Thursday, April 09, 2009

Twilight – review

Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke

Release date: 2008

Contains spoilers

What can be said about Twilight, a film that polarises viewers. On the day of writing the review I went for a drink with a friend. He asked me my opinion of the film. When I told him, and what I said will be reflected hereon in, he told me he rather enjoyed it (I was shocked) but his wife had disliked it (I was equally shocked). My opinion, to be fair, has not really changed since I gave my First Impression, but here I hope to expand on my thoughts.

Of course the film is based upon the book of the same name and whilst I think book/film comparisons can be unfair, in this case whilst I care not a jot if the story details stray the fact that the base personality of Bella (Kirsten Stewart), our heroine, seemed to change was an issue as was the fact that the very essence, which made the book good, was utterly lost.

Bella Swan is moving from Phoenix, a lovely sunny desert area, to Forks Washington – the wettest area of the US. She is doing this because her mom (Sarah Clarke), along with mom's new husband Phil (Matt Bushell), are on the road and she feels she owes it to her mom to allow her parent to live her own life. Her father, Charlie (Billy Burke), is the Fork’s chief of police. Here we hit the character personality change, early on in. It is a sacrifice of the highest order, seems to be the film Bella's attitude, something to be pitied rather than applauded.. well that is the feel I got.

It was all a big problem in the script, direction and performance by Kirsten Stewart. Bella comes across as the most hard done by emo kid in the world. Seriously I was expecting her to say, all the way through, ‘if life was fair why do roses have thorns’. It was that miserable. To the book this was inaccurate and forgetting the book I don’t want to see a whinging teen. Stewart never seemed to escape full on moan, and that, to me, was not acting. Seriously, before New Moon (the next movie) expand your range beyond angst.

However, she gets a new truck – supplied by her father’s friend Billy Black (Gil Birmingham) and catches up with Billy's son Jacob (Taylor Lautner). She offers him a lift to school, but he doesn’t go to her new school – he is schooled on the Reservation. Next problem – the school and the young people therein. I swear they were some of the worst actors I have seen. I thought this when I watched the film at the cinema and, as I watched the DVD, I wrote in my notes about Anna Kendrick – who plays Jessica – 'worst actress ever.' Probably unfair, but in such a big film I expect above average performances, and certainly do not want annoyingly simpering. Here lies the rub with the film…

The book does not have the greatest story, to be fair, what it does have is fantastic characterisation. Meyer is not the greatest writer ever but her characterisation is top notch. Films struggle with that level of characterisation, this one never got close and (without a decent, in-depth story) we were on to a loser. The fault? The script, the director and the fact that – had the script been there – you would need fantastic support actors (as well as leads) to carry that characterisation forward. Continuing story wise, Bella is angsty (actually she is meant to be approachable but a klutz, though that never really comes across) but is intrigued by the Cullens, foster kids of Carlisle Cullen (Peter facinelli). Most of all she is intrigued by Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).

That would be all well and good but, as she goes into biology, a fan catches her scent and he seems – despite being a distance away – repelled by her smell. She sniffs her hair to see if she stinks. He seems uncomfortable by her, leaves the class barely on time and then she sees him trying to transfer classes. She tries to confront him the next day but he vanishes from the school.

A week later he is back and I was taken by Pattinson’s performance. He vacillated between goofy, disgusted and barely controlled homicidal really well. Bella notices that his eyes have changed – they had been black they are now golden brown. Bella is by her truck when she is nearly crushed by an out of control vehicle – Edward saves her by getting to her side, in a flurry of speed that was quite inhuman, and stopping the sliding vehicle with his bare hands. Bella, at the hospital, tackles him but he states no one would believe her.

On a field trip he claims adrenaline rush. Bella admits she is thinking radioactive spider or kryptonite – all to do with heroes, he points out, what if he were the villain of the piece. She later invites him to La Push, a beach on the reservation where her school chums are going to go. She hears from local youths that the Cullens do not go there and Jacob admits to knowing scary stories about the Cullen's ‘clan’. Intrigued further she sources a book on local native legends at the nearby Port Angeles.

Whilst there she is nearly attacked and Edward saves her. He lets slips that he can read minds – except hers. His hand is cold and, at home, Bella puts two and two together. Confronting Edward she voices her thought – vampire… Now Edward takes her flying through the trees, running along with inhuman speed to break through the cloud cover higher up the mountain, as he wants to show his true face. Vampires do not burn in the sun, rather their skin sparkles like diamonds – hence living in rainy Forks. Other than that they are too much for a human to handle and can only be killed by being ripped apart and burnt. They are turned by a venom, from their bite, infecting a still living victim. The Cullens are ‘vegetarian’ in that they don’t eat humans.

