Monday, November 24, 2008
Movie Review: Twilight
Back to back vampire films was the theme of the past 2 weeks movie date. Last week Nicholas and I viewed "Let the Right One In" (a fantastic original vampire love/friendship story from Norway) and this week we brought ourselves out for Twilight, the first film based on the highly successful Twilight book series by Stephanie Meyer. So before I begin my review of sorts I want to put a preface to this. So here it is:
* I have not read the book. In fact I tried too, and couldn't get into it. (I am however going to give it another try)
* Nicholas really enjoyed the movie. (He is also a fan of the books, and semi-infatuated with the male leads)
Okay now that those 2 facts are out of the way, my review:
Vampire films on the whole seem to take 2 steps forward and 4 steps back. For example: Where we had Bram Stokers Dracula (a very powerful and frightening take on the original vamp) we were then given John Carpenter's Vampires (a very bad attempt). Audiences were delighted to Shadow of the Vampire (a semi-comic and yet terrifying take on Nosferatu) then were given Bordello of Blood (a bad attempt at a comedic vampire style). Likewise I was given Let the Right One In, and then you have Twilight.
Now I will not compare Twilight to those films, because it's not quite that bad. Twilight tries to bring a new light to the old vampire traditions. Some of those ideas are refreshing and new (such as the glimmering diamond skin in the sun, the vampiric love of baseball in the rainstorm, etc) however some just don't work and some are not new at all. First on the things that just plain don't work. As an audience member who had not read the book, I simply wanted more from the characters of this world. From what I am told the books are very character heavy. The movie completely avoids letting its audience get to know its characters. The crew that hurts from this the most are the "bad vampires" .. I have no idea what to call them because their names were mentioned maybe 3 times in the whole film (FYI they were James, Victoria, and ... the black one?). We don't know why these guys are bad, we don't know why one decides to turn his back on his bad friends and help the goodies, we don't know much besides they kill a couple of people and interrupt a baseball game. Another thing that doesn't work is the shoddy special effects and makeup. The CGI work is sloppy, and not new or exciting in any way. The makeup looks pasty on screen, and often would end under someones chin, making the rest of their face red and "humanish". I often wondered a couple times during Twilight why more money wasn't spent on the movie version of one of the most successful books out there.
As far as the things that have been done before. The saga seems to be setting it up for a retread of the best vampire saga done (in my opinion), that would be Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Rewind 10 years ago when Buffy moved away from her father to a new town to live with her mother. She attended a high school knowing no one, and was living in a small community. She quickly attracted a "nerd heard" group of friends. She meets a dangerous but sexy guy named Angel whom she is intrigued by and slowly falls in love with - only to find out he is a vampire. .. See the connection? The main difference is that Buffy was a vampire slayer and Bella is not. Now, I could be wrong, but I feel that the story of the Twilight saga will break down into Bella having 2 lovers to choose from, one good guy who goes bad (Angel in Buffy) and perhaps one guy perceived bad to go good (Spike from Buffy). I could be wrong, but the first film seemed exactly like a Buffy episode, just without the humor and the good characterization.
Now that it seems I have taken a dump on Twilight, let me tell you what I like. First of all I liked watching my boyfriend get excited watching the characters that he has read all about. I liked some of the casting. Robert Pattison is a great Edward. He exudes charm and sexuality, almost like a James Dean for this generation. He truly was the highlight of the film (and not because of his looks). I loved the scene where the Cullen family play baseball - it was a chance for the MTV style editing that the film used to shine. The action scenes (although horrible too few) were exciting. And the final moments of the film do a good job of making me want to know whats going to happen. (That could be because I got intertwined in the subject, or because I feel these characters warrant a better sequel).
I am probably being a bit too hard on Twilight. It is HUGELY successful! It green lighted a sequel before it even opened based on pre-order tickets. Robert Pattison has turned into a Beatle-like sensation all on his own. The majority of audiences who read the book love the movie, and I imagine it will continue to be #1 for a couple of weeks. I knew it wouldn't be Oscar caliber of course, I just wanted a bit more. A good translation from book to movie makes sure to entertain both the readers and the non-readers (example: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings). I think Twilight was made solely to pander to the whims of the readers of the book, and in that era - it is a success.
** out of *****
Note: The experience of seeing this movie besides my fantastic boyfriend was a four star experience because he got so excited and smiled the whole way through. And for this alone, I loved Twilight because it made him happy! And I will see the next one alongside him.