Twilight Review

November 24th, 2008 by Potato

Well, we went to see the Twilight movie today, and I just recently finished the books, so I thought I’d do a small review of both at the same time. Consider this whole post to be full of spoilers.

The Movie: The movie was quite faithful to the books. They added some parts to make the plot a little more logical (basically, the other vampires don’t suddenly show up out of nowhere, they have about 40 seconds of screen time before they meet Bella). However, because so much of the book took place inside Bella’s head, there’s a lot of narration, which is a little uncomfortable at times. Narration aside though, the movie is pretty light on exposition. There were a few points where I had to wonder if someone who hadn’t read the books could follow what was going on (for example, they cut right into the middle of a conversation between Bella and Edward, with Bella saying “so do you have to be dying to become a vampire?”). It’s not a hugely complicated plot, so I’m sure they could, and moreover, the books have sold so many copies that I don’t think that’s a particularly large audience anyway.

They did a really good job of casting the main players, and moreover, the director got some really good performances out of these young actors. They were believable as kids without being terribly annoying to watch or bratty. Bella was almost exactly as I pictured her, and Charlie, Edward & Alice were also great (I loved her pitching style). Emmet, Rosalie, and Jasper weren’t as I pictured them though: Emmet is supposed to be supernaturally huge, and he’s not even American football player big; Rosalie is supposed to be this drop-dead gorgeous bombshell, but she just blended into the scenery next to Bella and Alice. Jasper though wasn’t even close to how I pictured him: he was a soldier before being changed, so I expected him to be older, with neater hair, and above all else, to be battle scarred. About the only thing he had right was the pained half-wild look in his eye. Esme could be cast by a robot (or equivalently, Keanu Reeves) for all the screen time she gets in the books and movie, so I suppose she was fine.

While the performances of the actors were enjoyable to watch, some other aspects of the movie kept distracting me. The cinematography was very music-video-ish. They kept cutting to slightly different angles, or extreme closeups, or randomly throwing in shots of the grass or the trees or rapidly sped up cloud movements. There were a few spots where they played games with the focal depth that were quite neat — like when Mike is asking Bella out and he’s just a blur while we’re focused on Edward in the background — but other times I found the camera work to just be distracting. Some of the effects also seemed quite low-budget at times. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the vampire-in-the-sunlight sparkle, and Wayfare actually laughed out loud in the theatre when Carlisle first showed up: his white skin make-up looked borrowed from my Halloween supplies, it was just cheap and cheesy looking. Those quick cuts also made me think the movie was done on a low budget, as did Edward climbing the trees straight up without touching them. He’s strong and fast, so I of course expected him to either swing or jump from branch to branch, or to really dig his hands into the bark to claw his way up. I didn’t expect him to just float up while waving his hands in the general direction of the tree: it seemed like they just didn’t have the budget to do the branch-to-branch wire work, or to do the FX on the tree bark…

All that aside, there was really only one part from the book that I missed, and that was the time Bella got to spend in the hotel with Alice and Jasper. In the movie it’s just: arrive at hotel. Make call. Go to trap. In the book they spend tense days in the hotel while Bella agonizes over Alice’s predictions and whether to call her mom or not. It seemed to work in terms of moving the plot along, but left out a big part of James’ tracking suspense. I noticed the absence of Carlisle’s backstory, and about how Edward fears for Bella’s soul — it weakened slightly the part where Edward decided to suck the venom out rather than let the change take her, but not by much. In fact, there’s no mention of religion at all in the movie, nor of the vampires’ pasts (save a three-second mention of Edward being turned in 1918 after nearly dying of Spanish flu).

The books: The books are pure girl porn. They are heavy on Bella’s thoughts, and have a lot of great day-to-day inane chitchat in them. Stephanie Meyer is good at writing the dialog, so it works, but you definitely need to be warned about that before going in. It’s primarily a love story, with the whole suspenseful vampire thriller thing just sort of tacked on to the end and a few bits in the middle. I quite liked the first book, which suckered me into reading the rest.

The rest… meh. The second and third ones practically held a little powerpoint presentation in the first chapter outlining the plot and the twists we could expect, and we just had to wait for Bella to catch up to the rest of the world. It was extremely painful to read, because from about the halfway point on I was basically screaming in my head at her to just figure it out already and move on to the second half of the plot because there’s a lot of book left! Of course, I kept expecting a second plot line to develop just based on the thickness of the books, but one never does. So it’s safe to say that they’re slow. Again, the day-to-day dialogue along the way is pretty good, but I found it harder to identify with the characters and their choices in the later books since I was yelling at them so much. This is compounded by the dark depression Bella throws herself into for most of the second book, which makes it less enjoyable to read. It was a pretty good portrayal of a depressed teen, but that’s something I can do without reading too much on, especially since it’s all over this guy that left her that she only knew for like 6 months (yeah, they went through a lot, and he’s Edward and perfect… but she’s a kid, she should heal faster than that).

The fourth book redeems itself a bit in the plot depth department, but just gets kind of weird, so I’d have to say read the first one, and just leave it there.

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