Twilight. Catherine Hardwicke, director. Melissa Rosenberg, script based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer. Starring: Kristen Stewart (Bella Swan), Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen), Peter Facinelli (Carlisle Cullen), Nikki Reed (Rosalie Hale), Billy Burke (Charlie Swan), Cam Gigandet (James), Rachelle Lefevre (Victoria), Edi Gathegi (Laurent). Sarah Clarke (Renee Dwyer)
Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, a dark fantasy about the romance between Bella Swan, a healthy, slightly klutzy, teenaged American girl, and a very goth-like vampire named Edward who appears to be 17, has become a publishing phenomenon, selling over 8 million copies worldwide. It was inevitable that the series — now a quartet of novels — would be translated to the screen. The media frenzy surrounding the film’s release has been astonishing; here, for example, film critic Richard Crouse was nearly torn apart by adolescent girls who discovered that he had actually touched the hand of Robert Pattinson, the actor playing Edward Cullen, the handsome and apparently youthful 108-year-old vampire-lover of Bella.
While Meyer’s franchise hardly matches that of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, the success of the books is indisputable and the anticipation surrounding the film release of Twilight rivals that of the first Potter movie. Like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Twilight suffers from the director’s fear of creating a free adaptation of the novel into a film. Followers of the Potter cycle will recall that it took the third version, auteur Alfonso Cuaron’s Prisoner of Azkaban, to liberate the youthful magician from the page and on to the screen, and it may take as long for Meyer’s books to achieve a truly cinematic form.
Catherine Hardwicke has made a version of Twilight that is slow, safe and dull instead of committed, passionate and brave. Loving a vampire is a metaphor for the Wagnerian Liebestod — the embrace of love and death — or of the surrealist vision of l’amour fou (or “mad love.”) When Bella falls for Edward, the world should tilt and the heart race like a jack hammer pounding out the fastest, scariest rhythm in the world. The film does end with Bella begging Edward to “turn her” into a fully sexual immortal being. But Edward refuses — sequels loom, of course — and Hardwicke seems to endorse the same reluctance to put emotion in front of logic throughout the film.
But if there’s no passion, what is Twilight about? The film slowly builds over two hours as Bella, well played by Kristen Stewart, falls for Edward and gradually realizes that he’s a vampire. Nothing noteworthy clicks in beyond that telegraphed realisation until a trio of “bad” vampires catches on to Bella’s scent and decides to make her their next feast. Edward’s coven supports him as he fights the baddies — mainly James, an over-the-top “B-movie” villain, accompanied by a femme fatale named Victoria — to save his girl.
Twilight will likely have a great weekend at box offices across North America. There are enough teenaged girls invested in the series to make that happen. With attractive leads in Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, the franchise should survive this mediocre debut. One can only hope that Meyer’s second film is directed by Cuaron or someone else committed to cinema and, as Fred Astaire once sang, “love and romance.” Let’s Face the Music and Dance.
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