Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli
Screenplay: Melissa Rosenberg
122 mins. Rated PG-13 for some violence and a scene of sensuality.
It seems almost too easy to make fun of Twilight as a franchise, and I’m not here to bash. It’s been a good many years since I’ve seen any of these films, and I felt like a revisit. I’ll start by saying something nice about the source material (I’ve read the first 100 pages of the first book, so I’ve earned this). These books by Stephanie Meyer got younger people reading again, and I’ll never fault that (even if the source material is dreck). Okay, I tried my best. Now, let’s get to the vamp-lovin…
Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart, Snow White and the Huntsman, Spencer) has just moved to Forks, Washington to stay with her dad, and she’s just trying to fit in. When she’s forced to be lab partners with the strange and reserved Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, Remember Me, The Devil All the Time), she finds that she is unable to stop thinking about him. Soon, she learns a great secret: Edward and his family are vampires, full of long-life and glittery skin. Now, Bella is forced down a dangerous path, for loving Edward comes with a host of other problems, both living and undead.
As I said above, it’s easy to bash this movie and its sequels, and to be fair, Twilight is not a good movie, but it isn’t the worst thing put to cinema, so let’s talk about what works. First of all, I’m going to be the guy that defends glittery skin. I actually don’t mind this take on vampirism, especially the glittery skin thing that so many people hate. Fun fact: vampires aren’t real, and people have played hard and fast with the rules for decades, so this is not the strangest take on the undead bloodsuckers, so just calm your shit on that one.
Also, there are solid performances in the movie. Not from the two leads, not at all. Both Stewart and Pattinson are really unlikable in this movie. Stewart has these fits throughout the movie where she can’t stop blinking, mumbling and faux smiling, and it’s almost unnerving, and Pattinson’s take on Edward is creepy and dickish, but there are solid performances from members of the supporting cast. I really like Billy Burke (Drive Angry, Batman: The Long Halloween – Part 2) as Bella’s father, Charlie. I believed that he was a bit of a dolt at parenting, that he was trying to do the Friend thing more than the Dad thing, and he couldn’t wrap his head around the parenting of a teenager because he hasn’t had to.
I also really liked Peter Facinelli (The Vanished, 13 Minutes) as Carlisle Cullen, the adopted father of Edward. Facinelli brings a restraint to his characterization of Carlisle that the “teen” Cullens completely fail at. Comparing Facinelli’s take on the vampire to Pattinson’s Edward, Carlisle comes off as a friendly but quiet man, whereas Pattinson is trying so hard not to be noticeable that he’s awkwardly even more noticeable. The same can be said of Elizabeth Reaser as Esme, Carlisle’s wife. Reaser isn’t really in the movie all that much, but she’s great. She has that quality of a mother who is a little over-friendly to her son’s new girlfriend.
The problem with a lot of the performances in the film is that the screenplay, by Melissa Rosenberg (Step Up, TV’s Jessica Jones), is quite messy. The reason for this is she based her screenplay on Stephanie Meyer’s book. I’ve read enough of Meyer’s book to know that the screenplay is actually pretty close to the book, and the book is bad, so the screenplay is bad. That, combined with director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Miss Bala) making some bad calls, like her insistence that the film should have narration, and some of her collaboration with cinematographer Elliot Davis on the color palette, some things that would prove to be just as problematic as the series would unfold.
Twilight has some elements that work, and the finished film is not a total loss, but unfortunately, this is a movie that hinges on the romance, and the romance is bad. Both Stewart and Pattinson do not correctly understand their characters, and they both rely on some poor scriptwriting based on even poorer subject matter. I stand by that fans of the source material will probably like this movie, but it’s bad, just not as bad as most haters would lead you to believe.
-Kyle A. Goethe