(2008 ) Director: Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown) | Writer: Screenplay – Melissa Rosenberg (Dexter), Novel – Stephanie Meyer
Every once in a great while comes along a film so transcendental, so utterly immersive and engrossing, that it blossoms into a cultural touchstone, unifying people of all races and creeds under the banner of universally beloved entertainment, all while cementing itself as a permanent benchmark of high art, to be looked back upon throughout the centuries as a defining achievement in the annals of mankind.
Twilight, which totally sucks, is not that film.
Based on the first in a series of teenage vampire chick lit novels by Stephanie Meyer, the film adaptation premiere was built up to be an Event along the historical lines of a presidential election or the Super Bowl—and as expected, Twilight did rake in something like 43.7 billion dollars this last weekend, mostly from the pocketbooks of screaming adolescent girls and their begrudging mothers. However, what was not expected is that the movie itself is an unintentional laugh riot, featuring community theater-grade acting, vomit-inducing dialogue, and a plot with more holes in it than Edward James Olmos’ face. I laughed harder during this film than I have in most comedies that meant it, and that’s not a compliment.
Twilight concerns itself with the plight of the ludicrously-named Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Bob Hope), a 17-year-old girl from Phoenix who is forced to move in with her dopey cop father in the Washington town of Forks, a place bereft of sunshine but stocked to the gills with paraplegic Native Americans. When Bella’s life is saved by creepy, pale hunk Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), who—surprise—turns out to be a vampire, a fierce mutual attraction develops between them. Is it true love, or will their fling be interrupted by the murderous bad guy vampires who show up in the movie’s last half-hour? Yeah, you’re right: who cares?
Maybe Twilight would feel like a more serious movie if its leads were subtler actors, but Stewart attacks each scene with all the gloomy nuance of a less-talented Neve Campbell, while Pattinson insists upon reciting his lines with a nervous, staggered diction akin to Hayden Christensen’s whiny delivery in the more recent Star Wars films. Together the star-crossed couple twitch, blink, and stutter through the film like relapsed meth addicts. It doesn’t help that in most scenes director Catherine Hardwicke’s camera lingers uncomfortably on their anxious faces long after they’ve finished talking.
But worse than the acting, direction, editing, special effects, score, casting, cinematography, and dialogue is the film’s interpretation of what a vampire is, owed mostly to source author Meyer. The Cullen clan consists of “vegetarian” vampires who abstain of human blood by feeding only on animals. They have strong family values of unconditional support and love. Oh, and instead of exploding when exposed to sunlight, they turn all sparkly, like they’ve been tarred and glittered. It’s as though Meyer and Hardwicke flipped through a Hello Kitty catalogue and randomly picked out attributes that would make Edward and his undead family more sellable to the tween girl demographic.
Twilight is a bloodless, lifeless take on the vampire myth, yes; but more importantly, it’s pure camp. I’m certain that, years down the road, theaters will be playing this film as a midnight-movie attraction alongside The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Showgirls. As an unabashed fan of bad movies, I can’t say I don’t recommend this film. Just be aware that expecting a Titanic-level romance-fest will leave you wishing you had done something more constructive with your nine bucks, like paying a homeless guy to punch you in the throat.
Rating: One of Five Stars (Four of Five for Comedy Purposes)