Friday, December 19, 2008

TWILIGHT - sugar-free gum

Where to begin? Maybe with the commercially successfully but critically more equivocally received teen novels from Stephenie Meyer. TWILIGHT is the first in a series of novels that spice up the typical SWEET VALLEY HIGH obsessions of teen dating and who's going to take who to the Prom with a hint of vampiricism. And boy is it merely a hint. Instead of lashings of sex and death and sexy death and death-inducing sex, we get a lot of holding hands and big declarations of love but precious little rumpy-pumpy. Frankly, instead of all the narcissistic angst I would've far preferred the heroes to go and have some healthy sex and get over themselves. But that, my friends, kills the goose that laid the golden royalty cheques.

Then we get to the movie. Now, I suspect that the movie will be super-popular with the target demographic because it stays very faithful to the book. (And yes, I did read the novel. It's slight - takes around 3 hours - not well-written - but it's fairly engaging. Most disturbing, every one of my tween nieces had a copy.) Our heroine Bella Swan moves from sunny Phoenix to gloomy Forks to stay with her dad when her mum remarries. Soon all the local boys are asking her out, but she only has eyes for a moody but dazzlingly good-looking boy called Edward Cullen - a member of a family of vampires who choose not to hunt humans and fight against their monstrous nature.  The book spends a while going through the "does he like me or doesn't he" angst but the film admirably compresses this material. On the plus side we get right to the action, wherein some less enlightened vampire trackers decide to devour Bella and incite Edward into the mother of all fights, but a big negative is that we miss/skip over one of the nicest scenes in the book, where Edward tests how far he can be intimate with Bella and not be overcome by his desire to suck out her blood. If anything there is less intimacy in the film than in the book! 

Arguing the merits of the film to the fanbase is quite simply a waste of time, judging by the oohs and aaghs than greeted the title card! But for the parental units suckered into a viewing (I was designated driver for eight hormonally charged tweens) what hope is there? Not much I have to say. The direction, from Catherine Hardwicke, is pretty ham-fisted, closer to the abysmal THE NATIVITY STORY than the brilliantly scabrous THIRTEEN. She clearly can't direct action, her camera swoops where it should be still, and the CGI effects - notably Edward's dazzling skin in sunlight and the rapid running - are all very low-rent. The acting is similarly clunky. The lead actors are devoid of charisma and depict angst as constipation. Hardwicke does herself no favours by casting natural brunettes and then bleaching them to within an inch of their lives - it just looks cheap and unnatural. And, frankly, the vampire family are meant to look stunningly beautiful, and these actors don't. IMDB says the role of Edward was originally going to Henry Cavill till he was deemed too old. True, but at least he has the requisite classical beauty. 

Other than the problems with the individual nuts and bolts, my big problem remains that this is a vampire movie that lacks any passion. And so, you're just left with a really dull movie about self-obsessed moody teens. It left me hankering for the vampire movies of my youth - movies with passion, comedy and peril - movies like THE LOST BOYS. Apparently I wasn't the only one. The DVD store next to the movie theatre was sold out, having had a run on copies and requests for more from disgruntled olds!

TWILIGHT is on release in the US, Canada, Italy, Mexico, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, the Philippines, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malaysia, the UAE, Estonia, Latvia, Thailand, Indonesia, the UK, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Portugal, Iceland, Poland, Spain, South Korea, Australia, Russia, Lithuania, Taiwan, Vietnam, Finland, Hong Kong, Israel, Singapore, Brazil, the UK and Venezuela. It opens next week in Croatia and New Zealand. It opens on New Years Day in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay, Finland, Romania and South Africa. It opens on January 8th in France, Switzerland, Greece, Norway and Poland. It opens on January 15th in Germany, Slovakia, Austria and Bulgaria. It opens on January 5th in Turkey, Denmark and Ecuador and on April 4th in Japan.

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