Reviewed by: Rick Derisz

Twilight is an adaption of the first in a series of novels written by Stephanie Meyer, telling the story of a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire. Comparisons will inevitably be made with Harry Potter, not just for its transition from ink to the big screen and its similar target audience, but also as the lead role of Edward Cullen is played by Robert Pattison, who played Cedric in the Potter series. Fans of the books are known for their dedicated and passionate support, so this has a lot to live up to. Catherine Hardwicke, best known for directing the indie hit Thirteen, has the job of making it a success. Before the movie was even released in the UK it was announced she won’t be returning to direct the sequel, New Moon, after falling out with producers over the release date of the second instalment.

On the face of it, the plot is fairly basic. The crux of the story is the bond between the two lead characters, Bella Swan and Ed Cullen. Their unconventional romance is the pivotal aspect which made the novels so successful, and is the biggest selling point of the story. Reserved and secretive Bella (Kristen Stewart) moves into a new town with her father Charlie (Billy Burke), and is intrigued by a bizarre and mysterious family at her new school. She seems to have an effect on one in particular, Edward (Pattison) who appears both charming and chilling in equal measure.

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As time passes, Bella breaks through the psychological barrier Ed has assembled, and in the process uncovers the truth about him and his family – they are vampires. There is a twist though, as they only feed on the blood of animals, the head of the family, Dr Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinielli), having chosen the less barbaric option. This, however, means they are left unsatisfied and struggling to control their natural urges, which complicates Bella and Edward's budding romance. Traditional vampires do still exist, and circumstances result in these getting too close for comfort.

There are a number of different elements to the film, each of which come and go. Near the beginning, Twilight looks like your typical teen comedy flick – the high school hierarchy and fish-out-of-water scenario. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, for a number of reasons. Not only is there a humorous undertone to the interaction, but it also serves as a base on which to builda story the viewer can understand and identify with more thoroughly.

When the narration shifts to the fantasy side, it’s far from stereotypical. We are shown that despite being a vampire, Edward and his family are, in fact, reasonably normal. This supernatural normality, of course, has become popular recently, with TV series Heroes portraying normal people with powers and films like Hancock focusing on the human aspect. And it works well, allowing the viewer to relate more emotionally than they would with a clichéd Count Dracula type.

But the film has its flaws. Some of the action feels rushed, with a lot of the runtime focused on the escalating relationship between Bella and Ed, which is no doubt important, but leaves the ending feels slightly unbalanced. Also, despite the length of the film, a lot of the characters are left undeveloped – mainly those in Dr Cullen’s adopted family. I assume that, in the book, having them involved works well, but no time is dedicated to evolving them, so you don’t get a sense of any depth of personality. This leaves a few of them seeming quite one-dimensional despite being important to the conclusion of this particular instalment. The special effects could also be criticised, but this is a film which doesn’t have CGI as a focal point - however, with New Moon requiring more work in this department it’s something that needs to be enhanced.

An overpowering connection between the two leads is vital and the biggest triumph of the film is the casting, which simply not get any better. The captivating love affair serves as a centre for the rest of the story to centre on. With a novel as strongly focused as Twilight is on this relationship, it was a risk making the transition to film. But thanks to Stewart and Pattison looking perfect together, you can’t help but feel drawn into the romance, and it pulls you through the slightly underwhelming plot. On their own, the performances are solid. Pattison shows bags of promise, conquering the complex mixture of insecurity, self-hatred, charm and self-confidence. Kristen Stewart is instantly amiable as Bella, looking very comfortable playing introverted and intelligent. Each is at their best in their scenes together. Beyond the two leads, performances are unexceptional. Billy Burke is undeniably likable as Bella’s unassured father Charlie Swan but Edward Cullen’s adopted family don’t get the chance to flex their muscles, although Facinielli is charming and distinguished as the head of the clan. Bella’s high school friends are again distinctively average, looking most comfortable in scenes portraying awkward teenage humour rather than the more serious sections.

Twilight is a character-driven story which has a mystic quality, deriving from the electrifying chemistry between Stewart and Pattison. Disregarding the hype, this is a modern day portrayal of Montague-and-Capulet style forbidden love, which leaves you wanting more as the credits roll. Fortunately, there is more to come.

Reviewed on: 27 Dec 2008
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A vampire romances a mortal girl in an American small town.
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Jennifer McGillan **1/2

Director: Catherine Hardwicke

Writer: Melissa Rosenberg, based on the book by Stephenie Meyer.

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Peter Facinelli, Cam Gigandet, Taylor Lautner, Anna Kendrick

Year: 2008

Runtime: 122 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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