Twilight

Movie Information

The Story: New girl in town falls for dreamy vampire hunk. Improbable romance follows. The Lowdown: Really low-grade horror mixes with hard-to-buy teen romance in this dull adaptation of the popular series of young-adult books. Unless you're a really romantic teenage girl, there's not much here.
Score:

Genre: Teen Romance/Horror
Director: Catherine Hardwicke (The Nativity Story)
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone
Rated: PG-13

If you’re all jazzed about Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight, reading this review is only going to annoy you. The thing is critic-proof and has a presold fan base. And since it appears to reproduce the goopy smoldering teen romance of the books in all its madly purple glory, it will likely find ready favor with that fan base. In that respect, Twilight fulfills its aims. In every other capacity, it’s a dreadful movie that compounds its dreadfulness by being remarkably boring in the bargain. The only reason it rates a full star is because of fleeting moments of unintentional hilarity.

It probably didn’t help matters that I saw Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In the night before. This often brilliant new vampire film from Sweden—which deals with even younger characters—is the anti-Twilight. It’s thoughtful, moving and disturbing, while managing to remember it’s a horror film. Twilight is none of these things. Twilight is a product. Let the Right One In is a film. Not that I wouldn’t have found Twilight a miserable mess on its own merits, I just would not have had such a fresh-on-the-mind counterpoint to its stunning mediocrity.

For those not in the know, Twilight is part of a series of teen-centric vampire romance novels by a woman named Stephenie Meyers. The admirers—and those who want to sell the books—are prone to calling the series the “new Harry Potter.” If the motivations and plotting of the film accurately reflect its literary source, J.K. Rowling is Dostoevsky by comparison.

The story centers on Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart, Jumper), a young lady with a deathly pallor (and she’s not a vampire) who goes to live with her police chief father (Billy Burke, Untraceable) in the small Washington town of Forks. (The reasons for this move are too convoluted to bother with and don’t matter anyway.) It’s a dreary sort of place where it rains pretty much all the time, but it’s there that she meets the even more pallid Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), part of a group of equally blanched folks, who are either an itinerant mime group or vampires. If Lord Byron had been the love child of James Van Der Beek and Jack Elam and shopped at Hot Topic, he’d have looked a lot like Edward. This—and the fact that Edward glowers at the camera with the intensity of a mopey twink on a porn site—means that Bella is immediately smitten.

By my reckoning, Edward is about 108 years old (he was vampirized in 1918 as an alternative to dying in a flu epidemic), making his all-consuming attraction to this callow semi-goth girl either hard to grasp or incredibly shallow. (I kept being reminded of Jeffrey Combs’ line to the libidinous David Gale in Re-Animator: “You steal the secret of life and death and here you are trysting with a bubble-headed co-ed.”) Of course, Edward mostly seems to view Bella as a box lunch he must deny himself (being a “vegetarian” vampire who only lives on animal blood, you see). Bella, on the other hand, is all set to consummate. Much soulful staring ensues between the two (my money says that Edward is really staring at his own reflection in the camera lens). In fact, this seems to take up about half the movie.

When something finally does happen, it’s not much, consisting entirely of bad vampire James (Cam Gigandet) attempting to make a meal out of Bella. (When reacting to Edward, Gigandet unfortunately does not use his line from Never Back Down: “There’s only one way this can end—with you looking like a bitch.”) The resulting action is neither tense, nor surprising, nor very horrific—even by PG-13 standards. But really, this isn’t so much about vampires as it is about teen hormones, even if one of the teens is 100-plus years old and damned for all eternity to attend high school. (Now we know what Bela Lugosi meant when he said, “There are far worse things awaiting man than death.”)

