Written by Beth Woodward, Special to CC2K
High school sucks. Many movies have tackled this topic. But most of them don’t mean it quite so literally.
In certain ways, Twilight is a very typical teenage love story: Bella, an awkward, clumsy seventeen-year-old, meets the handsomest boy in school, Edward. Bella finds herself drawn to Edward’s mysteriousness, and Edward is intrigued by her intelligence and intuition. Before either of them realizes what’s happening, they fall in love. But one thing does keep this film from becoming too She’s All That: Edward is a “vegetarian” vampire, one who does not drink human blood. Unfortunately for Bella, her blood is sweet-smelling enough to tempt Edward to fall off the wagon.
One area where the script excels is building suspense. As the novel is narrated by Bella, we are never able to see outside of her head – and therefore, we are never able to see danger except from her limited point of view. The script takes advantage of this difference, and a vague sense of foreboding and danger is set up right from the beginning. As Bella and Edward’s relationship begins, it is never quite clear whether Edward is falling in love with her or he’s just using her attraction to him as a means to kill her. We are also able to see the activities of three non-vegetarian vampires long before they encounter Bella and the Cullens.
But obviously, cutting a story to one-fifth its original size is going to result in some sacrifices – a few of which will undoubtedly upset some of the book’s fans. All of the major characters are here, but many of them are not nearly as well-developed here as they were in the book. One omission in particular is jarring: Jacob Black – a Quileute Indian boy who befriends Bella – is marginalized in the script, and a few of his key scenes are omitted. Jacob plays a relatively small role in the book, so his presence here is not missed much. But given Jacob’s importance in future storylines, I thought his character should have been developed a little bit more. Edward’s vampire family is also sketched much more vaguely than it was in the novel, although the fact that all seven Cullens made it to the film without being cut altogether is a feat in and of itself.
But whether the secondary characters are better developed in the final film or not, this is still Bella and Edward’s story. As such, the success or failure of this film will depend very much on its two stars, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. I think Stewart is up to the task. In one of her most recent films, 2007’s Into the Wild, Stewart brought depth and beyond-her-years maturity to a relatively small role. If Stewart can bring the same complexity and vulnerability to Bella – with perhaps a little more awkwardness mixed in – she should be compelling to watch.
Robert Pattinson is more of a wild card. Pattinson, a British actor, is best known to American audiences for his role as Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Despite the fact that Goblet of Fire is my favorite movie in the Harry Potter series, I honestly cannot remember anything about Pattinson’s performance. The good news is that this may not have anything to do with Pattinson’s acting ability. Cedric Diggory was more of a plot device than a character, and he didn’t have much to do in Goblet of Fire besides look blandly cute.
The bad news is that Edward is a much more difficult character than Bella – and Twilight’s teenage fans will be ready to pounce if the role is done poorly. With his self-loathing and his conflicted feelings toward Bella, Edward is much more multi-faceted than anyone in the Harry Potter universe. The challenge here will be making Edward seem both conflicted and confident, sexy and somehow menacing – a modern day answer to Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff and Jane Eyre’s Edward Rochester.
Overall, I think this film will appeal to fans of romance and supernatural films alike. But non-Twilight readers, beware: don’t be fooled by the action-oriented teaser trailer that was posted on the Internet recently: this is, at its heart, a love story, and the script does not forget that. Anyone walking into this film expecting a vampire version of Spiderman is going to be disappointed. But if you’re looking for a creepy, character-driven romance, Twilight should deliver.