Twilight (2008) Review

It’s incredible how easy it would be to just cash in on this review. I suppose it’ll be quite popular, in relation to my other reviews so far, because people expect to hear me rant and get annoyed at “Twilight” because of all of its heavy handedness and unbelievable amounts of angst. That alongside its ridiculous amounts of success that have made it into a phenomenon, it’s definitely fun to hate. I fully expect to really find myself despising the series soon, and you’ll hear me get angry then. For now though, the “Twilight Saga” has begun relatively strong footed as far as these things go. Saying that, only in the tween romance genre would I ever be able to say that this is a strong foot… but there you go.

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is moving away from Phoenix to the fictional town of Forks where her father (Billy Burke) lives, separated from her mother. Bella’s mother is leaving to travel with her new husband for a while which is the odd reason why Bella has to leave. In Forks, Bella meets a boy named Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). He is mysterious and initially seems to be repulsed by the sight of her, even going as far as to attempt to change classes. We all know there is more to Edward than meets the eye, and Bella is no stranger to this knowledge. So when she does manage to start getting closer to him she has to know what his secret is. Why do his eyes change colour? Why does he only attend school when there is significant cloud cover? How does he move so fast? The secret, that has long left spoiler territory and moved into the general knowledge section of a quiz show, is that Edward and his family are vampires, and they all find Bella irresistible for her blood, none more so than Edward. Of course the Cullens are “vegetarian” vampires, so for moral reasons they fight the urge to take Bella for their own sustenance. Sure enough other vampires get involved and they aren’t so fond of subverting their innate need to feed just to feel better about themselves.

Mostly, the film concerns itself with the bumpy relationship shared by Edward and Bella. It takes just under an hour for Edward to reveal himself as a vampire, that means that essentially half of the film is spent dealing with Bella’s inability to figure out the worst kept secret in history. Sure it’s understandable that she wouldn’t figure it out right away but the point is that we do. The suspense should come in the form of us being just as curious as to the Cullen family’s secrets as Bella is, and being just as ignorant. Even without the knowledge prior to watching the film that Edward is a vampire it’s still fairly obvious and because of this much of the first half is going to be spent watching as Bella repeatedly demonstrates the fact that she has never watched a vampire movie in her entire life.

After this revelation we are introduced to the Cullen family. They are a set of pale faced yet ironically colourful characters that actually do, for all intents and purposes, feel like a family that aren’t related by blood but have just found themselves together due to their similar ideals. Things get a little more interesting from here because Bella unfortunately is too flat to carry the film by herself and so is Edward. Admittedly when they are together the way there blandness plays off against each other is rather endearing. There is a sequences in the film where the entire Cullen family, which at this point includes Bella, play baseball. It’s an interesting little segment that fits and leads smoothly into more key plot elements. It also gives us an insight into the relationship between each of the Cullens, to some extent their different abilities (such as Edward’s speed) and how they view Bella. It also serves to let us watch vampires knock balls out of the park but still manage to get the batter out, it’s at the very least entertaining.

“A tween romance, Twilight is. Always feel like it, it does.” as Yoda would say. It never really transcends the genre it is shackled to and, perhaps in an effort to achieve more than it realistically can, “Twilight” is very heavy handed. Bella will constantly find herself literally breathless just from the sight and sound of Edward, the camera will spin around them when they are together and Edward will adamantly tell her she has to see something, which just turns out to be his sparkly skin. She already knew he was vampire so I can’t say I understand why she had to see it but you know whatever. Come to think of it, one of the later plot points hinted at early on is the idea that being a vampire is a curse, and Bella shouldn’t want to be one. There is literally nothing wrong with being a vampire beyond the sparkly skin thing and being hungrier than usual around humans. Okay, so there are a few things but overall I never felt like Bella should be kept from being a vampire. Being human just seems to get her into trouble anyway, it’s as if it would solve more good than do harm.

Also, I didn’t buy the whole idea that Edward could lose control and kill Bella at any minute. Maybe Robert Pattinson just isn’t sufficiently equipped as an actor to portray it or perhaps Catharine Hardewicke’s direction was wrong. Suffice to say, there was only one time I truly felt that Edward was a danger and that was during the exciting fight near the end. It really was exciting and it’s one of the few times you see “Twilight” rise up above its brethren of the genre.

I’d love to be optimistic and say it can only go up from here, but let’s take a step back shall we. For now, we’ll just appreciate that “Twilight” is actually relatively good at what it does, never really breaking ground anywhere but often threatening to. It’s not going to fill the hole left by “Harry Potter”, that’s for sure.


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