It’s a good thing Edward’s a vampire. If he wasn’t, he’d be creepy. He climbs through Bella’s window uninvited and watches her sleep; he stalks her; he’s prepared to die for her. In a human relationship, Bella would be fed up with this needy obsessive within a week.
As it is, for the target demographic of the Twilight Saga, Edward is the perfect hero. Handsome, strong, protective, caring and, in true Austen style, mega-rich. His restrained bloodlust creates sexual tension by the simple fact that he puts Bella at risk every time he goes near her. For a fantasy romance, it’s perfect…
The trilogy has cut the superfluous melodrama from the books, added a little of its own, and brought vibrancy to the stories, whilst keeping close to the plot. This is a vampire story for girls, mostly without the blood and gore, although boys will enjoy it as well.
Bella (Kristen Stewart) moves to Forks, Washington to live with her father (Billy Burke). She starts at the local high school, where she meets Edward Cullen, a swooningly attractive fellow student.
Soon, Bella discovers her boyfriend-to-be is, yes, a vampire. Following the first part of their relationship, including a spectacular vampire baseball game, enhanced by Muse’s Supermassive Black Hole, which sums up the level of trouble Bella is about to fall into, Bella finds herself hunted by nomadic vampire, James. It’s up to Edward to save her, but can he resist the urge to kill her that he has been fighting ever since they met?
The two lead actors have unmistakeable chemistry. Pattinson oozes subtle intensity as Edward, giving us a credible balance between the traits of nice guy and predatory vampire. For a character with no beating heart, he’s set thousands throbbing. Stewart’s Bella is beautifully understated, with occasional melodrama (what’s the big deal in being asked about the weather?).
Billy Burke is superb as Bella’s easy-going, uncommunicative dad. It’s easy to believe they’re father and daughter. Taylor Lautner is the only weak actor, but this only becomes apparent in New Moon and Eclipse, when he has more to do. The friends can be annoying, Jessica excepted, who is entertainingly girlish.
There’s a sprinkling of genuine comedy, including Edward’s repulsion when he first meets Bella, a twist on the traditional love-hate beginning of romances, his dislike being an attempt to contain his desire to bite her.
Catherine Hardwicke’s direction is good, and it’s a relief to watch a fantasy film that isn’t so dark you can hardly see the action (Potter’s Deathly Hallows Part 1 please note). The film is well-paced and there are a couple of driving stunts in here too – not quite James Bond, but worthy of a vampire who has speed as a superpower, and a Volvo.
There are a few things I don’t get. Were the white owl wings in the Biology lesson meant to look like they were sprouting from Edward’s back? An aliform vampire might be symbolic of Edward’s angelic intentions, but there’s nothing else symbolic in the film, so it looked odd.
Also, how is it that Bella, an averagely-dressed loner, manages to attract so many boys? Four fall over themselves to ask her out. Edward and Jake become neck and neck rivals in the sequels. Mike and Eric’s crushes, however, do nothing for the plot. Maybe I missed out at secondary school?
If you enjoyed the first film, parts two and three are as good, possibly better. New Moon was a bit much for me. I’d gone along with the vampire myth, but the next potential boyfriend a werewolf? It says either a lot about our gullibility or too much about Bella’s penchant for violent boys. Eclipse tells the story of the feud between vampires and werewolves, as each supernatural species sets aside their differences to save Bella from Victoria, who is avenging the death of her mate, James. Look out for more of Edward’s Jedwardesque hair and snippets from the Lord of the Rings score as the battle approaches, self-plagiarism by the soundtrack’s composer, Howard Shore.
The Twilight films are satisfyingly symmetrical – each ending does a giant loop, tying in neatly with the beginning. But what’s really satisfying is that they put your faith back in romance, even if it’s not a vampire you’ll meet (and you’d better hope you won’t). VP