by Mel Valentin
"Twilight," the eagerly anticipated (by teen girls here, there, and everywhere) big-screen (if not big budget) adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s first novel in a four-volume series for young adults, is an uninspired, derivative vampire/teen romance. Crammed with unnecessary, over-obvious expository voiceover narration, a been-there, read-that storyline that offers safe predictability, and repetitive scenes of the co-leads gazing longingly at each other for minutes at a time, it’s hard, no strike that, almost impossible, to believe that the "Twilight" series has sold an estimated 17.5 million copies worldwide (8.5 million in the United States alone), but it has, and if the first in a promised four adaptations is any indication, it’s wholly undeserving of your (or your teen daughter’s) investment of time, effort, or money.Twilight centers on Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a 17-year old girl, recently transplanted to Forks, Washington from Phoenix, Arizona. Bella’s man-obsessed mother, Renée (Sarah Clarke), has decided to follow her new husband, Phil (Matt Bushell), a minor-league player, to Florida for spring training. Bella ends up with her estranged father, Charlie (Billy Burke), the local police chief. At school, the usually isolated Bella finds herself the object of curiosity from her classmates. One classmate in particular, the pale-skinned, red-lipped Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), shows a strong, if perplexing interest in Bella. During their first day together in biology class, Edward rushes out, apparently ill. Bella approaches Edward about his behavior and slowly (very slowly), a romance begin to develop between Bella and Edward, much to the displeasure of Edward’s biological siblings, Alice (Ashley Greene) and Emmet (Kellan Lutz) and their respective romantic partners, Jasper Hale (Jackson Rathbone) and Rosalie Hale (Nikki Reed). Edward’s youthful father, Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), is also the town doctor and Charles acquaintance.
"Strictly for teen (girl) fans of the series."
Bella eventually discovers that Edward’s idiosyncratic, stalkerish behavior hides a more disturbing truth: he, along with Alice, Emmet, Jasper, Rosalie, Carlisle, and their mother, Esme (Elizabeth Reaser), are actually vampires. They’re not the “bad” kind of vampires, though. They refuse to feed on human blood (they live on animal blood) and prefer to live as reputable members of the community until the need to relocate (due to their lack of aging) arises. Like vampires of lore, Edward and his family are super-strong and super-fast, minus the usual limitations: sunlight doesn’t make them spontaneously combust and they don’t have fangs. Some have special powers: Alice can read the future and Edward can read minds (except, naturally, Bella’s). The arrival of several nomadic vampires, including James (Cam Gigandet), a bloodthirsty “tracker” who lives for the hunt, threatens Bella and Edward’s relationship and the Forks community.
Twilight isn’t so much predictable and clichéd (well, it is both) as it is clumsily written and awkwardly executed. With sub-par, often cringe-inducing dialogue courtesy of screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, much of it centered on Bella and Edward’s unconsummated romantic relationship, telegraphed plot turns, action scenes directed with an absence of style by Catherine Hardwicke (The Nativity Story, Lords of Dogtown, Thirteen), and repetitive scenes of angst-driven teen lovers, Twilight feels and looks and sounds, at best, like the first draft of a screenplay that needed a lot of polish before it went before the cameras or, at worst, a tedium-inducing amateurish production that can’t be saved by a cast better, much better, than the dialogue they’re forced to utter at semi-regular intervals or the contrived character motivations they’re forced to “sell” to unsuspecting (and presumably, suspecting) audiences.
The preceding comments, of course, will do much, if anything, to dissuade teenage girls and their acquiescent parents from seeing Twilight opening weekend and making it a box-office hit (sequels here we come). Meyer’s success, borrowing disparate elements from Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (e.g., human-vampire romance), Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat (eternally young, eternally beautiful, conscience-ridden vampires), teen vampires from Joel Schumacher's The Lost Boys, the vampire-werewolf conflict (in her later books) from Len Wiseman's Underworld films, while adding little that could be described as original (the fangless vampires for one, their lack of photosensitivity for another, the lack of a supernatural connection for a third), but what she’s apparently done and done well enough to make her a bestselling author with a super-loyal fanbase is connect the vampire mythos with teen romance using angst, teen and otherwise, as a common thread.Unfortunately, whatever zeitgeist-tapping efforts Meyer made with the "Twilight" series don’t translate into quality big-screen entertainment (let alone art). Instead, if you’re Bella’s age or younger, criticism of adaptation or the series won’t matter and you’ll see it anyway. If, though, high school was so last year (or so last decade), then you’re probably outside of "Twilight’s" intended audience of non-critical teenage girls. If you are, then you’re probably better off checking out "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (assuming you haven’t already, of course).
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originally posted: 11/21/08 05:24:12