Friday, December 19, 2008

Twilight - the review

Just saw Twilight and here's what I thought:

The money-making machine that is Twilight has hit Irish screens - and if the (mostly teenage) audience reaction in my cinema is anything to go by, resistance is futile.

Based on the first of Stephenie Mayer’s bestselling series of novels, Twilight tells the story of teenager Bella Swann, who moves to the town of Forks in Washington State to live with her dad. Her father is the local police chief and soon finds himself investigating a spate of deaths that apparently involve a wild animal. Or do they?

Meanwhile, Bella starts at the local high school where she encounters the mysterious Cullen siblings and in particular the enigmatic 17-year-old Edward. The Cullens are a family of foster children and this, as well as their aloof manner and deathly-pale skin, sets them apart from the other kids. Edward seems to detest Bella on sight, but a series of strange events and a growing attraction to each other conspire to bring them together and expose his family’s secret. It comes as no surprise at all, of course, that they are vampires, albeit vegetarian ones (they only drink the blood of animals). But though we have seen the vampire family idea before, it is done in a fresh and surprisingly funny manner – “It gives us an excuse to use the kitchen for the first time.” says Edward’s mother when Bella visits the family house for dinner.

The good and bad vampires idea – for there are also vampires who are only too happy to hunt people – has also been done before in films like The Lost Boys and shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and arguably, these previous efforts did it better. This is a 12A film so obviously it is low on gore but did it have to be so low on scares? The evil vampires, led by Cam Gigandet, are a toothless bunch and don’t present much of a threat.

The real threat in this film, of course, comes from Edward himself. He and Bella fall in love, but can’t consummate their relationship or even kiss for fear that Edward will lose control and kill her with a bite. This has inevitably led to a comparison with sexual abstinence movements in the U.S. (and the fact that Meyer is herself a Mormon has added to the argument). I think that if anything, though, this is reading too much into what is a clever and compelling plot device.

I will confess that I haven’t read the novel and had little or no expectations walking into the cinema. That I enjoyed the film and would pay to see a sequel is mainly down to the well-drawn heroine and the amusingly-written supporting characters. Kristen Stewart is likeable as Bella, despite playing possibly the most angst-ridden teenage girl I’ve seen on screen in a long time. Her school friends are realistically-played and the vampire family, especially the parents portrayed by Peter Facinelli and Elizabeth Reaser, are interesting characters that could be developed much better in any future films. It is ironic, seeing as he plays the supposedly charismatic Edward, that Robert Pattinson’s is possibly the least-engaging character. Whether Pattinson can do more than pout and look mysterious or whether he’s going to get typecast like Orlando Bloom, only time will tell.

In the meantime, Twilight is an engaging and beautifully-shot teenage movie that parents will probably enjoy more than they will admit.

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