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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Twilight

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Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Twilight

Twilight, the long-awaited screen adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s first book in the four-volume series arrived in late November with a midnight showing that brought female tweens and teens, parents, boyfriends, and fans of vampire romance together for a type of chaste communal orgasm.  This is the kind of film where it won’t matter what critics think; it will be popular and it will be embraced by an extremely loyal fan base.  It will make lots of money and so will its sequels.  What it turns out not to be is good.

 

The 122 minute film introduces us to 17-year-old Bella Swan, (Kristin Stewart) newly arrived from Phoenix to Forks, Washington to live with her Chief of Police father (Billy Burke) after her mother’s remarriage.

Loner Bella is inexplicably a hit with her peers from the moment she drives her vintage red pickup truck onto Forks High School’s campus.  The jocks and brainiacs don’t interest her, but the Goth-like clique of Cullen siblings, especially brooding Edward, (Robert Pattinson) does.

After a shaky start brought about by her irresistible scent and Edward’s reaction to it, the two partially succumb to a simmering passion that remains virginal through mutual self-control.  Edward doesn’t want to hurt, kill or immortalize Bella, just love her as best he can.  It’s safe sex, involving only the eyes and some questionable, uninspired and unintentionally humorous dialogue.

Edward eventually lets Bella in on family secrets.  He and his entire family are vampires who can never die unless they are torn apart and burned.  As if this bit of information isn’t romantic enough, Edward assures Bella that his crowd doesn’t drink human blood, stalking only wild game; it’s their unique form of vegetarianism.  Sunlight does nothing but make their skin sparkle like full-bodied bling.  They are strong and swift, can levitate, and like to play baseball during thunderstorms.  Although it’s never explained, my guess is that the thunder disguises the mighty wallop their aluminum bats make when in contact with the ball.

Flying piggyback with Edward among the treetops, Bella and her “vein man” (my words) form a palpable yearning for one another to the point where she asks to join his existence and give up her own.  Wise Edward – he’s got about ninety years on her – won’t let that happen.  The two resolve to make their inter-species romance work despite the ever-present danger of adolescent sexuality and bloodlust.

Meanwhile strange murders are taking place – a rogue Cullen perhaps?  There are seven of them, including “father” Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) and “mother” Esme (Elizabeth Reaser).  They live in a window-filled, mountain-top luxury home where an entire wall is covered with colorful satiny squares which are discovered to be dozens of graduation caps.  Since vampires never age, the Cullens are perpetually in high school because, As Edward tells Bella, “The younger we start, the longer we can stay.”

As it turns out, a trio of carnivorous undead-heads has invaded the territory, sampling the local flavor literally, and leaving corpses in their path.  One of them, James, (Cam Gigandet) picks up Bella’s scent, without Edward’s accompanying conscience.  He just wants to sip her like a straw.  Edward enlists his family to help protect Bella.

The rest of the film, about 30 minutes worth, contains all of the action and conflict in the battle for Bella’s life.  Pretty long set-up, huh?  I wanted to yawn, but could not risk exposing my lack of fangs among all of the true believers.

Robert Pattinson as the seemingly brooding, magnetic, and irresistible Edward makes a startling first appearance then settles back into a bland teenage romance ramped up by his super-human powers of speed and flight.  Girls in the audience screamed when he appeared onscreen, more a testament to his perceived good looks than his acting ability.

Kristin Stewart’s Bella delivers nearly all of her lines with a Dana Scully-like gravitas that I found distracting as time went on.  Some could call it earnestness, but combined with a lack of emotional range, the performance came across as one-note and devoid of the highs and lows a complicated love story would demand.

Director Catherine Hardwicke (The Nativity Story) had an interesting premise with which to work, but manages instead to make love and vampires and repressed sexuality boring and unimaginative.  The scenery of the Pacific Northwest is a visual feast of forests and rainclouds, lush greenery unimaginable here in the desert, and Hardwicke makes good use of that.  Everything else moves at the pace of coagulated blood.

Twilight had a lot of squandered possibilities.  After all, teen attraction is sexy; harnessed lust is sexy; even the wild fury of carnivorous evil can be sexy.  Just not here.

Declaring that a film about vampires sucked is much too easy of a pun.  Let’s just say it suffered from an anemia that leapt off of the screen and onto certain audience members who didn’t fit its target demographic.

Regarding sequels, it’s safe to say that there will be more, and there will be blood.

If only it were safe to say they will be good.