Twilight: Edward Cullen, a 100-something-year-old vampire who doesn't look a day over 17, is attending high school along with his adoptive vampire family. He's beautiful (Robert Pattinson is on the path to being the most sought-after man-child since Romeo + Juliet-era Leonardo DiCaprio), he can read minds, and virtually all of his female classmates alternate between lovesickness and trepidation (the Cullens are all a little unsettling in their beauty). In any case, he isn't interested. Enter Bella Swan, Teenage Girl. She's the new kid in a small, perpetually overcast Washington town called Forks. Her first days of school aren't exactly traumatizing; she makes friends easily and attracts her fair share of Forks boys, but she still doesn't feel she fits in and misses her home in Arizona. Everything changes after she locks eyes with Edward Cullen, who doesn't know if he should kill Bella (he admits the scent of her blood is like his "brand of heroin") or allow himself to fall in love with her. This is where The Teen Girl Effect comes into play. Twilight is grade-A film crack. The dialogue leaves much to be desired and the special effects are like something out of an old episode of The Outer Limits. Edward's inner struggle to resist the allure of Bella's blood, and Bella's mixed feelings and hurt regarding Edward's erratic behavior plays like a rushed attempt at paving the way to their first kiss.
It's not long before Edward and Bella declare their "unconditional, irrevocable" love for one another despite the inherent danger of a love affair between predator and prey (referred to as "the lion falling in love with the lamb" in both the book and film). Bella is willing to give up everything for a boy she hardly knows because she's convinced Edward is her true love, and to be separated from him would be unbearable. It's not a shining moment in terms of social progress for women -- however, if you are a teenage girl, or an adult who secretly keeps a warm place in your heart for your inner-teen to write bad poetry and long for the day her emo Prince Charming will realize just how special and different she really is, this movie delivers the goods. Twilight is almost a spot-on adaptation of the book, down to the mushroom ravioli Bella orders on her first sort-of date with Edward. Similar shout-outs to book fans occur throughout the course of the film; this, along with the casting (though he's not the hero of the story, Billy Burke makes a great protective father), captures the essence of the novel quite accurately.
In terms of bringing the book to life, Twilight is a complete success, so much so that most of the film's flaws work within the context of the story. Kristen Stewart is sometimes awkward and self-conscious in her delivery, but Bella is an awkward, self-conscious character. Robert Pattinson appears to have taken a hint from Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Angel and attended Broody Vampires Who Hate Their Predatory Nature 101, but that's the nature of Edward Cullen. Director Catherine Hardwicke's influence shows in the rival vampire clan (James [Cam Gigandet]), Laurent [Edi Gathegi], and Victoria [Rachelle Lefevre]), who offer a subtly different menace than the Cullens, in that where the Cullens are mostly a benign kind of scary, these vamps love the thrill of the hunt, and it shows. Unlike Edward's family, this clan doesn't believe in leading a "vegetarian" (code for drinking animal blood as opposed to human) lifestyle. These are not self-loathing vampires, and when they catch Bella's scent during a family baseball game, James assumes Bella is the post-game meal. The pacing gets a little odd after this -- Bella's leaving her father, she's in a car, she's on a plane, in a hotel room, outside the hotel, and inside the ballet studio where the epic vampire battle is to take place. Gigandet is appropriately creepy as a vampire obsessed with tracking and killing his prey, though once again the battle seems like an inconvenient obstacle preventing Bella and Edward from staring dreamily at one another. It's a forgivable sin, though -- after all, the Twilight demographic (and their unashamed adult fans) is prone to skipping to the kissing parts anyway. leave a comment --Tracie Cooper