One complaint I have read about the film was about the showing of bad vampires, through the length of the film and perhaps more than the book did, up to the confrontation between them and the Cullens and one of the bad vamps, James (Cam Gigandent), developing a need to hunt Bella down. To be truthful it was the very brief moments with the bad vampires that kept me going as the main film was awash with angst, poor performances and languid countryside views – all in all I stick by my first impression that the film is overlong and boring.

Not all the performances were bad. I have mentioned Pattinson, Gigandent is good but on screen for just a few moments and I appreciated Billy Burke’s performance – that was it. The vampires needed expanding on as characters – they were all, bar Edward, non entities and the most I got was that Jasper Hale (Jackson Rathbone) wanted to be Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands – for the whole 30 seconds of screen time he got. The story was lacking, as I said, in character study – this was to the point that the film almost takes it for granted that Bella and Edward will fall in love – it never developed their relationship for us and so a viewer never buys it.

The scenery was nice, but was on screen too long. The film needed a fast forward button and desperately needed a script that would open characters for us. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Everlost said...

I bet you have been waiting a while to review this one! Sparklie vampires that are angsty and dont drink blood...not what i am after from a vampire fact the exact opposite.

Here's hoping New Moon with its werewolves will be a big improvement!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Everlost - to be honest the opposite, I've been dreading reviewing this one as I'm going to wind someone up I'm sure. But as always I'll call them as I see them...

Like you, not exactly what I look for in a vampire movie... Vamps for the emo generation but... if it keeps the genre in the public eye, leads to more traditional offerings and maybe generates some interest in the classics... well that can be no bad thing in itself

Bill Dan Courtney said...

I liked this film but I liked it not really as a horror film. In that area it missed the boat. I will be honest I have seen this one about 5 times! Not because I love it, but I am a teacher in China and it worked well as a class movie. Had the right things to not really offend the students: no violence to speak of, romance, and focus on teenager issues. I was not crazy about it the 1st time but I started to get into it a bit later on.

Not a great movie but I felt well made. I lived 10 ten years in Seattle across the Puget Sound from Port Angeles and had a burger in Port A once. It looked the same way it did in the film: suicidally gray and wet.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Being from an area you know, I am sure that it means a little more to you. I am glad it is having a positive educational effect.

Anonymous said...

Having read several reviews of this film, I am astonished that nobody has noted the names of the two lead characters are the exact opposites to the lead actors Christian names in the Lugosi film - Bella and Edward.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

anon - nice spot, though entirely coincidental one feels, the premise has precious little in common with that great version of Dracula (and to be fair, the name Bella is spelt diferently)

Meyers herself gives the following source for the name: "For my vampire (who I was in love with from day one) I decided to use a name that had once been considered romantic, but had fallen out of popularity for decades. Charlotte Bronte's Mr. Rochester and Jane Austen's Mr. Ferrars were the characters that led me to the name Edward. I tried it on for size, and found that it fit well. My female lead was harder. Nothing I named her seemed just right. After spending so much time with her, I loved her like a daughter, and no name was good enough. Finally, inspired by that love, I gave her the name I was saving for my daughter, who had never shown up and was unlikely to put in an appearance at this point: Isabella."

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I read all those comments from her in the past plus others like edward was her dogs name etc etc. Its no biggie though. I always considered it a nice bit of an in-joke/homage to cinema history. That considered though - gee its a massive coincidence if you were to believe her totally. I mean, same names but in reverse and all. Naturally Bella is the feminine version of Bela.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Anon - as I said, coincidence or not, it was a good spot. I missed it.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Whilst Noctis was good enough to leave his contact details – and his comment was fair play and I will respond below the exact quote – I deleted the comment as it linked to what seems, to me, to be a ropey site. His comment was:

I don't want to be mean but come on.. Shinny vampires? oh yeah and the typically "I am alone and I don't deserve to live" girl fell in love with the "I am the last coca-cola in the desert" guy.. Boring..

Which I must say is a fair appraisal but a lot of people do get an awful lot out of the Twilight films and they have led to many other decent vampire films getting the green light for being made (as well as some dross). Not my cup of tea (and I appreciated the books) and clearly not yours, but they do have their place (and might have been good if better acted and directed).

Cheers for the comment Noctis, but please leave the link off next time.