Teen vampire romance Twilight is finally yours to enjoy in theaters, and one day later, it's already the best debut for a female director ever. The first numbers indicate the film has made $32.7 million so far, and online ticket purchases haven't been this hot since The Dark Knight. The film will have doubled its miniscule budget by the time the weekend is over, but if you're not a fan of the books, is it worth getting good with Twilight? We review the most important film of this or any other generation:
Twilight's long-ancipated opening finally has brought the wildly popular series to devoted fans and vampire noobs alike, whether they like it or not. South Park parodied Twilight groupies by turning class geek Butters into a member of The Ungroundable, per se, but the real laughs emerge during the film's 2 hour running time. Directed by Thirteen helmer Catherine Hardwicke, the cinematic version of Twilight is an audience participation movie, drawing constant laughs from viewers. It's not entirely clear that the film doesn't mean to be funny. The filmmakers seemed to know that teens and adults would be hooting at the events of the film no matter what they did. Instead of making the novels into something they're not, Hardwicke and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg hammed it up, and the result is something like a love story happening during Night of the Living Dead, a contrast that lends itself to comedy. You can debate exactly how hammy Twilight is, but even the most devoted fan has to crack a smile when Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) scrunches up his face as only he can.
The film begins with a bracing voiceover directly from the book,a technique that it barely bothers to return to. Presented with a uniquely smart and outsider-y heroine in the book version of Bella, the film's Isabella Swan (Kristen Stewart) doesn't struggler to fit in like her literary alter-ego. We never really feel for her. She arrives at a new school, and two scenes later she's already chatting up various hotties. Though at one point she tells her father that she likes being alone, it's a curious statement, considering she's virtually never alone in the movie. Readers of the book will find Hardwicke and Rosenberg's translation familiar, and for the most part, faithful. Yes, the action sequence where mean vampire James tracks Bella as Edward tries to save her turns about 200 pages into five minutes' worth of screen time, and it's more hokey than satisfying. But it's a big book - something has to give. You can't make a film with this flimsy a plot into a 3 hour epic. What's left over should be judged on its own merits, and and embracing the campier qualities was the right move, even if it was the only option available. Adults may have laughed their balls off during the tired courtship of Anakin Skywalker and Queen Amidala, but that only proves how difficult it is to write a convincing teen romance. Every move Robert Pattinson makes here draws a laugh, as do the film's numerous near-kisses. The more serious you made his Edward Cullen out to be, the worse a parody the film would become. Pattinson's a terrible actor, but this isn't an easy part to play.
Really, there is no such thing as a serious vampire, and though the filmmakers tried their best to elevate the stakes of Bella's romance with Edward, between tree-climbing, staring intently and playing DeBussy on the piano, the film's going to get laughs no matter how you stage it. Don't think teens aren't in on the joke. Edward Cullen is a manpire that Bella Swan and every girl dreams about — and that includes having a sense of humor about his pale predicament. He lives up to that expectation by delivering a vampire that is breezy, fun, and most of all, hot. Stewart herself isn't much of an actress (as she proved in her abominable Letterman appearance) but the supporting cast is appealing, especially Bella's Quileute friend Jacob and the bratty vampire clan that surrounds Bella and Edward's love. It's not great news that Melissa Rosenberg, and probably Hardwicke as well, will be back for the first sequel, New Moon. The two proved they were far better at making Forks, Washington fun than directing any kind of action. And New Moon is full of the latter, featuring an extended sequence in Europe and likely demanding a special effects budget much larger than that of the original for its new creatures. It's too bad for fans of the book that they have to make three big budget features out of this concept, when so much about Twilight would be more suited to a series. I guess Buffy reruns will have to do.