I learned something about women while watching Twilight, or maybe Mormon women that relate to 15 year old girls: they want someone that very badly wants to have sex with them, but won’t! That’s what makes Twilight the dreamy fantasy that it is. Most guys that badly want to have sex with someone, will try to in any way they can. Most, not all. The vampires, at least Edward Cullen, a dreamy sparkly vampire played by Robert Pattinson, is the epitome of this pseudo sexual metaphor that has all the women around the world swooning.
I have no idea what the book reads like, but this metaphor and the movie itself is actually pretty good. Though the metaphor goes a touch too creepy when sparkly Edward admits to having watched his love in her bedroom while she slept for months on end. The director Catherine Hardwicke makes something of what could have been a display case movie, all candy canes and special effects. She lets these characters live and breath the awkwardness and emotional turmoil of their age.
Bella Swan, played with unassuming beauty by by Kristen Stewart, wraps herself up in those youthful emotional tics, moves to a small town to live with her father, Charlie Swan. Billy Burke and Stewart capture that father/daughter relationship so well you could be watching an early Ingmar Bergman film (before he started using cinema as a means to talk about cinema!) One of the most emotionally devastating moments in Twilight comes when Bella has to sacrifice something to save him. A moment that works so well only because of everything that came before it.
Bella soon meets Edward, and so we have a tale of budding love, and repressed hormones, er, need for feeding on blood, between a vampire and a girl that is constantly confused as to how he could ever love her.
And that’s why this movie works, because it’s grounded so nicely into the reality of being that age, but not quite fitting into that age. The details, Edward coming to meet her father for the first time, Bella noticing her friends as she leaves town, the first time Edward sees Bella and his reaction, the first time Bella meets Edward’s family, give this movie color that other movies of it’s kind lack (the horrible Blood and Chocolate anyone?) There’s some really, truly good film making going on here.
Which makes me wonder why much of the vampire stuff looks like its out of a cheesy super hero television show. While the drama is grounded, the vampire world never quite looks real enough to fully capture your imagination. When they run quickly, a silly little blurr trail follows their sped up bodies, when they climb trees it looks more 70’s spiderman cheese. Why shoot for that when it could have easily looked like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon majestic. Edward’s sparkling body looks less beautiful and more like those annoying pieces of glitter that accidentally get stuck to your body that you can’t get off. These moments aren’t enough to make you forget about the rest of this enjoyable film, in fact there’s one or two shots in which the vampiric ferosity kind of has the cool hip swagger that could fit into a much more dangerous film, but the fact that these moments are enough to make you chuckle is underserving for a movie that’s much better. Yes, this includes the scene in which a bunch of frat boys gang up on Bella, frat boys being the bad special effects.