Twilight (2008)

Info SidebarTwilight would have been a better movie if its two leading heartthrobs were played by Angela Lansbury and Ernest Borgnine, because what I realise is missing are experience and believability. The leads instead are played by Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, both of whom look their parts but are otherwise constipated at the thought of loving each other so fully and unconditionally.

The story has much credit. Written by Stephenie Meyer, it has enough juice to create an air of mystery and spectacle around the vampire and Lycan myths. And even though the love story that develops is perfunctory, the characters themselves are fascinating.

Now, what is the diegetic timeframe of Twilight? Does the story take place over the course of a year? Half a year? Three months? Bella Swan (Stewart) arrives in the sleepy town of Forks, WA (minuscule population), just in time for the new school term. By the end of the movie she’s dancing with Edward Cullen (Pattinson) at prom. By the end, too, she has fallen so hard for Mr. Cullen that she cannot imagine life without him. That must be some kind of love, dontcha think? To not be able to live without someone else. I’d buy it, if it wasn’t for her perpetual look of disgust and confusion.

The casting is all wrong. Granted, most teenage movies don’t hire actors based on merit, but even in the league of good looking young men and women, Stewart and Pattinson fall short of the mark. They are attractive, no doubt. I’ve seen Pattinson on The Graham Norton Show. He’s very charming when he’s not playing a century-old undead stud. In Twilight, however, his face seems plastered to a mould. I worry that if his smile widens any further his skin would crack and crumble to ash.

He is a vampire, made in 1918 by Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli). Carlisle has since formed a family of vampires who have taught themselves not to prey on human blood — they call themselves vegetarians. They live in a retreat far into the Washington woods, where my favourite bit of the movie resides: Edward’s bedroom. Decades of living through the same age can either cause great distress or foster a deep understanding of one’s surroundings. Edward has a large record collection. Debussy, he listens to. He’s quite possibly more cultured than his clothing and hairstyle would suggest. But then again, maybe he’s just reshaping himself to fit the times.

The Cullens are cool cats. When Bella first sees them sauntering into the school cafeteria, they’re slowed down and dressed in more white than an angel of God. They sit across the room and pierce Bella with glares as sharp as knives. Why? Well, we find out later. If you’re a fan of the HBO series, True Blood, you might discover some uncanny parallels, as I did. Bella, in some ways, isn’t a hundred miles removed from Sookie Stackhouse. She’s hardy, stubborn, and attracts vampires about as easily as I attract mosquitoes.

If Sookie is superior, it’s only because her face is more rubbery and emotive. She can deliver what needs to be delivered without choking on her own words or baring her two front teeth. In every other way, she and Bella are twins. Heck, they even fall for life-saving vamps the same way. And they both possess unexplained qualities that drive the vamps crazy. Sookie, we learn, is a fairy, so her blood tastes sweeter; Bella’s mind can’t be read, which still makes her a question mark. I think even she thinks she’s a question mark. Does she know why she’s fallen so in love with Edward? Does Edward know? The story makes no attempt to address such questions. They are in love for love’s sake. Nothing more. When Bella gets into trouble and the Cullen family risks its life to save her, do the members know why they feel the need to care about her? Is she even grateful?

The story gives over entirely to an action-filled third act that springs up out of nowhere. It plays as the second opportunity for Edward to save Bella’s life. The first time involves Edward stopping an oncoming truck with his bare hands — “How did you get to me so quickly?”, Bella questions. At times the movie doubles back on itself as if knowing how silly its characters are — “You’re about to enter a house full of vampires and all you’re worried about is whether they’ll like you?”.

I can’t say I cared much for Twilight. It’s strongest point is its story, but even that has been jumbled up in the adaptation. I have always loved vampires, both classic and modern, and I will continue to do so after this. There is more to come. More vamps. More wolves. More hunks and more constipated faces. Twilight sets them all up nicely.


Best Moment | The Cullen house. I want Edward’s room! Now!

Worst Moment | Ugh. So many. Their faces. The whooshing sound the vamps make when they run fast and fly. The sparkly skin Edward shows off. Bella’s teeth. Somebody stop me.

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