Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Twilight

 

Review by Rebecca Roth

As a fully invested fangirl, I couldn’t help but have mixed emotions when I heard they were making a Twilight movie. The unique quality of these books is that they draw you in so completely that as I have read them, I’ve gone through the motions of love and heartbreak emotionally, and that is an effect no movie can truly give no matter the quality.

Setting aside my caution, I finally dragged myself to the theatre on a bitterly cold weekend, in order to (hopefully) warm up with to this “chick flick”.  Being somewhat biased in favor of the story I desperately want to give this film high marks, but the best I can give is – they did exceptionally well on such a tight budget.

From the start, the character of Bella Swan is self-sacrificing, packing up and moving herself from Phoenix, AZ to the small town of  Forks, Washington to live with her dad, Charlie, so that her mother can start fresh with her new husband.  Bella and her father prove to be essentially strangers living in the same house; their relationship is consistently well-acted and dead-on with the portrayal in the book. Charlie is the endearingly awkward backwoods dad, unsure of how to handle a teenage daughter, and often feigning gruffness when he cares deeply for her.

As someone uniquely qualified (I grew up near Forks in Port Angeles – the town where they go prom-dress-shopping in the movie) to assess the environment, they did an unbelievable job of capturing the area right down to the wooden carved bears and log trucks, and the endless long shots of northwestern beauty is one of the highest points of the film. Bella’s first day at the High School had me doing a double take, wondering if that was the actual Forks High School.

From her first day in school, Bella meets the usual characters – the popular kids Mike and Jessica, the overachieving, slightly geeky Eric and Angela, and finally the mysterious Cullen family. The actors playing Mike and Jessica are definitely standouts that I expect to see in the future; they both played up their teen characters realistically and age appropriately, as is so rarely done. Though she doesn’t directly meet the Cullens her first day, everyone has something to say about them in whispers when she asks who they are.

After an extremely confusing scene in Biology class, she becomes more intrigued with the elegant Edward Cullen, and begins stealing glances and asking questions. Finally their paths collide, literally, when Edward jumps in front of Bella to stop a reckless van in the school parking lot, raising even more questions about him. Amazingly, Bella still takes awhile (painfully long, in fact) to piece together what Edward’s pale skin, unbelievable speed, and inhuman strength all mean… he’s a vampire. This instant of interaction sets them on an immediate course to falling head-over-heels for each other, despite both of their better judgments.

As someone with my heart wrapped up in the story, I thoroughly enjoyed it; however I would probably not recommend it to someone not interested in the books. The fault lies in many places, primarily with the tiny budget and screenwriting. Kristin Stewart (Bella) and Robert Pattinson (Edward) did an excellent job of giving us an on screen portrayal of the palpable tension between to two characters; the build-up to the single onscreen kiss between the two is practically explosive. That said, the conflicted nature of their love in which Edward is perpetually protecting Bella from himself, was so badly written, it pretty much consisted of him repeatedly and awkwardly saying they couldn’t be friends, unlike the anguished restraint portrayed in the book.  The quivering and stuttering between the two got a little excessive, as did Bella’s open-mouthed stare, but ultimately it got the point across (albeit a bit crudely).

Adding to the often hollow words exchanged by the two main characters, were the bad ensemble cast. This is very heavily an ensemble film, and the sequels will be even more so, so I was devastated to see the Cullens (Rosalie, Emmet, Alice, Jasper, Carlise, and Esme) exceed my expectations as individuals, but never quite mesh as a group. At best the interactions between them were wooden, not something you expect from a family who have been together for decades. To make matters worse, their pale face makeup looked fairly ridiculous (when the film introduces Carlise, at many angles he actually appears GREEN!), Jasper as a wide-eyed newly turned vampire winds up looking more like a zombie for the majority of the film. 

Along with the makeup the special effects were downright atrocious; again they did what they could with the budget they had I expect. Most times when Edward is running or climbing, you can practically see the wires and harness, there is little fluidity of movement – with the exception of one scene in which Bella drops an apple and Edward pops it up with his foot.  The action sequences are far overdone; I suspect this was an attempt to fill in what they couldn’t afford to do with high end effects, with overacted movements, which left me thinking B-movie.  Finally, the numerous instances where speech was dubbed in over unmoving lips or lips were moving but no sound, was extremely unsettling – I don’t know much about film or sound editing, so it has to be bad if I caught it.

Overall, I was pleased to watch an on screen adaptation of a story I’ve come to love, but my greatest hope is that this will simply act as the stepping stone to a big budget production on the next installment.

3 ½ / 5 stars

 
 
 
 

Review by Patrick Hodges

If you went – or tried- to see Twilight on its opening weekend, you no doubt noticed that the theater was jam-packed with teenagers (especially girls).  And if you went in my neck of the woods, you may have noticed the 12-year-old daughter of a friend of mine (named, ironically, Isabel), who is a huge fan of the series of books by Stephanie Meyer, and who had been counting the days until the movie’s release.  Having not read the books myself, I asked her:  was it a good movie, and was it faithful to the book?  She answered both with an enthusiastic yes.  And if a ringing endorsement from a 12-year-old girl is all you need to recommend you, then you should probably stop reading right now.

Since I can’t speak to Twilight’s merits as an adaptation, I can only critique it as a vampire story, a love story, and as a piece of entertainment.  I’ll start with the “love story” aspect, which was fairly well done.  When Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) moves from Phoenix, Arizona to the small town of Forks, Washington to be with her divorced father – the town’s sheriff – she meets a mysterious boy named Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).  She finds herself drawn to him, and only after he uses superhuman speed and strength to save her life from a speeding car does she realize what he truly is – a vampire.  But that does not stop her from losing her heart to him, nor his to her.  The chemistry between the two actors is actually very good, and it carries the film through a lot of its “down” points.

As a vampire movie, it’s as tame as they come.  If you expect violence or gore on the level of, say, 30 Days of Night, you will be sorely disappointed.  This film was made for youngsters, and you’ll be glad to know that though there are some romantic moments, there is no foul language and only a small amount of violence and blood.  There is no gore whatsoever.  Which is fine for a “family” film, but it rather dilutes the experience for a veteran of “vampire” films.

So would I recommend it as a piece of entertainment?  Just barely.  Though the love story was well-realized, it took too long to develop.  Twilight’s running time of just over two hours should have been trimmed by at least fifteen minutes, and much of the awkward teenage love-hate-love introductory phase between Bella and Edward had me checking my watch more than once. 

There were plenty of high points, though.  The scenery, shot on location in the Pacific Northwest, was gorgeous, and the film did a decent job in skewering some of the typical vampire stereotypes that I had.  (The “vampire baseball” scene was a wonderful surprise.)

Though a confrontation between Edward’s family and a group of other vampires who don’t share their restraint for killing humans is inevitable, the characters do a good job trying to convey how much they try not to be the “monsters” that history makes them out to be.  Just as inevitable?  At least one sequel, so be warned.

2 ½ / 5 stars

 

Comments (1):

  • jerishza r fabriga @ 01/12/2009 ( 12:49:27 AM )
    i really adore the movie of twilight Robert Pattinson was performed very well and ilovehim very muc because he is so handsome
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