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Twilight / ** (PG-13)

Posted Saturday, November 22, 2008, at 11:29 AM

"Twilight", the highly anticipated adaptation of Stephanie Meyer's hit vampire book series, hits Marshall this weekend. Is it worth the hype?
Summit Entertainment presents a film directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Written by Melissa Rosenberg. Based on the novel by Stephanie Meyer. Running time: 122 min. Rated PG-13 (for some violence and a scene of sensuality).

When did the vampire turn into a superhero? When I developed my love for them, they were creatures of bloodlust and sexuality. Now, instead of being creatures of horror, they've become some of fantasy. Wouldn't it be fun to be a vampire?! We used to think that too. That's always been part of their allure. But when they used to be a monster there was the taste of fear that went along with the desire. Today's vampires hold more in common with Superman than they do with Dracula.

"Twilight" became one of the year's most anticipated movies almost without anyone noticing. And now that it's here, I can see that flying in under the radar was probably better for the movie than everyone knowing what they were getting into ahead of time. Then, it may not have seemed worth the bother. Of course, the movie was adapted from the best selling novel by Stephanie Meyer, and I am very much out of the loop having not read it or any of the others in her vampire series. I'm sure it must work better on the page than it does on the screen, or there probably wouldn't be a movie.

The story involves a teenage girl, Bella (Kristen Stewart, "Jumper"), who moves in with her estranged father after not having visited him since she was a little girl. Her father (Billy Burke, "Untraceable") is the sheriff of a small town in Washington State, where the weather is perpetually overcast and cold. Bella doesn't fit in well at school, but soon gathers a small group of friends. But she can't seem to keep her attention off the outcasts of the school: the Cullen family. Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire") in particular strikes her fancy. She doesn't know what to make of his strange behavior toward her; but after he saves her life under more strange circumstances, they develop a tentative friendship.

They eventually fall in love and Edward must reveal his family's secret to Bella--they are a coven of vampires. The family patriarch, Dr. Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli, FX's "Damages"), has taught his clan to feed only off animal blood, although the temptation for human blood is strong. This detail is where much of the mythology of their story goes wrong. By breaking the bloodlust for human flesh the sin of vampirism is lost. They retain all of their superhuman powers of heightened strength and accelerated speed, some can even see into the future; but they are more like mutants with superpowers than monsters.

There are some monsters in this new vampire mythology. Another small coven of vampires has been ravaging the town by taking human victims and threatening to expose the Cullens's secret. When their tracker James (Cam Gigandet, FOX's "The OC") discovers a human in the midst of the Cullen clan, he becomes determined to kill Bella and start a battle between the two clans. So now a conflict that was once between the mortal world of morality and the undying temptations of sin has been relegated to a feud between two warring super-powered vampire clans. Humans have all but been eliminated from the equation, except as snacks.

The early passages of the movie play like some overcast and drizzling version of the newly revamped "90210". But even teen soaps like that have more teeth than this vampire flick. There is a sense of timidity throughout the movie. It's as if director Catherine Hardwicke ("Lords of Dogtown") doesn't want to offend anyone. Her depiction of the vampire's superpowers is standard and often too weak. Blurring their movement to show their speed is overdone and too often looks just plain goofy in this rather melodramatic context.

The lead actors do well enough in showing their rising passion for each other. But Melissa Rosenberg's script draws their courtship out for too long before getting to the meat of the issues of hanging out with vampires. I don't know how closely Rosenberg (a writer for the Showtime serial killer series "Dexter") follows Meyer's book, but their needs to be a stronger focus on the bad vampires. They are the threat to this small town, but we never get a chance to feel that.

I had my concerns about seeing a vampire movie that is rated PG-13. The sinful explorations of human temptation for which that the vampire myth was invented does not lend itself well to a light touch. I never expected that touch to be quite as soft spoken as it is here, though. Although these vampires can see their images in a mirror--I'm assuming since they walk around in daylight--there is really nothing there at all.

Check out movie clips, merchandise and my vampire themed star rating scale at A Penny in the Well.