A friend of mine defends the books on the basis of the fact that at least teens are reading something, expressing the belief that this will lead them to reading books with more substance. I’m skeptical. This looks less like the path to reading James Baldwin or Kurt Vonnegut than the direct road to Barbara Cartland. In much the same way, I don’t see the film leading young viewers to Ingmar Bergman—maybe to Renny Harlin or Uwe Boll. Maybe. If there is one positive thing I gained from seeing Twilight, it’s simply that after seeing vampire baseball, I will never, never, never complain about a Quidditch match in a Harry Potter movie ever again. Rated PG-13 for some violence and a scene of sensuality.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

57 thoughts on “Twilight

  1. TonyRo

    C’mon Ken….you’re saying a movie about teenage vampires in love didn’t appeal to your inner-romantic side? Haha. Just kidding. This is the type of crap that studios see only dollar signs in and nothing more.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Wondered where you’d been, Tony. Nice to see you.

    This is the type of crap that studios see only dollar signs in and nothing more.

    That’s probably a pretty fair assessment of the studio approach to the film, though it’s kind of interesting (for a while) to listen to Catherine Hardwicke and Kristen Stewart talk about the film’s profundity. At least Robert Pattinson mostly just talks about how all the girls want him to bite them.

  3. noisyghost

    i echo the question of whether let the right one in will be playing here. i saw the trailer several times within the last month and it looks stunning.

    my brilliant, beautiful little sister is one of the legions of young women worshiping these series of books. aside from being poorly written, trite, and spinning no new legacy on what i think may be a dead horse (vampire eroticism), they send a terrible message to girls: your worth is only in your relationship with your attractive, emotionally abusive and overprotective boyfriend. awesome. thanks, stephanie meyer.

  4. Ken Hanke

    Do you have any idea when Let The Right One In will be playing here? I’m dying to see it.

    Unfortunately, so far as I know it likely won’t be playing here. The only likely venue for it locally is the Fine Arts and with only two screens, their slate is pretty full. Plus, let’s be honest — a Swedish-language horror picture is not going to be an easy sell here. It’s too bad, too, because Let the Right One In is a terrific film.

  5. Ken Hanke

    i echo the question of whether let the right one in will be playing here. i saw the trailer several times within the last month and it looks stunning.

    I’ll echo my answer to Steven, but I’ll add this — if you want the film to play locally, the thing to do is make it known to the theater most likely to play it. Bear in mind, that while it’s not impossible that one of the corporate owned theaters will get it, it’s unlikely — and the people who work for those theaters on the local level have between little and no say when it comes to what gets booked. Your best bet is to convince the Fine Arts that there is an audience for the film — and then follow up by actually going to see the film.

  6. I read Twilight just to see what the hullabaloo was about, though I barely got through it. It’s Harlequin for teens, with some horror cliches thrown in to flesh out the lackadaisical plot. I have no desire to see the film. Mostly, I’m thrilled that my daughter has no interest in reading these books. At least not yet.

  7. Ken Hanke

    What I’m finding interesting here is that no one has jumped in to defend Twilight — not that I mind the fact. It’s also interesting that the few fans of the books I know aren’t that happy with the movie. One of them went so far as to admit she’d had the same problem I did of ending up laughing when the film cut to a “smouldering” close-up of Robert Pattinson for the 459th time.

  8. Natasha

    I admit (*blushes*) that I sort of enjoyed the first three books (not the last one… dear God, no!!!) despite being about a decade above the target age group (it’s bubble gum reading… for when your brain needs a break). That said, I’m not going to see this movie, partially because of this review (Ken Hanke is rarely, if ever, wrong) but also because of reviews that I’ve heard from others who liked the book.

    My real beef with Twilight, however, is Nov. 21 was supposed to be the slot for the new Harry Potter. Friends who went said that the audience cheered, clapped, etc. for the Harry Potter trailer but were less enthusiastic about Twilight itself. This just goes to prove that the movie, like the books before it, is a weak attempt to fill the Harry Potter void.

  9. Well Ken, maybe I wouldn’t mind the smouldering close-ups of Robert Pattinson. But the powder-white make-up is a bit over the top. Does he sport pointy canines too?

