Twilight
“I’m king, and they know it / When i snap my fingers everybody says show it / I’m hot / and your not / But if you wanna hang with me I’ll give it one shot / Top that, top that / You can give all that you can, but you will never top that!”

Theatrical Release Date: 11/21/2008
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Sarah Clarke, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Cam Gigandet, Taylor Lautner, Rachelle Lefevre

OK, so I have finally confirmed something I have known for a long time – I am basically a 14 year old girl. There have always been signs – I have too much in common with the elementary school children I teach, and I read more YA books than they do. I also recently festooned another reviewer’s home with full My Little Pony regalia for her birthday.

But it was reading the “Twilight” books – some more than once – that really made me feel re-prepubescent (yep, that’s a word now). I know I’m not alone – several of my friends and other women across the world are just as bad as I am. Somehow, as I listened to the soundtrack in my car before the movie release and trolled IMDB to gripe about the casting, that didn’t make me feel any better.

What did make me feel better was going to the screening and seeing that I have got nothing on the real 14 year old girls. They had been at the mall since 9 am for a 7 pm screening, in their “Team Edward” shirts. They could have watched Pattinson read the phone book and left happy. Everyone else in the mall looked annoyed by the whole thing.

So I don’t know who this review is for, really. If you love the books, you will see the movie. If you wish you could move to Antarctica to escape all of the Hot Topic-clad tweenyboppers, you won’t see the movie. Nothing you read here will change anyone’s mind about this film.

But I’m writing it anyway.

So in case you really do live in Antarctica, “Twilight” is the story of Bella (Kristen Stewart), a 17 year old that moves to a small town in Washington to stay with her dad, Police Chief Swan (Billy Burke). She meets Edward (Robert Pattinson), an enigmatic and excessively attractive boy in her Biology class (get it?). They get off to rocky start, but naturally fall head over heels for each other. As Bella starts to put two and two together – cold pale skin, super speed and strength, not going out in direct sun – she realizes that it doesn’t matter what he is, and they forge on ahead despite what others think. Soon, of course, other complications arise and everyone is put in danger.

Formulaic, yes, but it makes for a great escapist series of books. Unfortunately, that doesn’t hold as well for movies. I had my reservations from the get-go, and most of my issues were confirmed throughout the movie.

First of all, the casting is a bit hit or miss. The young, fresh-faced cast of relative unknowns is great in the human department. Stewart is a perfect Bella – pretty but not extraordinary, young but not immature. The other teens are a bit silly but generally believable. The vampires are a different story. It is very hard to cast a family that is essentially a super human race of preternaturally gorgeous creatures, and casting less experienced actors (Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, and Kellen Lutz) was a double edged sword – they were young and attractive, but lacked the depth and complexity expected from people that have been around for so long.

I might be hunted down and killed for this, but one of the actors that fell a bit short was Pattinson. Yeah, I know all the kids love him and all, and he is an attractive guy, to be sure. He just came across as too human for me – too much emotion was portrayed through his movement, and it was almost always angst or anger. I know that normally you want an actor to emote kinesthetically. For this role, however, it is all about subtlety and grace, since he is a 100 year old vampire that is inhumanly perfect and a stickler for self control.

Perhaps my biggest issue was about pacing. SPOILER ALERT: If you care about possible spoilers, skip the next paragraph.

In taking a long, romantic book – nearly 500 pages – and condensing it into a movie with a running time of a little less than two hours (and a hope to widen the audience to include the testosterone set), liberties were taken. I’m OK with that, but a whole murderous plotline with the nomadic vamps was added for action’s sake, which detracted from the time spent on other elements. Bella’s coming to Forks was pretty much intact (albeit with annoying perspective changes), and the way she meets Edward stayed the same. The climax of the story also stuck to the spirit of the book, although they did leave out some pivotal scenes with Alice, Jasper and Bella, and expand the fight scene to make it more dramatic.

It was the middle of the story that suffered, as they condensed weeks of boyfriend – girlfriend routines into one or two episodes. Bella’s introduction to Edward’s family, the back story of their “creation”, and much of his explanation of his behavior was truncated or missing entirely. Alice’s relationships with Bella and Charlie were put on the back burner. Her abilities were barely mentioned, and Jasper’s weren’t mentioned at all. This all may sound unnecessary, but it helped the reader to justify this romance despite all of the complications. All of the relationships feel a bit too shallow in the film, and a newcomer to the franchise could be left wonder what all the fuss is about.

Some things weren’t so bad, however. The soundtrack is good and the score lends a perfect atmosphere. The effects are a bit over the top but the cinematography is nice and the Pacific Northwest is beautiful yet shrouded in mist, a nice metaphor for the inhabitants of Forks.

Overall, I’d have to say that nothing was great, but nothing was horrible. The film did its job, and there is always room for growth in the next few films, if they are greenlit. The first in a series isn’t always the strongest, and this one provides a decent structure for future events. Besides, no one cares what I think – there’s probably two people that’ll read this review to the end.

For doing its job, I’ll give “Twilight” a marginal 3 out of 5. If they make the rest, they had better step it up. Now I have to go to Hot Topic to buy my Team Edward shirt.