Showing comments in chronological order
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As a lover of the Twilight BOOKS, I can tell you that the movie was not like the book. Sure there was the same plot and basics, but all of the things that made the books so great, were completely left out. I can't believe Stephenie Meyer allowed this pile of garbage to be made. I went to the midnight showing on Thursday night and I just couldn't believe my eyes. After the movie was done, there were all of these people that were talking about how great the movie was, but they obviously didn't see the movie the way that I did. It's just like they did with Eragon. They turned a completely great book into something that was trash. If they were smart, they would stay away from making the rest of the Twilight series into movies. If you haven't seen the movie and you love the books, don't waste your time and money, YOU WILL BE DISAPPOINTED.

-- Posted by emanon87 on Sat, Nov 22, 2008, at 5:16 PM

As I understand it, Summit entertainment has already secured the rights and Melissa Rosenberg has already agreed to write the screenplays for New Moon and Eclipse. And Summit is in the process of securing the rights for Breaking Dawn. With a $35 million opening day, the two movies they've already started moving on are inevitable. And I'm sure Meyer will be upping her price for the fourth book before those rights get secure.

The opening day take alone almost paid for Summit's $37 million price tag for making the movie. They stand to make a lot of money off this series. They've said they want it to be their "Harry Potter". Ironically it was Warner Bros. decision to move the next "Harry Potter" to next summer that really allowed "Twilight" this shot at such a big box office take. It would not have done nearly as well, had it had to take on the popular wizard. So unfortunately, you will probably have to endure further disappointment with the series.

-- Posted by ydnasllew on Sat, Nov 22, 2008, at 5:40 PM

You really didn't like it? I thought some of the special effects (if you can call them that) were contrived but I enjoyed a great deal. Perhaps it was because I was projecting my interpretation of the characters onto the actors. I mean, they didn't have to do a Oscar-winning performance for me to enjoy it. Maybe my expectations were just set low and I came away feeling good.

-- Posted by hat full of sky on Sun, Nov 23, 2008, at 8:56 AM

No, I didn't. The simple version is that I was bored. If you think about it, nothing much happens in this movie. The threat to Bella doesn't really show up until late in the story, when James senses her during the baseball game. Then you finally get about 15 minutes of suspense while he hunts her down and the Cullens try to hide her. Up until that point it is pretty much all Bella and Edward trying to decide whether they can even really contemplate a relationship, and that issue isn't fully resolved at the end of the movie.

I think we needed to see much more of James and his coven. What little we are shown is hardly frightening as it consists mostly of the lame blurred action sfx.

Also, having not read the book, I didn't bring any of my own impressions of the characters to the movie. In the encouragingly packed house Friday night at the Marshall Cinema, I could tell most of the audience were fans of the book, since everytime a character walked on screen there was some form of vocal reaction. Dr. Carlisle Cullen had the loudest reaction. But people reacted even to Bella's human friends like Mike and Angela. But these characters were barely even treated as cameos. I'm sure the novel had much richer representations of everyone and can't imagine fans were satisfied with how little was seen of just about every character beyond Bella and Edward.

But even had it had spent less time on the romance and there been more action or more suspense, the biggest problem I had with the story was the way it abandoned the themes of sin and temptation that vampire mythology has always encompassed.

-- Posted by ydnasllew on Sun, Nov 23, 2008, at 1:55 PM

this might as well have been a brendan fraser movie.

-- Posted by SecretAgentMichaelScarn on Sun, Dec 7, 2008, at 11:46 AM

You know, Fraser isn't really a bad actor, he's just found this niche that allows him to make a lot of money. If you really want to see him act, you should check out the movies "Gods and Monsters" and "The Quiet American".

-- Posted by ydnasllew on Mon, Dec 8, 2008, at 4:11 PM

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Andrew is a professionally trained actor and stage director. He was a reporter for the daily newspaper The Marshall Democrat News. He has been critiquing film since Mr. Lucas released the first of his "Star Wars" prequels in 1999. His reviews can also be seen at his blog site.
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