Reviews

Twilight

While Meyers’ books tend toward formulaic characterizations, Hardwicke takes the material and successfully transforms it into a subtle, layered atmospheric film.


Twilight

Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Jackson Rathbone, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz
Distributor: Summit
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: Summit Entertainment
First date: 2008
US DVD Release Date: 2009-03-21
Website

Twilight, the film based on the first book of Stephanie Meyers’ wildly successful young adult series, brings to life all the teen angst and vampire melodrama that fans were expecting. The Twilight craze has been in full effect ever since the announcement was made that a movie was forthcoming, and rabid fans embraced the adaptation.

The story focuses on Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a newcomer to Forks, Washington. Choosing to live with her estranged father Charlie (Billy Burke) after her mother’s recent marriage, Bella is sullen and antisocial and naturally, she immediately draws the attention of her entire new high school, particularly the attention of the mysterious Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Edward and his equally mystifying family immediately stand out among the average high schoolers and Edward quickly makes Bella both curious and uncomfortable.

Immediately drawn to Edward, Bella soon discovers that Edward is not an average teenager, but rather a very old vampire, living undercover with a family of other vampires, and one with enough self restraint to deny his instincts to kill her.

The character of Bella is problematic in that while she may be clumsy and uninterested in being popular or in going to school dances – stereotypically girly interests – she still often ends up as the traditional girl-in-distress. Unfortunately, Bella is placed in situation after situation where she needs to be saved by Edward. Her helplessness is somewhat moderated by her otherwise independent spirit, but again, when it comes to Edward she is willing to put herself repeatedly at risk and frequently at his mercy.

While Meyers’ books tend toward fairly formulaic characterizations and simplistic dialogue, director Catherine Hardwicke takes the material and successfully transforms it into a more subtle and layered, atmospheric film than may have been expected. Hardwicke uses the setting of Forks for its maximum moodiness: the sun rarely shines, the rain is plentiful, and gorgeous greenery surrounds everything. An ideal environment for a vampire to hide in plain sight, Forks is also instrumental in serving as a place of startling change for Bella.

Previously living in Arizona, the newness of her environment serves as a gateway to the countless ways in which her life will never be the same. While never completely rising above some of the book’s weaknesses, Hardwicke does an admirable job of taking the story and running with it to produce a film with a bit more depth.

Twilight focuses on more than establishing the relationship between Bella and Edward. As Bella comes closer to understanding just what Edward really is and all that it entails, she is also the target of another vampire and her safety is never fully guaranteed. Hardwicke goes to great lengths to create a mood that speaks to impending danger while all the while managing to create an almost idyllic environment in which her leads can fall in love.

Throughout the commentary and in other special features, Hardwicke’s enthusiasm for the material is apparent. There is a bittersweetness to the fact that she will not be directing Twilight’s sequel, New Moon, as she is obviously very invested in the story.

Twilight relies heavily on its young actors to deliver challenging emotional depth and for the most part, they are up to the task. Stewart is especially good at playing Bella’s initial disaffection, as well as her growing fascination with Edward. Pattinson, carrying the heavy load of playing an almost impossible character, fares less well with an uneven, sometimes over-the-top performance.

Based on the documentary included in the special features, it is clear that Meyers had quite a bit of input into the film and Hardwicke, along with screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, seem to have taken her suggestions very much into account. For instance, Meyers was concerned that a romantic scene between Bella and Edward was too intense and Hardwicke in turn, toned it down. Despite the fact that Hardwicke has publicly spoken out about many of the studio’s budgetary limitations on the film, especially related to special effects, there is little behind-the-scenes information on the topic.

Fans of the book series have surely already made their approval for the movie known and they will not be disappointed with the DVD treatment it gets. Bonus features abound in this special edition release, including: audio commentary by Hardwicke, Stewart, and Pattinson; deleted and extended scenes; music videos and performances by Muse, Paramore, and Linkin Park; a seven-part documentary on various aspects of pre-production, filming, and postproduction; and an edited look at Twilight at Comic-Con.

Overall, these special features add a great deal to the DVD release in highlighting and providing insight into certain choices made in this film adaptation. The commentary is a particular treat in that Stewart and Pattinson never take themselves too seriously and offer plenty of self-deprecating remarks, while Hardwicke explains many of the challenges (uncooperative weather, special effects, stunts, etc.) facing the production. This set that will surely please fans and provide more behind-the-scenes information to discuss and dissect.

5


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.