Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Twilight: The Official Devon Lohan Review

I'd like to preface this review by mentioning that, yes, I did read the books. However, unlike the majority of the fanbase for this film, I didn't read them starting a couple years ago. Instead, I actually didn't pick them up until I began to read all the fuss about this movie getting made, this past summer. I'm one of those people, that anytime I hear or read about something that a lot of people are keen on, I usually have to check it out and see what all the fuss was about. So before I ever opened the first book of the series, I had already been made privy to a plot outline, and had even a preliminary cast photo. This served well, as it helped me establish an idea of what the characters looked like in my head. I read the entire series picturing the players in my head as they would be portrayed on film. So without further ado, my Twilight review.

Before going to see the film last night, I read several online reviews, just to kind of get an idea in my head of what the movie would be like. I don't like to be disappointed, so I assume this would be a good way to set myself up for whatever result I would get. Imagine my surprise when I found the reviews to be a staunch 50/50 deadlock. Half of the reviews raved about how the movie met their every anticipation, and the other half picked it apart and analyzed every little nuance of every little detail. It was remarkable as well, that these reviews were blatantly split between the tween fangirls of this movie, and adults like myself, who picked up the books and ended up really liking the story. There's a different in there somewhere, between the fangirls, and the rest of us, and I'm still trying to figure that out. What makes them so ravenous about this film? I really enjoyed the books, but as you can see I made it until Monday night to see the movie without exploding. Some of the girls in the theater with me were there for the 3rd and 4th time! It's no wonder this flick made over 70 million at the box office! Suffice to say, I went in to the movie with an open mind, expecting to pick out of some of the same things all the 13 year olds are freaking out about, but also being able to formulate an opinion, as an intelligent movie lover. Here's where I stand.

The books are, in no uncertain terms, written moderately well by Stephanie Mayer (who has a brief cameo if you catch it). She's no Anne Rice, I'll tell you that much, but she does manage to capture a sort of magic in her books, that leaves you wanting more, and rushing out to pick the next one up. I bought the first three together on ebay and read them cover to cover, back to back. I waited a month, and the 4th and final book came out, and I tore through it in ONE sitting. So, you can imagine that the books hold up on their own, but as it goes in Hollywood, the movie adaptation doesn't necessarily replicate that success. So I wanted to come in to the movie with an objective mind, and view it as a film fan, and not a fan of the books. What I think is, Catherine Hardwicke, the director, is a one trick pony. If you've seen Catherine's previous work, 13 and Lords of Dogtown (both I really enjoyed) than you're probably familiar with her style of shooting. Lots of short close up bursts, and even more sweeping scene shots. Very little of the movie is shot in the traditional way, with the camera usually focusing in on smaller parts of the scene, or fluxing back and forth from zoom IN and zoom OUT. If I hadn't know already, I would've quickly assumed this was directed by the same person. I can't say it's all bad though, I was actually impressed with how the movie was a little more rough looking, as in not as polished and shiny as most movies on this subject. The more realistic look that Hardwicke uses was a good surprise and added a sense of realism. Also, big surprise Nikki Reed was casted in this flick. That makes her 3-0 for Catherine Hardwicke films. No favoritism showed there, eh? Not that I'm complaining, I've enjoyed Reed ever since she vamped it up in 13... no pun intended.

The film starts off much like the book, with Isabella Swan (played by Kristen Stewart) moving from Phoenix, Arizona to her new home in the small, cloud covered town of Forks, Washington, where Vampires come out in the daytime, protected by the low cloud ceiling. I was instantly impressed with just how much Forks leaped off the pages of the books to the big screen. It was just as I had imagined it while reading the books, and looked exactly how Stephanie Mayer described it. My only real complaint about the transition from book to movie was the way some things were shown out of order. I'm sure it's no easy task transferring a 500+ page book to a 2 hour movie, but with the way the film is laid out there's no reason the biggest mistakes in the movie had to be made. I'm referring to the character of Jacob Black, who turns up in the first ten minutes of the movie, where as in the book he doesn't appear until Bella and her friends spend a day at the beach... a scene that happens in the film, and in which Jacob appears. Why not just wait until then?

