwicke hand their hands full, would be an understatement. I know, because I am a self-admitted Twilight junkie, having read each book in the series and preordering the soundtrack CD—to watching the movie twice (once for the review and once for pure pleasure). So, the question is, did they succeed in bringing the magic from novel to movie? From a Twilight fan's perspective, I would have to say, yes, they hit the mark, more times than they missed.
© 2008 Summit Entertainment, All Rights Reserved
The Hits and The Misses
It was a monstrous task to condense a 544 page-turner into a 122-minute big screen epic adventure. My biggest criticism of the movie is that it was too short. Twilight should have been an epic feast (and with a bigger budget, it could have been just that), instead, it was a pleasant morsel, a nibble instead of a big bite. For those fans of the book, the plot often left the viewer wanting more, just a little bit more.
The second biggest blunder was the Cullen's house. Why should the structure and placement of a house be such a big disappointment? Obviously, the director and set designer had not read any of the future novels in the Twilight series. With the studio already gearing up for the second movie in the saga, they should have known that the house plays a major role in the future books, It propels the action, it is another character to cast. As such, the thought process put into picking both the house and its location was just down right absurd. It was a beautiful house, but it was not the "right" house, nor more importantly the correct setting.
As to the rest of the movie, it kept very true to the original plot, even using a lot of Meyer's original dialog. Obviously many of the little scenes that made the book so enduring to its fans had to be cut due to time restraints. Like the initial struggle that sets up the critical triangle between Edward, Bella and Jacob (which was played-down), as was the interaction between Bella and her human classmates. Over all the main plot points were all there: the chemistry lab, the truck accident, the baseball game, and the final vampire showdown. I almost forgot evil vampires, which added to the drama.
There was one important morality-tale featured within the book that was either played down, or missing altogether in the movie. The book placed great emphasis on the fact that everyone was not so much different as they were unique. Each person had his or her own "extra something" that made them special, made their existence important. I had the feeling that the director tried to subconsciously introduce that part of the storyline with the very ethnically mixed cast...which was a nice solution.
FX and Twilight
You would think that a movie about vampires would be filled with lots of really cool computer generated special effects. Think again. With only a few exceptions, ironically, this New Age vampire flick reverted to "old school" special effects. Using cranes and harnesses for the action scenes, stuntmen driving read cars...really exquisite and fast cars by the way...but real cars just the same, instead of computer generated imagery.
So why go to the bother of hiring George Lucas’ ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) team of CGI gods and goddesses to work on the movie? That question can be answered with one word—sparkle!
I briefly mentioned that Meyer's vampires have one tiny quirk that truly differentiates them from all other vampires, they can walk among mortals during the daylight hours, sunrays do not turn them to cinder, instead the bright light of day makes them sparkle like diamonds. A unique concept that reads great on paper, but proved to be a test of trial and error...trial for the director; resulting in an error for the audience.
In a recent interview for New York Entertainment, Director Catherine Hardwicke was asked about the special problems pertaining to the vampire's sparkle. She admitted that translating that effect to the big screen was made even more challenging due to Meyer's description in her book, where in one part Meyer describes Edward's face as being encrusted with diamonds. In another section, she states that Edward's face was as smooth as marble. These two contrary descriptions left the director with a challenging dilemma. What she ended up with was something between camera fuzz and fairy dust. What made it even more disturbing, was that the amazingly talented people at ILM created that effect. Obviously the ILM team did not read those specific passages of the novel very closely, another important detail, that just did not hit the mark for most Twilight fans.
A couple of fun things to keep an eye open for; author Stephenie Meyer makes a cameo appearance as one of the diners, in the second scene where Bella and her dad are eating lunch. Another interesting scene was the first time Edward and Bella were in the Chemistry Lab. Edward's chair is situated in front of a white owl, and at certain times throughout the scene it appears as if angel wings are growing out of his back. Lastly, the high school lunch scene, where a special homage is given to the book's original front cover artwork.
Will You Like It?
If you have not read the book, don't despair, there is enough plot and action to keep you glued to your seat. To the guys...it is a perfect "date movie" and I promise that you will score big points if you agree to go. Females of all ages, will enjoy the love story, and there are enough action scenes and fast cars to keep the male audience members from falling asleep.
Will you love this movie if you are a diehard fan of the Twilight Saga? Not all fans will love it, but they will like it, and a first viewing will most likely keep you coming back for a second bite (and possibly a third and fourth).
As a fan to the Twilight Saga, I would recommend the movie. The plot stayed very true to the book's storyline. The chemistry between all the actors was fantastic, and the pure yet lustful burning passion between Edward and Bella matched the book to perfection. Also, the soundtrack is to die for!
Oh, and if you overhear someone asking if they brought a snack...you might want to move to the next row.
Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke and Tylor Lautner
All supporting images copyright © 2008 Summit Entertainment
December 1, 2008
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