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Undeservedly or not, THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE grabbed a bunch of Razzie nominations (see item here). Here’s Jessica Leibe’s review of the film that started it all.
“And so the lion fell in love with the lamb” is one of the most popular lines in Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling novel TWILIGHT. It is here that the main characters of Edward and Bella realize they are in love. While it reads well on the page, it unfortunately loses its meaning on screen, as does most of the dialogue in the film adaptation directed by Catherine (THIRTEEN) Hardwicke.
For someone (like this critic) who has read Meyer’s entire book series, it seems redundant to provide a detailed description of the plot—but for those living under a rock, here’s the quick breakdown: teenaged Bella Swan (THE MESSENGERS’ Kristen Stewart) moves from sunny Phoenix, Arizona to dreary Forks, Washington, where she meets and falls in love with Edward Cullen (HARRY POTTER’s Robert Pattinson), one of several young vampires living teenagers’ lives in Forks. A “vegetarian” who has long resisted preying on the living—and initially finds this especially difficult in Bella’s case—Edward ultimately brings her into his world. But when three human-drinking vamps show up, Edward and his “family” must protect Bella from becoming their next meal.
While awaiting the film’s release, I was growing anxious—what fan wouldn’t? Walking into the screening, I was merely hoping for a film that did justice to the book. I am happy to report that although certain scenes were altered or omitted, Melissa (DEXTER) Rosenberg’s script does faithfully follow the novel. However, sad to say, the final result suggests that perhaps the world of TWILIGHT should have stayed on the page. I’ll begin with what disappointed me the most: the lack of passion. Everyone who has read the book cannot mistake the absolute love and desire the two protagonists have for each other. On screen, though, one would have to look deep beneath the surface to find it. Stewart and Pattinson give off tremendous sparks—albeit when they’re not talking. Once they open their mouths, their all-too-earnest acting ruins the mood. Had they played the roles a bit more relaxed, maybe all their scenes together would have the intensity of their sizzling first-kiss moment.
The supporting players also fail to have much impact. Edward’s vampire brood remain largely in the background, providing the necessary lines to keep the story moving forward, but none are given the range to truly stand out. It is actually the evil bloodsuckers that, even in their limited screen time, leave a memorable mark—and we’ll be able to see a few of them stretch their legs in the follow-up films that are certain to come. Bella’s human pals offer comic relief and all do a fine job, with the standout being Anna Kendrick’s two-faced Jessica, who steals the screen. Taylor Lautner does surprisingly well as Native American Jacob, though the sequels will provide him ampler opportunities to impress. But the best character, and the one who feels closest to Meyer’s creation, is Bella’s police-chief father Charlie. Billy (UNTRACEABLE) Burke’s simple charm makes him lovable, and his comedic dialogue is amusing.
On the page, TWILIGHT contains several cheesy lines that have made girls everywhere swoon (I shamelessly admit to being one of them). Reading and hearing them are two different things, however, and much of the dialogue feels forced, as though the actors can’t believe what they’re saying. Carter Burwell’s music and the assorted pop tunes, on the other hand, are smartly deployed, giving numerous scenes an extra boost. One sequence in particular that stands out is a vampire baseball game; backed by an upbeat rock song, it gives the audience a chance to see the Cullens having fun, playing a variation on the sport that’s definitely different from ours. The CGI is also at its best in this sequence, and in the climactic scenes, whereas elsewhere the FX come off as mundane and silly. The downfall of the final-reel action, though, is how rushed it comes across. This is the stuff that was apparently meant to draw in the male audience, but the whole subplot comes and goes so quickly that it will leave many dissatisfied. The earlier establishing scenes may seem slow to those who haven’t read the book—and for this writer, who *has* read it, they felt slow regardless.
As for the vampires themselves, well…they could easily be mistaken for super-powered humans. Because they don’t have fangs in Meyer’s world, it was important for the film to heighten their predatory tendencies. Though I never liked the idea of vamps *sans* fangs, the author still kept them dangerous and menacing in the novel. On screen, their aggressive behavior feels more akin to monkeys than vicious predators. On the plus side, the color contacts used to create those famous “golden” eyes are gorgeous—and girls will no doubt enjoy the many close-ups of Pattinson’s tragic face. I do praise Hardwicke for her sharp eye, and the overall look of the film is beautiful. She and cinematographer Elliot Davis bring Forks and the lush forests around it to life with stunning bird’s-eye shots, and the design team allows the green hues to pop by clothing the actors in soft colors. Though there are one or two questionable camera movements, the scenery is enrapturing, and it’s easy to believe that this is the TWILIGHT setting from the novel.
In the end, I don’t wish to discourage TWILIGHT’s followers from seeing this film, and there will no doubt be readers who disagree with me and simply enjoy the opportunity to see the story on screen. But where book-to-film adaptations must go right is with the characters who bring the pages to life—and that’s exactly where TWILIGHT goes wrong. Since the cinematic sequels are bound to happen, let’s hope they slow down, fix the corny lines, relax their two leads—and leave us breathless.
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