I also saw a lot of complaints about the acting, and maybe it's just me, but I thought the acting was really decent. I saw the movie with my roommate, and she complained that Kristen Stewart acts weird... to which I quickly informed her that Kristen Stewart played Bella to a T. She portrays the character exactly as she is written, even surpassing my expectations. There were parts of the movie that felt like deja vu to me, because they were acted out exactly as I had pictured them in my mind. Most of those scenes involved Kristen Stewart playing Bella. Robert Pattinson (of the Harry Potter films) does an excellent job as Edward. People have chastised his performance as being too intense, but I'm assuming their feeble pubescent minds can't grasp the concept of this guy, the character of Edward Cullen, being a Vampire who is falling in love with a girl who smells sweeter to him than any human he's ever encountered. He has to balance his desire to eat her alive, with his desire to be with her and protect her. In my opinion, Robert Pattinson does a spectacular job conveying the intensity of what Edward feels when Bella is in the room. He's never met anyone like her, and he has to juggle the fact that she is everything he wants, and at the same time everything he can't have. That's no easy feat to get across on screen. The scene in the lab where he smells her scent for the first time was terrific. The look on his face is of utter disgust, at least to Bella, but what he's really feeling is pure terror, because he doesn't know if he can control himself from leaping across the room and ripping her throat out. Leave R-Patz alone, girls, he's a fine actor in my book. I always liked that guy as Cedric Duggary anyway.

One other complaint that was frequent was about the graphics, or CG. See, here's the thing though... this movie isn't ABOUT graphics. It had no need for them, EXCEPT for the one thing it was used for... so to complain that there could have been more and better graphics is useless. I don't know what everyone expected, but what I saw on screen looked exactly like I would have imagined it looked like. In the books, Stephanie Mayer describes the way the skin glows as "shining like diamonds." So, what I imagined was skin that shimmered like diamonds in the sunlight, and what did I get? Skin, shimmering like a million diamonds, refracting light and glowing, in the sunlight. It was PERFECT. I read an interview with Robert Pattinson where he was asked about the CG and he said, "I haven't actually seen that yet. It is CG but I don't know what it's going to look like. That was one of the hardest things to do. We did like a thousand different ideas. We did this thing with flakes of salt and every single thing [they could think of]. I remember they painted one of the PA's blue, which was kind of a confused direction." For me, I can't imagine them doing anything else. The way Edward's skin glows is just like I pictured it. So shut up about that one already. The CG was fine, for what it was.

The supporting cast is surprisingly strong, but unfortunately the majority of the film centers around Bella and Edward. Again, this is an instance where the fangirls are flipping out that they dived right in to Bella and Edward falling in love, and again it's an instance where they are wrong. If this movie was 3 hours long, than yes, they could've slowed down, but it wasn't. The plain outline for this film is the relationship between Bella and Edward, so naturally they are going to consume the most screen time building up that plot. The supporting cast is great when they're on screen though. Bella's high school friends are acted out great, and lived up to what I expected from them. The Cullen family is perfect. That's all I can say. They feel on screen, just as they felt in the book. Warm, loving, caring... but also visceral, strong, powerful. They take to Bella and accept her in to their family, and it's some of these scenes with all of them together that the movie really comes together. The baseball game was awesome, funny, and done really well. I'd actually say this is probably the stand out scene to me, as far as surpassing the book. The scenes with the whole family together make me look forward to more movies, since we know they're a much bigger role later down the line. I would've liked to see Elizabeth Reeser on screen a little more, but I know the role of Esme will come along stronger later on.

The only other realistic complain I have about the movie is Cam Gigandet. I don't understand how this guy continues to find work. He has an imposing, almost scary look to him, which fits him well since he's type casted as a badguy at this point his career... but this guy is a terrible actor. He portrayed James as someone much more hardened and sharp as he should have been. James is a tracker, he hunts for hobby and makes a game out of it, and where we should've seen him actually hunting and putting together his master plan to catch Bella, we instead get a shot of him barreling through some woods, and then suddenly in Phoenix with his whole plan worked out. I guess this is another one of those Book > Film situations where some things had to be cut for time. It just left a bad impression on me.

All in all, the movie really did surpass my expectations. I'm not surprised by some of the stupid reviews I've read, because some people refuse to just enjoy something for what it is. The book isn't canon, and in a film you're going to see some poetic license. Either way, I give Catherine Hardwicke kudos for the way she directed the film. Sure, it looks like just all her other work, but at the same time it's so very different and beautiful. The score is mediocre at best, based mostly off of author Stephanie Mayer's personal playlist while writing the book. It could've been worse though I guess. If you're a fan of the books, try and have an open mind going in to it. Don't look at it like the book is canon and unchangeable. Look at it as a different way of telling your favorite story. Enjoy it for what it is, which is a good, down to earth, enjoyable vampire romance movie. It's a classic tale of forbidden love, set with a contemporary theme, and it's well done. I look forward to the next one, and hopefully two more after that. If the studio is smart, they won't waste any time getting all three in to production before anyone gets any older. If 70 million dollars is any indication of how serious the fans are, they'll listen to my advice.

Go see Twilight, in theaters everywhere right now, and then come back here and sound off in the comments section. Hope you enjoyed my review!



  1. Why in most vampire movies are people moving away from Arizona and into vampire country? They did that in Lost Boys too.

  2. That Vammpire guy is so dreamy.

  3. That wasn't me.

    I know how to spell Vampire.