Saturday, December 06, 2008


Year: 2008
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Cam Gigandet, Sarah Clarke

This is it. Time to find out what the big deal is behind one of the most talked about films this year.

I'm of course referring to Twilight, a film based on Stephenie Meyer's best-selling book. It focuses on Bella Swan, a teenage girl who decides to move in with her father in Forks, Washington instead of travelling with her mum and her new stepdad. Bella seems very detached from her dad, who is the sheriff of the town. But she manages, and despite getting too much attention from the other kids at school, she adapts.

Then she meets Edward Cullen, a handsome but strange looking boy. First they exchange curious glances, then he becomes her lab partner, which doesn't sit well with him at first. She finds him very intriguing, but the real shocker comes when he saves her from a car accident. With his bare hands to stop the oncoming car!

So now Bella wants to know what he's all about, but Edward refuses to reveal his secret, even resorting to being rude to her to drive her away. But the two can't seem to get enough of each other's attention, and they inevitably fall in love. She then finds out who he is: a vampire. Not just him, but his family too. But they are essentially good vampires, because they don't feed on humans, despite sometimes having the appetite for it. Bella and Edward begin an unlikely romance, which goes well until the presence of three other vampires who do feed on humans threatens their safety, and their respective families.

Twilight is getting a lot of attention, particularly because it's almost as famous as Harry Potter. Potter is for kids however, Twilight is for young girls. Prior to watching this, I have heard of all the praises younger viewers have been giving this film, and I can see why. Vampire mythology has always been an interesting exploration in filmdom, and this time it is neither the Dracula kind or the violent kind. (There is some violence here, but quite minimal) Then you have a young, good looking couple playing the leads. So it's no surprise why this is a hit. Director Catherine Hardwicke succeeds in making a well paced, well told film. It's rarely boring, even as it takes its time to show the heartfelt yet tense romance between Bella and Edward.

Kristen Stewart, whom I'll always remember for playing Jodie Foster's diabetic kid in Panic Room, acquits herself well as Bella, the awkward kid who although gets a lot of attention from the people around her, only wants attention from the one person who loves to lie low. Robert Pattinson, whom I'll always remember for playing the gay-looking Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire, isn't too shabby either as Edward, though he seems better at conveying his emotions from his face than his words. However, both Stewart and Pattinson don't really have much room to work with their characters, as they seem to have the same expressions throughout the film. But they do reasonably well with what they have, and that is enough.

Cam Gigandet is the lead villain vampire, and unfortunately he's a one-dimensional baddie, the kind that chooses thrill over brains. This is old school villainy. The supporting cast, who play Edward's vampire family in particular, are quite fun to watch. If only Hardwicke had given them more screen time, they would have been more memorable.

And now for the negative points. For all its well executed filmmaking, there are several scenes that turn out to be unintentionally funny. You know it's bad when you laugh at a film for the wrong reasons. Check out the scene when Bella walks into the school lab where Edward is. As she enters, the fan blows her hair....and then there's the slow-mo effect. The scene was meant to show Edward's reaction as she walks in, but it was just weird. Slow-mo? This isn't John Woo. Then there's the bad vampires walking slow-mo, like it was a Jerry Bruckheimer film. And the way the Cullen family are first introduced reminds me of the film Disturbing Behaviour. You know, perfect looks, outstanding dress style etc. And some of the dialogue is just too corny, like Edward calling Bella 'his own personal heroin', as in drug. Oh, and the vampires in Twilight don't have fangs (I can accept that), but they actually sparkle in sunlight too? Perhaps Hardwicke should leave that part out.

But you know what? I had a great time watching this. Really. Despite it being humorless for the most part, and a lot of time spent on courtship between the two leads, it's very engrossing. If you're a girl, you'll look at Edward and say "oh he's so handsome!" and if you're a guy, you'll look at Bella and think "hey I knew a girl like her once". And the music, despite being tailored for the teenage crowd, is very spot-on. I didn't think Muse's Supermassive Black Hole could fit in Twilight, until I saw the baseball scene. Then there's Linkin Park and Paramore rocking during the closing credits, making me not want to leave the cinema till the very end.

It's a good movie. Go watch it. And there will be a sequel, since Hardwicke left the ending wide open, and there are three more books to translate to celluloid. (4/5)

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