Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: Twilight (Catherine Hardwicke, 2008)

So, with everyone seeming to be having so much fun panning the latest installment in the Twilight franchise, I thought I would give Breaking Dawn Part I a look just to see what all the fuss is about. I don't know why I decided sitting through at least one Twilight film prior was a good idea, but today I watched Catherine Hardwicke's adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's first novel. Here is my quick response.

The series protagonist and narrator, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), arrives in a new town to live with her father Charlie (Billy Burke), the local Sheriff, for a while. She starts out at a new school, makes some friends, and crosses path with an intriguing pale-faced student with signs of mood swings and anger issues, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). 

Through a series of poorly conceived occurrences (him impossibly saving her from being hit by a skidding car, confessing to being able to read people’s minds and revealing his skin is ice cold to touch) Bella establishes – with the help of Google and a book on mythical creatures – that Edward is in fact a Vampire, living outside of town with his family.

At work though, and I think this comes to the fore in the later films, is a rivalry between two gangs – one, whose clan includes Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner, wearing a wig as comfortably as I am at speaking in public), possess long hair and legend has it, descended from wolves. One look at Lautner and that doesn’t seem like a stretch – the guy actually resembles a wolf. The other is Edward’s vampire family, who look like they had an overzealous fight using chalk dusters.

Bella, due to her discovery of Edward’s secret, and the inexplicable draw she has on him – “You’re like my personal brand of heroin” (to which I responded, “her?”) – gets caught up in the rivalry, and finds herself in danger when another vampire clan enters town and starts killing the townsfolk. One in particular becomes obsessed with feasting on Bella – leaving it up to Edward and his family to keep her safe. The film ends with a whiff of the love triangle that got the Twi-hards all hot and bothered and Bella starting to obsess over Edward turning her, which I imagine will become the equivalent of a broken record.

Admittedly, the second half is definitely more ‘action-packed’. Accompanied by a Muse song, a Vampire baseball game is thrown in there, as well as a recognizable increase in tension (for a few minutes). While I am on the soundtrack, I just have to say, some of the choices were diabolical. Not a lot really happens though and there is so much wasted time trying and failing to develop Bella’s relationships with everyone. Most of her bonding with Edward involves a montage of awkward conversations in a forest clearing, which mostly just involves her asking questions. There is potential to develop Edward’s character – he never ages, he has suppressed urges, he always has to be on the move to keep his family’s secret hidden – and there is a tragic story behind his character. I’m not sure if it is developed more in the novels or in later films, but it is completely overlooked here.

The performances across the board are awful. I have heard of how poor Stewart is in these films, but nothing could prepare me for just how bad she proves to be. Seemingly incapable of expressing any emotion, her monotone one-word responses, her disinterested questioning and her downer, lip-biting mannerisms are a downright bore. She doesn’t do anything. There is nothing interesting about her at all. Pattinson is a little better, but tries way too hard on occasions. With such poor storytelling material and such uninspired, pointless and unintentionally corny dialogue, I guess anyone can look bad. Even Anna Kendrick (an Oscar nominee the following year for Up in the Air) can’t escape it.

The make-up and visual effects are terrible too. I don’t think watching Edward run up the mountain was supposed to be that funny. Then there’s the impressive-at-times photography, which utilizes an ugly washed-out colour-palette and blue/grey filter and resorts to an unnecessary array of pointless, indulgent, disorienting angles and focal changes.

So who is to blame for this disengaging mess of a film? Certainly Stephenie Meyer for writing such junk, and certainly Catherine Hardwicke, who gives this as much energy and passion as a bad daytime soap. It was almost unendurable, and as a result there is no way I am going to venture into New Moon or Eclipse, which are even longer and, from a critical consensus at least, considered even more excruciating. Oh dear.

My Rating: ★ (D)


  1. I actually saw this before the hype went mental. I didn't mind it so much as I generally love vampires and I was hot for Cedric Diggory. Then the world went flippin' crazy and I came to my senses.
    Man New Moon is sooo bad, it's hilarious.

  2. I've not seen any of the films, so I can't comment on the quality of Ms Stewart's performance or otherwise, but in fairness it should be said the source material gives her piss all to work with. There's not a lot there for her to be.

  3. Guess I'm not the target audience for this but I also stopped at this one. Just no need to endure any more of these. Shame about Stewart, she was great in Panic Room and Into the Wild. Ridiculous sparkling vampires, ridiculous running up mountains and just a thoroughly unengaging story.

  4. @ Nikhat - Yeah, I worked at a cinema when this was released. It didn't do 'that' well. New Moon was where the shit hit the fan. I'm not going near that.

    @ James - Oh for sure. I totally agree. The source material is rubbish. It says she has to look nervous and bite her lip, stumble over a sentence, and then deliver a monotone response with a blank expression, so she does. I have seen her far better than her work here.

    @ Pete - Yeah, I'm probably going to see BREAKING DAWN next week - kinda got challenged into seeing it. So I thought I should at least see one so I know what to expect. Maybe I should have stuck with ECLIPSE - it's the most recent story at least. Oh well. It is ridiculous, man.

  5. That "heroin" line for me was the moment where I was like "kids actually like this bullshit?"

    I did watch the entire film on TV and was like "this is fucking dumb". I could barely watch New Moon through sporadic viewing and found myself either cringing or laughing so hard at how bad it is.