  10. Ken Hanke

    Ken Hanke is rarely, if ever, wrong

    Could we get that chiseled somewhere — or at least scribbled in a public convenience?

    My real beef with Twilight, however, is Nov. 21 was supposed to be the slot for the new Harry Potter. Friends who went said that the audience cheered, clapped, etc. for the Harry Potter trailer but were less enthusiastic about Twilight itself. This just goes to prove that the movie, like the books before it, is a weak attempt to fill the Harry Potter void.

    In many ways, that’s true, though the savvy insider murmurs have Harry Potter shunted around because Warner Bros. made so much money off The Dark Knight that they didn’t need the Potter Bucks on this year’s books. In fact, holding it back till 2009 is kind of insurance that they’ll have a guaranteed blockbuster to dazzle stockholders next year.

    What really cheeses me is the big rush in some quarters to praise Catherine Hardwicke as a great filmmaker — and proof that women are capable of being such — based on the box-office of this thing. Come on, she had a presold commodity and that’s all — a presold commodity that isn’t exactly female-empowering, either. Hardwicke isn’t in the same league as Julie Taymor, for one example. Or Lina Wertmuller, for another. She’s made a lot of money, but that doesn’t make her a great filmmaker.

  11. Ken Hanke

    I wouldn’t mind the smouldering close-ups of Robert Pattinson. But the powder-white make-up is a bit over the top. Does he sport pointy canines too?

    No, he doesn’t. If you want to go see something for purposes of hunk-gazing (personally, I don’t find the mopey-twink look all that hunkish), I think you’d get more mileage out of looking at Hugh Jackman in Australia (and it’s a much better movie).

  12. Sean Williams

    Why is it so very gratifying to hate this franchise? Today, I am thankful for the gusto with which Cranky Hanke demolished this [i]product[/i].

    On the bright side, [i]Twilight[/i] has allowed the residents of a poor Washington township to fleece idiot tourists.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/columnone/la-na-forks15-2008nov15,0,1116606.story

    [b](Robert Pattinson, [i]Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix[/i])[/b]

    Minor correction: Pattinson’s character dies in [i]Goblet of Fire[/i].

    What really cheeses me is the big rush in some quarters to praise Catherine Hardwicke as a great filmmaker

    What quarters, precisely? As far as I’ve seen, the reaction to her cinematography has been uniformly antipathetic, even from the established fan-base.

    What’s really interesting is the intensity with which the [i]stars[/i] seem to hate the book. Check out this quote from an [i]E![/i] interview with Pattinson: [i]“It was like reading her sexual fantasy, especially when she said it was based on a dream and it was like, ‘Oh I’ve had this dream about this really sexy guy,’ and she just writes this book about it. Like some things about Edward are so specific, I was just convinced, like, ‘This woman is mad. She’s completely mad and she’s in love with her own fictional creation.’ And sometimes you would feel uncomfortable reading this thing. It’s kind of a sick pleasure in a lot of ways.”[/i]

    …Although that sounds slightly ungrateful after Meyers called his performance “Oscar-worthy”.

  13. moontime

    I like vampire stories and read the books to see what all the hoopla was about. I agree they are poorly written but if they ever make a movie adaptation of the last one I will look forward to your review. This one had me laughing so hard I was in tears. I have not seen Twilight and look forward to checking out your alternative recommendation.

    One thing that needs to be said about Pattinson’s red carpet appearances (at least the handful of photos I’ve seen) is he has the dumbest hairdo. I don’t understand why anyone finds that attractive, LOL. Some people will get into anything if they are told it is whats cool.

  14. Ken Hanke

    Why is it so very gratifying to hate this franchise?

    I think it’s because it is so overbearingly arrogant. The idea that it has literary merit seems to be supported by no one, yet the author presumes it has. The idea that it brings something new to the genre is laughable, yet it insists it does. The idea that the film sets itself up as the arbiter of what is hot with the wholly fabricated Pattinson is particularly annoying somehow. And then there are all the people who buy into it — and, from what I can tell, for no other reason than they’ve been told to. There’s something galling and even creepy when you encounter an obvious mediocrity that pronounced itself “the next big thing” and people bought into it as just that because it said it was. The books — and the film — announce themselves as what you have to love if you’re going to be cool and like some twisted Pavlovian experiment people fall for it.

    What quarters, precisely? As far as I’ve seen, the reaction to her cinematography has been uniformly antipathetic, even from the established fan-base

    There was an entire article about Hardwicke’s great accomplishment this week on one of the larger movie sites (I forget which one now, but it was neither horror-centric, nor teen-centic).

    Although that sounds slightly ungrateful after Meyers called his performance “Oscar-worthy”.

    Well, the fact that Meyers said that offers some pretty weighty evidence that Pattinson is onto something by questioning her sanity.

  15. Ken Hanke

    I have not seen Twilight and look forward to checking out your alternative recommendation.

    Let’s hope that the opportunity for you to do just that presents itself.

  16. “Your best bet is to convince the Fine Arts that there is an audience for the film—and then follow up by actually going to see the film.”

    There’s actually a decent sized demand for REPO THE GENETIC OPERA, but we’ll never see that here in town. Swedish vampire films are even more obscure.

  17. Ken Hanke

    There’s actually a decent sized demand for REPO THE GENETIC OPERA

    While I cannot imagine wanting to see this thing, it’s in a little different situation. First of all, it’s a victim of the Joe Drake Lionsgate takeover and in much the same position as Midnight Meat Train. Second, it’s got just about nothing going for it critically. Third, it’s the sort of film — and I’ve seen this happen too many times — where there’s a group of people who are all about seeing it, but won’t deal with the reality of interest being too limited for the movie to play for more than a week or two. It then becomes, “I was going to see it, but by the time I got around to it, it wasn’t playing anymore.”

    Third actually applies — to a somewhat lesser degree — to Let the Right One In, too. Nonetheless, it stands a better chance of showing here than Repo, owing to its critical clout.

  18. Hey, I never said that REPO was GOOD… I just think that there’s enough of a curiosity factor to at least fill theater seats for one weekend.

    There is one bright spot in the vampire universe. HBO’s TRUE BLOOD is a runaway critical and commercial hit. I haven’t had the chance to catch an episode, but it was created by SIX FEET UNDER’S Alan Ball. Has anyone seen any of it yet?

  19. Ken Hanke

    Hey, I never said that REPO was GOOD… I just think that there’s enough of a curiosity factor to at least fill theater seats for one weekend.

    You may be right, though would anyone be even mildly interested in it if it didn’t have some Buffy refugee in it? Is there some Darren Lynn Bousman cult out there that I’ve missed? In any case, you’ve still got the Lionsgate problem (I know firsthand what happened when I tried to get Midnight Meat Train booked here), and you’ve got the same queston of how strong the curiosity factor really is. Is it curious enough to motivate a crowd to make it to a single show or even a couple days of shows? Or is it the kind of curious that ultimately turns into, “Ah, to hell with it, I’ll rent it when it comes out on DVD”?

    That’s what keeps a lot of things off local screens. People appear to be all fired up about something — let’s cite The Host and Nightwatch — and they get booked. And then hardly anyone actually shows up. What doesn’t get understood is that you have to support these movies on the weekend they open or they won’t be there come next weekend. (The decision to keep a film is made based on that opening weekend.) This is particularly true when you’re dealing with a theater like the Fine Arts, which only has two screens. And not getting out there and supporting it that first weekend has a ripple effect. The lacklustre perfomances of those films is exactly what makes the theater hesitant — and rightly so — to book a movie like Let the Right One In.

