Saturday, December 20, 2008

Review Of Twilight

Note to L: No pictures this time. :)

spoilers beware

spoilers beware

spoilers beware

spoilers beware

spoilers beware

How should I begin this? Like all Twilight readers, I had expectations. Did the film meet the minimum requirements? Well, yes and no. Is the movie good or bad? Err, a bit of both.

First, the not-so-good parts.

1) Overall production

Not anyone's fault, I suppose, considering the skeletal budget. But the generally scruffy look of the movie does tie in with the small-town setting ( population: 3120, talk about depressing ) and provides a realistic rendering of sleepy / cloudy / perpetually wet Forks, Washington and its no-frills residents.

Still, I've seen indie films which feature breath-taking cinematography, so money isn't always the main issue. Maybe the Twilight crew meant for things to be this way, who knows?

2) Director Catherine Hardwicke

For me, she's a large part of the problem ( but that's just a personal opinion ). Aside from the horrifying script ( to be discussed later ), the direction fails in many respects. Camera angles in the forest scene gave me vertigo ( meant to be dramatic, but looked more like a soap opera ); many of the sequences ( especially the short ones ) feel extremely staged ( sure, it's a movie, but the trick is to at least make it SEEM real ); and worst of all, the chemistry between the 2 leads is sorely lacking ( more on that later ).

3) The script

It's been said that author Stephenie Meyer loved it, but I can't imagine why. So many important elements have been left out, it would be impossible for someone who hasn't read the book to fully appreciate the multiple plotlines.

Bella's fascination and infatuation with Edward is never fully explained. Neither are Edward and Carlisle's personal histories, which I found riveting. Jacob, who's a major character in the novel, merely flits in and out of scenes, and the day he spends with Bella in La Push - where they establish the foundation of a very strong friendship - is truncated to a mere 5 minutes, with him relating a Quileute legend.

Bella's visit to the Cullens' home leaves out many details, in particular, a huge painting depicting the Volturi in his study. Edward's first acknowledgement of his immortal status ( which took place in his Volvo ) is transplanted to a dark forest -- I hated it. And the meadow scene - my favourite from Twilight - was similarly scaled down to a short segment of silence with the couple lying on the grass staring at each other.

Most of the Cullen siblings are given only a few lines of dialogue, which is a great pity since they're fully fleshed out in the novel, with each possessing a complex personality and ability. The villainous vampires come across as token bad guys at best, with Bella's hurried evacuation from Forks a blur of activity rather than the intricately planned escape Meyer described.

Yes, I have a lot to complain about script-wise. The main problem is attempting to stuff too much into the allotted 120 minutes running time. If they'd taken a chance and extended the film another 30 - 60 minutes, I think it would've worked much better. Director's cut for the DVD release, perhaps?

4) Kristen Stewart

I honestly expected more from her, and was extremely disappointed.

Even though I can't stand Bella's damsel-in-distress routine in the novel, I do believe in some measure of accuracy in a film adaptation.

Stewart's performance is stiff. She tries to act tough, but just comes across as wooden. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I WANTED her to be a lot more needy. How else would audiences be convinced of Bella's unconditional love for Edward? She looks at co-star Robert Pattinson like he's any other normal guy. Nothing even close to Meyer's long-winded accounts.

Now, the bits worth praising.

1) Robert Pattinson

He does a fine job here. Since I watched the movie with my mom ( she's just as curious as I am ), and we've seen a lot of Pattinson's TV interviews, she kept whispering to me throughout the show about how "different he is in real life".

I couldn't agree more. Never mind the garish make-up -- the performance alone is worth the ticket price. Here's a guy who's perpetually laughing and full of nervous tics when he appears on talk shows. As Edward Cullen, he broods, looks absolutely miserable most of the time and speaks in a completely different voice.

His stillness is the perfect foil for Bella's insistent prying. And while Stewart remains relatively unaffected, Pattinson's intense stares effectively convey the depth of Edward's love for Bella.

What struck me most is how adult Pattinson looks, compared to his mostly teenage co-stars. He was probably 20 - 21 years old when he filmed this, but there're a couple of scenes where he appears almost 30. This is one of the things that works well for the story, since Bella is 17 when she meets Edward, who's 108. The physical discrepancy is key to their relationship, and I fully approve of it. :)

I hope Pattinson stays on for the rest of the Twilight saga films. Recasting Edward would be a disaster as far as I'm concerned.

2) My favourite scene

Surprisingly, it's the baseball game in the forest clearing. I didn't enjoy Meyer's account, but it looks great on the big screen! And Muse's Supermassive Black Hole is the perfect track for this sequence.

Best of all, you get a glimpse of each Cullen's personality. I've just finished Book 3, so Jasper is really growing on me. :)

Final verdict: 6.5 / 10

While some readers - like L :) - may prefer not to see the movie, I fall into the category that usually wants to see film adaptations, mainly so I'll have a reason to grouch about it afterwards, heh.

I will definitely catch New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn when they're released. Hopefully, a new director will result in a better end-product. Make sure you keep Robert Pattinson on the pay roll!

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