Kristen Stewart brings so much life to the role of Bella that she doesn’t even appear to be acting.
As a movie, Twilight has myriad factors working against its potential success. It is an adaptation from a series of novels that has one of the most loyal followings since Harry Potter; it must present itself foremost as a teenage love story while acknowledging the supernatural vampire elements that are integral, but not primary, to the story; the feel of the movie must capture the essential mood of the books, which is what has made them a bestselling series. Even with all these hurdles in front of it, Twilight is a wonderfully entertaining movie that is much more mature than most people will assume it to be.
Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is a quiet, withdrawn teenager who moves to a small Washington town to live with her father, who she has taken to calling Charlie (Billy Burke), and with whom she has only spent about two weeks a year since she was a child. Since she is a source of novelty in a high school with only a few hundred students, she quickly falls into a group of friends but is drawn to a boy who also keeps to himself named Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).
As Bella begins to spend more time with him, she notices he is different from everyone else: he moves extremely fast, he can stop a van with one hand, and his skin is pale and ice cold. Soon she realizes that Edward is a vampire, but not like Nosferatu or even Dracula. He is not a monster, as he calls it; he doesn’t want to take the life of a human to satisfy his thirst. Despite the obvious differences, the two find they have a lot in common and become quite close.
Edward lives with his adopted family, the head of which is Dr. Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli). The Cullens do not kill humans and survive on the blood of animals alone. When a trio of new vampires makes their way into the small town, Edward must find a way to protect Bella from James (Cam Gigandet), who has become infatuated with her scent.
Director Catherine Hardwicke, whose Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown made her a favorite among indie directors, once again shows her talented and steady hand in what could have easily become melodramatic and corny. She balances the teenage romance with the vampire story so perfectly that you forget what you’re watching is supernatural. Edward could very easily just be an outcast from a family who doesn’t fit in well with the rest of the town.
The most entertaining aspect of Twilight, however, is the constant dreamlike feeling throughout the movie. Cinematographer Elliot Davis lets the camera float through many scenes, never being obtrusive or invading. Rather, the viewer is more just an observer of what might just be one of Bella’s dreams or fantasies.
Stewart brings so much life to the role of Bella that she doesn’t even appear to be acting—she is able to be shy and quiet, but never flat and is never upstaged by the more vibrant characters. She has a maturity in her performance that makes the audience feel the awkwardness of being a teenager. Pattinson gives a solid performance as well, though at times he can be seen struggling with how the character would react or deliver a line. He can’t be faulted, though; it is a unique role to take on. Plus, with at least two more movies in the works, he’ll have plenty of time to become comfortable as the character.
As a series of books, Twilight is aimed at young teenage girls and has been a huge success. As a movie, Twilight can be enjoyed by just about anyone whether they be teenager or just someone who remembers what it was like to struggle through those years. | Matthew F. Newlin