    There is one bright spot in the vampire universe. HBO’s TRUE BLOOD is a runaway critical and commercial hit. I haven’t had the chance to catch an episode, but it was created by SIX FEET UNDER’S Alan Ball. Has anyone seen any of it yet?

    I haven’t, but I’ve heard very good things about it.

  20. Sean Williams

    I think it’s because it is so overbearingly arrogant.

    You hit the nail on the head right there. I hadn’t even thought of it in those terms, but you’re one hundred percent correct. (As usual, of course.)

    People appear to be all fired up about something—let’s cite The Host and Nightwatch—and they get booked. And then hardly anyone actually shows up.

    I still remember the Snakes on a Plane debacle….

  21. Ken Hanke

    I still remember the Snakes on a Plane debacle….

    A very slight variation on the same theme, indeed, though I never trust internet frenzies to begin with.

    I will say, however, that the studios are partly to blame for some of this, because they really have lost track of the power of mass communication — and its drawbacks. The business of jockeying a movie into a position of massive TV exposure on the weekend that it opens in NY and LA has become counterproductive. The people who watch Oprah and see an entire show devoted to “the next big thing” do not want to wait two to six weeks to see that “next big thing.” By then, they’ve moved on to the next “next big thing.” A couple of isolated examples were Dreamgirls and Across the Universe, both of which — to judge by the calls to local theaters — would have done much better if they’d opened wide right after the push. Attention spans aren’t what they used to be.

  22. linda

    I and several of my fellow booksellers have read the entire Twilight series and loved it. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the series to young adult and adult readers, and am surprised at how harshly people are criticizing her books, without having even read them! Twilight is a very good YA read, far better than Harlequin romances, or “crap” or whatever term people come up with to disparage her writing. Meyer is an excellent storyteller, who is praised by Orson Scott Card, among others, for her craft. Try reading her adult sci-fi book, The Host. It is first-rate postapocalyptic sci-fi.

    If you didn’t like the movie, but enjoy the genre of vampire lit, give Meyer’s a try. Her work deserves better than how its been described in the blog posts.

  23. Ken Hanke

    I and several of my fellow booksellers

    Yes, well, I hope you didn’t learn sentence structure from these books.

    Seriously, though, I’m curious as to what exactly is meant these days when people refer to “Young Adult” readers. I mean, what age range are we talking about? By eighth grade at the latest, I was reading Poe and Stoker and Conan Doyle. By ninth grade I’d discovered Shakespeare and Dickens. And by 10th grade late 19th century to then-current (meaning 1970) dramatists, and mystery novelists like Dashiell Hammett, Agatha Christie and Rex Stout. I was even dabbling in F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemmingway and Sinclair Lewis And I do not think I was in any way unique either. These all seemed like pretty good young adult reads to me. They still do.

    I recall — somewhat dimly at this remove — earlier, more youthcentric books like The Pink Motel and Mr. Popper’s Penguins, along with some fantasies aimed at children, but these were elementary school reads.

  24. linda

    YA readers for Twilight range in age the way they do for Harry Potter: if you’re a skilled reader by 10, then you can read these books easily. However, young readers obviously miss some of the more adult content; they just skip right over it. As booksellers, when we hear that a young reader loves Twilight, we may steer their next read to something a bit more literary, if the parent or child is open to it. Contemporary writers like Neil Gaiman, China Mieville,and Robin McKinley offer excellent fantasy for young and adult readers, but we’ll also suggest Bram Stoker (if it must be vampire lit), Mikhail Bulgakov (his Master & Margarita is great fantasy set in 30s Moscow), C. S. Lewis, and Tolkien. I wouldn’t dismiss contemporary writers as lesser than those we all read in school; many of these writers are writing about issues today’s kids can relate to, and with a sophistication that kids and adults appreciate.

  25. Ken Hanke

    I wouldn’t dismiss contemporary writers as lesser than those we all read in school; many of these writers are writing about issues today’s kids can relate to, and with a sophistication that kids and adults appreciate.

