Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tweeners, Vampires and Mormons.

My internet connection was lost for about 18 hours yesterday so this is a day late.

I caught Twilight yesterday. I enjoyed it overall despite what I think are some rather insane casting choices and the fact that it took me about 20 minutes to block out the gaggles of giggling girls that surrounded me. Few things can make me feel creeped out by myself. After all I'm a man in my mid forties watching a movie adaptation of a novel essentially written for tween and early teen girls.

I enjoy the Twilight books. I don't think they are remotely as good as the Harry Potter books but Stephenie Meyer has an interesting take on vampire mythology and a refreshing take on teen romance. I was surprised to learn that Meyer is a Mormon until I started thinking seriously about the issues involved. Abstinence being the main one. Despite my distaste for the Mormon church, its stances on social issues, especially regarding their intense efforts against Proposition 8 in California, I can still be fascinated and entertained by how that religion informs the Twilight books.

That aside, I just want to talk about the movie.

Its over all a fun flick. Beautifully shot, with the camera work telling a story as much as the script, which is very well written. The books have a tendency to dwell on aspects of the characters that are intensly annoying. I've been known to espouse on what a jerk Edward actually is in many ways, controlling, self absorbed, arrogant. Bella a whining, careless and selfish girl.

These things are balanced in the movie by writing that stresses their intelligence and internal struggles. Bella is also played brilliantly by Kristen Stewart who I think may very well be a major Hollywood force in the coming years.

I wish I could say the same for Pattinson, who plays Edward as if vampires are in constant need of Ex-Lax. He's also about as one dimensional as is possible. Nor is he a particularly good looking fellow. Edward is supposed to be unbelievably beautiful. Pattinson just isn' fact he is rather funny looking under certain angles. In the end I was able to let that aspect go for the story and because Stewart's performance is so layered, so complicated, so deep that it mitigated his lack of anything interesting.

I was mystefied by the casting of Peter Facinelli as Carslisle as well. Facinelli is a very good actor, but he's not blonde and the dye job really didn't work. Same goes for Nikki Reed who plays Rosalie. Reed is a very beautiful actress with a great deal of talent. I've admired her work since seeing her in "13" 5 years ago. BUT...again the dye job is so unconvincing it actually makes her less beautiful, and Rosalie is supposed to be the most beautiful of all the Cullen family. However her performance is as layered and brilliant as Stewart's and easy to let go of.

The special effects don't work over all...which is weird when the job is done by ILM, the alleged gold standard. Low budget or not. They've done better.

The sparkling doesn't work either. Edward looks awful in the sunlight. The sparkling is a hard thing to pull off cinematically and could have easily been shifted to more of a shining glow rather than it looking like Edward threw glitter on his face and did it badly. It's not enhancing, its downright ugly. Even the girls around me laughed out loud when Bella declares him beautiful as he glitters like a disco ball in the middle of the Washington woods. It just didn't work.

All that aside. Catherine Hardwicke really gets the material and is faithful to the spirit of the books if not always to story. The adaptation itself is very clever in what it moves around and how it introduces characters and what falls by the wayside, though I wonder if those that haven't read the books will understand some of what's going on.

This is a far superior adaptation debut than the first two Harry Potter films which managed to take a story about magical people and strip any sense of magic from it. Forks comes alive on screen as do the Washington mountains and forests. The movie never gets carried away with the scenery, but uses the scenery to enhance Bella's journey toward falling in love with Edward. It all gets bound together.

When the action hits later in the film the sense of danger is palpable and the entrance of the villainous trio is stylishly done without being overly cheesy.

I had a good time with this film. It is definitely over all a chick flick, as are the books, but this vampire fan still enjoys the story and even though I have strong issues with casting choices, there is no doubt there is beauty in the movie and that its well worth seeing. I look forward to more characterization and relationships and much much more Alice in the already confirmed sequel, New Moon.

No comments: