Review by Jack Foley
THE latest publishing phenomenon to be adapted for the big screen, Twilight, is – for once – a film that goes some way to justifying the hype surrounding it.
In book form, Stephenie Meyers’ Romeo & Juliet-style vampire romance exists on the same level as Harry Potter (particularly in America), having sold over 5.5 million copies in the US alone and spawned three sequels. Given the quality of the film, don’t be surprised – or depressed – to find a similarly long-running franchise.
Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is a loner who has never cared about fitting in. When her mother remarries, she opts to go and live with her father in the rainy town of Forks, Washington, where she quickly meets the strange but enigmatic Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a boy unlike any she’s ever met. Intelligent and witty, he sees straight into her soul and it’s not long before Bella and Edward embark on a passionate romance.
But their passion is complicated by the fact that Edward is a vampire, who must curb his natural desire for blood in Bella’s presence, as well as being hopelessly seduced by her. Matters become complicated still further when James (Cam Gigandet), Laurent (Edi Gathegi) and Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre), the Cullens’ mortal vampire enemies, come to town, looking for Bella.
Catherine Hardwicke’s film may play more to teenage girls than die-hard vampire fans, given that it lacks any real bite, but it’s done with enough imagination and slow-burning intensity to still boast a very broad appeal. What’s more, despite a simple but effective central romance, it doesn’t conform to bog standard vampire clichés, opting instead to toy with them and give them an alternative spin.
It also boasts two commanding central performances. Kristen Stewart builds on the strong work she’s done in films such as Sean Penn’s Into The Wild to make Bella far more than just a love-smitten teen or potential damsel-in-distress, while former Harry Potter star Robert Pattinson is suitably brooding.
Their unlikely relationship is believably played and exercises admirable restraint, with suggestion and desire placed very much to the fore.
The rainy locations also heighten the ethereal sense of the story and Hardwicke – who is no stranger to issues of teen angst following her debut with Thirteen – milks the atmospheric environment for all they’re worth.
The only real criticism stems from the fact that Twilight is a little anaemic for a vampire movie. Its main protagonists are vegetarians (in that they only eat animals) and hopelessly polite (even playing baseball together during lightning storms), while the threat posed by the likes of James and Laurent only becomes evident very late on – and then feels slightly rushed.
But fans of the book should still love the film, while even the unconverted may find themselves enjoying the story much more than they expected. Twilight is, therefore, a hugely engaging experience that marks a very promising opening chapter for what looks set to be a long-running new franchise.
Running time: 2hrs
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: April 6, 2009
- Buy the 2-disc DVD (Amazon)
- Buy the 1-disc DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart interview
- Catherine Hardwicke interview
- View photos from Twilight
- Twilight's Hardwicke won't return for sequel
- Twilight: UK premiere photos
- Twilight: Opening weekend hits $70m-plus
- Twilight: US box office strong, reviews mixed
- Twilight soundtrack reviewed
- Buy the soundtrack (Amazon)
- Read our preview of the film