    I don’t dismiss them, but the little I’ve read has failed to impress me as being especially good writing or particularly sophisticated. Assuming for the moment that the storyline of the film of Twilight accurately reflects the book, I’m certainly not impressed by the level of imagination or invention.

    I am perhaps old-fashioned in my literary views, but the thing that seems to me to separate my own — and my contemporaries from anything I recall — reading experiences in the teenage part of childhood is that the books being read had not been written for a young adult readership as a target audience. Nor was the entire focus of what was being read fantasy/horror/science-fiction. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these genres, but it seems a little narrow to me.

  26. Calvin

    I couldn’t agree more with the earlier comments on modern literature. Overall, the whole teen target market is becoming incredibly watered down. I, as a junior in high school, find myself appalled at the trite most of my classmates are reading. Harry Potter was pretty good, and I was hearing a lot of buzz about twilight just like it was with the HP books. So, I decided to give it a shot. Dear God, it was terrible. The story was all dialogue, none of it interesting or believable, with a contrived,unbearably slow plot and extremely shallow characters. Beyond the story itself, the writing lacks any perceivable style. The word choice is poor and repetitive. The way which the story is presented is overall bland and at least 50% about Edward’s perfection and Bella’s “Help, I’m incredibly average!” complex. The fans, the teeming millions of mostly female readers, are extremely fanatic too boot. And I have to ask, why?

  27. Niki

    I have no shame in admitting that I am a college student and was stirred by curiosity to read Twilight to see what the big deal was about and found myself loving it. And I’m an English major! It’s by no means good literature or great writing. But it’s a story and a story that girls can (maybe in a strange way) relate to. And for me, it was more of an escape into a simpler kind of world, away from Renaissance literature for classes that require pens and highlighters and writing papers about them afterwards.

    Aside from the average writing style, the underlying message of the story is one of star-crossed lovers. Also, people who constantly bring up the anti-feminist issue with the book….I just don’t see it!!!! Just because Edward is protective of Bella and Bella likes being protected by him does not mean she is less of a woman. And more importantly, people who might have actually read all of the books would know that one of Edward’s main motives is to please Bella at whatever cost, even leaving her if that’s what she wanted; any action he might take to upset her is automatically thrown aside and forgotten. So I’m thinking she’s the one who controls him instead of the other way around….?

    Most of you just need to get off your high horse. The most fundamental reason for books is to get people to read, to tell a story, and to get people enthralled in it. Whether you’d like to admit it or not, Twilight does that for the crowd it’s AIMED at, if not for more people. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you don’t like the book (assuming you’ve actually read it….) just move on. There’s no need to repeatedly bash someone’s work. How about we discuss “adult literature” with the half naked men and women on the covers that are supposed to arouse the senses of adults who haven’t had sex in months. I think we could find more to bash about if we’re going to discuss literary merit.

    And one final food for thought: since when are movie adaptations of books ever as good as the book itself?? Let’s just jump back a few years: Lord of the Rings, anyone? Peter Jackson left out chapters and characters to fit “everything” into the movie!!

  28. d

    this is by far my favorite review of this movie on rotten tomatoes. touche. you did, however, fail to mention how very, very, very lovely rob pattinson’s hair is at all times.

  29. Calvin

    Well Nikki, I can agree with you on some fields, but I have several large problems with your argument.
    1. I wouldn’t mind that the book is terribly written, were it not for the fact that:On the back cover, it says “The best book of the decade.” I find this claim appalling.
    2. I can’t just get off my high horse and move on from the book, its a part of society now. I find myself surrounded by rabid fans who cannot shut up about how much they love Edward. The only real escape is exile or death.
    3. We could discuss adult literature, except none of it has become a bestselling cultural phenomenon with a movie attached. Which brings back point 1., something that declares itself as the best of the decade better have literary merit.
    4. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is easily one of the best book to film adaptions I have ever seen, and is near if not as good as the books.

