By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Sarah Clarke, Taylor Lautner, and Anna Kendrick
I am a big lug who is a sucker for a love story. For example, every single time 1998’s Meet Joe Black is on, no matter what I am doing, I will stop and watch it (ask anyone I have lived with). Despite the bad peanut butter jokes and constantly high as he is acting Brad Pitt performance, I get engaged and root for him and Claire Forlani to get together each and every time. So, when this film, based on Stephanie Meyer’s bestseller of the same name, was announced, I did not groan as loud as most guys my age. Sure, I could not get through 70 pages of the book (yep, I tried), but if it was pulled off well, I could sit and actually enjoy myself. So what if it contained a vampire that sparkles. So what if he could leap from tree to tree with his fist out like Kal-El. If director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) could keep this stuff to a minimum, yet explain what is brought before us, letting the story flow on its own, guess what? I could go with it.
Now, I am not about to go Stephen King and bash Meyer’s writing (although, be forewarned, Twilight fans: this will more than likely happen when I discuss the sequels). One thing she does very well is teen angst. And, this being a film directed by Hardwicke, it nails this portion pretty well. Sure, the constant slow motion walks were an annoyance at times. But, this is how teen girls see someone that has captured their eyes. Another thing that Hardwicke does with this film is get the mood just right. With a beautiful color pallet brought before us, it has a constant blue tint as well as clouds in the sky & rain always covering the streets. If anything else, this is a beautiful film to look at. And, combined with a pretty decent music score by Carter Burtell, gave the film the exact feel it needed. Kudos to all involved for that. Another thing that is done very well is the father/daughter dynamic. Burke and Stewart really play off each other well in these scenes and, having a sister myself, I was brought back to the way her and my father used to be when she was a teen. The love is there, even if the similarities of what they are dealing with in their separate lives was not. Also, the way Hardwicke sets the story up kind of gripped me. I liked how there were scattered animal attacks throughout the beginning portions of the film, reminding us that there was SOMETHING threatening out there. Bella’s new friends, everything that had to do with the school and her trying to belong, had me as well. Again, call me a sucker, but I went with it. And, while I may be in the minority, I did not have a problem with Pattinson’s performance. I think given what he was given, he did a good enough job and that he will go from a decent actor to a very good one very soon.
Where the film drops the ball, unfortunately, is in its storytelling. Now, I am as big of a fan of vampires as anybody. But, I am also a fan of telling a good story behind them. I do not ask that someone ‘stick to the lore of vampire’ that was brought forth before. Because, lord knows these have been messed with constantly since the dawn of film. However, while Joss Whedon would mess with and have different rules for vampires for his show Buffy The Vampire Slayer, at least he would explain them. And, I think this is where Meyer (and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg) get themselves in a bit of trouble. Again, like I said above: it’s fine having a vampire have super strength. Have him glow. Do whatever you want to the legend. But…EXPLAIN! Why was it bad if Buffy got with Angel? Because he was the most feared vampire roaming the streets for centuries, and she is the SLAYER. Meaning, she was supposed to kill him. Not have a relationship with him. In other words, it was the worst person she could possibly start a relationship with. The way Edward and Bella start to sort of fall in love, yet he is always being stand-offish for some reason just didn’t ring true. Not just for vampire lore, but storytelling in of itself. The constant need to add different things to this creature and yet just let it pass on by really made no sense. WHY do they like playing baseball so much? What made it so appealing to them? Again, I do not mean to bash the writing here, as this film is pretty much all set-up for what is going to happen later. But, without some sort of explanation it is not necessarily bad storytelling. It’s just lazy. Even the line Edward uses when he is showing a stunned Bella around his place and says, “what were you expecting, a dungeon,” kind of put the nail in the coffin of getting any decent explanation necessary.
Also, while I had absolutely no problem with Pattinson’s performance, Lautner and Stewart really hit a grind with me. It kind of made me sad as Stewart really showed some great potential as a little girl in Fincher’s Panic Room. But, as much of a joke as it has become it is really true here: the girl cannot emote in this film. One of her dad’s friends is getting wheeled off after getting attacked, and I swear: her expression did not change from when she first laid eyes on Edward. And, I have no idea why Lautner felt the need to giggle after every fourth word he said. It really bugged me though, and again comes across as lazy acting to me. Overall, I am not bashing this film as much as I thought I would given how much heat it gets. The film had a real involving set-up and, again, the feel was perfect. But, from the performances given, a flawed storyline to say the least, and a final 30 minutes of film that really seemed to drag, it still wasn’t anything to write home about. However, if you do happen to get forced..I mean, decide to watch it with your significant other, it is a great argument for the fact that love is never easy.
3 out of 5