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


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

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.





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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