The highly-anticipated movie adaptation of the first installment in Stephenie Meyer’s popular book series has sent fans into a frenzy, despite much negative criticism of the books. Still, “Twilight” stays faithful to the book, though the minor changes in plot and setting will surely be picked apart by the fans.
It’s difficult to live up to extremely high expectations, and fans have had their dream casts picked out for months or maybe years. At her best, Kristen Stewart delivers a likable Bella Swan, the self-sacrificing teenager who moves to Forks, Washington and falls in love with a vampire. However, Stewart’s performance feels over-acted in high-tension situations, even compared to Bella’s dramatics in the book.
Opposite Stewart, Robert Pattinson plays what he calls a “manic-depressive” Edward Cullen, Bella’s vampire love and self-appointed savior. Those who have become disillusioned with Meyer’s Edward should find Pattinson’s portrayal of the character slightly amusing. Unintended humor aside, Pattinson really creates his own twisted version of Edward, whether fans enjoy his portrayal or not.
Nonetheless, the movie does establish rounded leads better than the books. Bella comes off as more willful, which we rarely ever see in the books. “Twilight” also benefits from fewer references to Edward’s beauty, allowing the audience to see him more as a character and less like an impossible picture of perfection.
The supporting cast is adequate and several characters outshine the leads at times. The humans in Forks manage to stand out and avoid being overshadowed by the vampires. The Fork High teens are endearing and likable, bringing much-appreciated silliness to the screen. But Bella’s father Charlie, most consistently steals scenes with a sense of humor and his subtle vulnerability. Charlie, played by Billy Burke, really is the heart of the movie.
While most members of the Cullen vampire family are well-cast, a few of them just seem empty. Their attitudes are very true to their counterparts in the book, but the movie gives little insight into their reasoning or abilities. In some cases, mainly those of Rosalie (Nikki Reed) and Jasper (Jackson Rathbone), the characters come off as unnecessarily petty or apathetic, making it difficult for the audience to connect with them.
The dialogue is predictably cheesy, but it does translate better on screen than it does on page. Surprisingly, though, the screenplay omits a few iconic lines from “Twilight.” The fans’ obsession with “dazzling” may be lost on movie-goers who have not yet read the book.
If anything about the movie is shockingly bad, it’s the movie’s visual presentation. Vampires moving at superhuman speed and fighting with superhuman strength may sound cool, but the motion blurring and flying through the air evoke more mockery than awe.
Maybe we can blame the laughable fight scenes on the low budget, but some complaints seem more of a creative issue. Extreme close-up shots of just the characters’ eyes become tedious and a little bit creepy. Pairing the too familiar sets of eyes with the overall blue coloring of the film is just not pretty. Perhaps they wanted to emphasize the tone of the movie, but a whole spectrum of visible colors is seriously underutilized.
The movie also falls victim to Meyer’s descriptions of her characters. Meyer uses a mythology in which vampires literally sparkle in the sunlight. The effect on screen looks cheap and old, and they might as well have covered Robert Pattinson in rainbow glitter and shone a bright light on him. The makeup (used to give the vampires their pale complexions) looks heavy and fake. The wigs some actors sport are just bad, almost to the point where they should have just foregone long hair in the first place.
Despite the obvious flaws, the movie does its best to appease fans and expand the series’ fanbase. “Twilight” is the first of four books, and the movie appropriately sets up for a sequel in a way that the book doesn’t. Thanks to its popularity, the movie’s first-weekend sales already ensure a movie for the second installment “New Moon.” Hopefully, the sequel will improve where the first movie falls short and still take advantage of the characters and interpretation that make the story work.