Reviewed by Morgan Elektra
Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Life is funny sometimes. After an initial disdain for the idea of a “young adult” novel, I ended up really becoming a fan of the Twilight saga. And while I prepared myself for the movie not meeting my admittedly very high expectations, I had strong hope that it would turn out well. Catherine Hardwicke, the director, helmed the wonderful movie Thirteen with a deft hand; screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg has written some very fine episodes of my favorite TV show, "Dexter"; and the cast features talent like Kristen Stewart, who has shown some pretty decent acting chops (she ain’t bad to look at either). So it was with mixed feelings that I approached the release day. Everything was all in place for me to see the movie's first showing and get the review in lickety split… but then life did one of those funny things and I ended up not being able to get to see it until the last show of the night… It’s almost 1 am and I’ve just gotten home.
My esteemed colleague Nomad, for whom I have a great deal of respect, managed to catch an earlier show and got in a review so we’d be covered, but our fearless leaders asked me to write one as well since I’ve read the books. And I’m glad they did because – while I adore Nomad from the top of his head to the tip of his boots – I do have quite a big problem with his review.
He was much, much, MUCH too kind.
Where do I even begin to tell you what’s wrong with this movie? I guess I’d better start at the beginning. The first thing we hear is our heroine, Bella (Stewart), in voiceover. She says “I never really thought about how I would die. But dying in the place of someone I love, that doesn’t seem like such a bad way to go.” It’s nearly a direct quote from the book’s prologue and not an awful way to start… Except that someone, I don’t know who, then decided to follow that up with some more lame, on the nose, painfully expositional voiceover. It even includes, no joke, Bella’s thought “one bathroom”…. Just that, nothing more, and completely apropos of nothing that’s important to the story, ever. GAH! This is where they decide to remain doggedly faithful to the book? With the thought “ONE BATHROOM”? By this point I was already gritting my teeth and clenching my fists and we hadn’t even made it past 5 minutes yet.
What follows is a timid Bella meeting a painfully uncomfortable Edward (Pattinson), and the two embark on a tepid affair that doesn’t even come close to echoing what happens in the book. The dialogue has been stripped down, removing all of the awkward and funny interaction between the two as their relationship builds – and making the few verbatim lines, when delivered out of context, come across as wooden and unemotional. In fact, most of the cast waxes between bouts of excruciating over-acting, cold flatness, and some all too brief moments of genuine warmth. And while I’m talking about the acting, I need to know one very important thing:
What in the name of all that’s holy did they do to poor Jackson Rathbone, the actor who plays Jasper? Were they threatening to kill his mother or his favorite puppy just off camera? The only look he manages to have on his face for the whole film is one of blank terror. All I can think of that would cause such abject horror is that he had just seen the finished film before they shot all his scenes. I couldn’t stop laughing every time they showed his face. Really, though, I felt bad for him. And every other actor in this movie. I pity them and their three-picture deals almost as much as I pity anyone else who gets duped into seeing this movie.
Meyer’s great at creating life-like characters out of paper and words, and Hardwicke and crew gave them flesh… but took away all their meat. Gone is Bella’s quiet, stubborn strength, her quirky wit, and they’ve nixed her cooking and housekeeping too. A lot of people have lynched the books as being anti-feminist, saying Bella is nothing but the damsel in distress being rescued by the strong hero. Frankly, I think that’s bullshit. Book Bella cares for and protects the people she loves, no matter what the cost. In the book Bella is planning on ditching Alice and Jasper and going to face James alone before he calls and fakes her out. When she finds out he doesn’t really have her mother, she says “Thank god”, and means it.
But in the movie they’ve stripped all this away and made her truly the victim – poor, innocent Bella. Gone is the smart, capable, often self-deprecatingly witty Edward who has genuinely fallen in love with this girl and struggles with his twin desires – to be with her and to kill her. In his place is tortured, stiff, boring Edward. In the movie it’s completely unclear what makes these two love each other. Although I do have to give Pattinson his credit… for one, he did a pretty decent American accent, and for two, he did manage a few of those brief moments of warmth I mentioned. In those tiny, miniscule moments I saw what could have been had the material been handled better.
I almost always like the books more than the movies that get made from them, but this is an extreme case. Anyone who knows me well knows I am a rabid Stephen King fan, and we all know how most of those adaptations turn out. But there are some cases, like Kubrick’s Shining, where I can like the film as a film even though it’s really a pretty bad adaptation of the book. It’s not a very faithful representation of the story, but it captures the spirit of the story fairly well, and it’s an enjoyable movie by itself. But this isn’t even that. This is just a bad movie all around. I could go on and on, and on and on and on. And… well, you get the point. But Nomad has managed to cover the major issues fairly succinctly, so I’ll just summarize my comparison of the movie to the book as briefly as I can:
Does the movie portray Meyer’s amusing, touching, and entertaining tale accurately? No. Does it capture the essence of the book? No. Does it come close to depicting her rich and interesting characters? No.
Should you see this movie? NO.
0 out of 5
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