    You’re move Niki.

  30. Ken Hanke

    this is by far my favorite review of this movie on rotten tomatoes. touche. you did, however, fail to mention how very, very, very lovely rob pattinson’s hair is at all times.

    Thank you. As concerns Mr. Pattinson’s hair — if, as has been claimed, he never washes it, it’s likely a simple matter to form it into a shape that will stay perfectly, if unhygienically, in place.

  31. Ken Hanke

    2. I can’t just get off my high horse and move on from the book, its a part of society now. I find myself surrounded by rabid fans who cannot shut up about how much they love Edward. The only real escape is exile or death.

    Nothing will make a thing harder to tolerate than an overly zealous fan. I date my distaste for all things Star Trek from being surronded by zealots who all thought they were Mr. Spock and kept dismissing things with, “That would not be logical,” back when the original series was on the air. The problem with zealots is that they lose all sense of perspective and cannot or will not look at their particular hobby horse in any larger context.

    That said, I have my own issues with the “get off your high horse” attitude, because it always smells suspiciously like an anti-intellectual mindset that insists you take your standards of quality and line them up with whatever the lowest common denominator is this week.

    4. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is easily one of the best book to film adaptions I have ever seen, and is near if not as good as the books.

    I can name you a lot of perfectly fine, intelligent book-to-film adaptations — The Horse’s Mouth, Women in Love, The Hours, A Clockwork Orange, About a Boy, The Rules of Attraction, The Loved One, etc. — to go with Lord of the Rings. That a film is always less than its source material simply isn’t true. That it will — by its very nature — differ from the source in some ways isn’t necessarily a flaw. But what I find particularly interesting in all this is no one seems to be addressing how the film of Twilight is particularly inferior to the book, nor, for that matter, how, or indeed if, it significantly departs from the book.

  32. niki

    Calvin,

    First off, Lord of the Rings is one of my favorite trilogies both in book and movie form. So let’s get that out of the way. Second off, since when is it a crime that a book becomes a cultural phenomenon? When the Harry Potter books/movies became the craze, there were parents voicing their opinions on how anti-Christian they were and how they promoted dark magic….ridiculous? Yea, I’d say so. But take a look at movies and books that usually get people swept up in madness: Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and now Twilight, apparently. Sometimes it’s the fantastical qualities that people get caught up in, regardless of the book’s “true merit.” Let’s be honest, a person who comes home from a long day at work is hardly going to pick up an unabridged version of an Austen novel for a joy read. A part of reading is getting lost in the story.

    Shakespeare’s plays are of the simplest themes and human emotions and that perhaps makes them more appealing and well-known than the actual literary style they’ve been written in, which usually avid readers or scholars of his works can truly appreciate. The underlying theme of Twilight is just as simple and ordinary, with a bizarre twist. And btw just so that we’re clear,(I have this incredible feeling that someone’s going to jump at the first breath and bitch about how I’m comparing Shakespeare to Meyer): NOTE: I AM NOT.

    And also, Mr. Ken Hanke, intellectual of the week,

    Sorry you had a problem with the “high horse” comment but if your comments didn’t sound quite so elitist about what books you read at what point in your life, I wouldn’t have made the comment. It seems that most of the comments here are in respond to the actual book which seems most people haven’t read, and not about the actual movie.

    I never said the movie was anywhere near as good OR as close to the book. So I don’t know why people are so hot and bothered by the book being a success rather than the movie lacking its core material.

    Peace out.

  33. Calvin

    Niki, its quite simple really, and I’m a bit miffed that you missed the most important part of my commentary. “On the back cover, it says “The best book of the decade.” I find this claim appalling. ”
    There’s nothing wrong with a phenomenon, we’ve all been in one at one time or another, but for there to be written “the best” on the back, snubs and devalues many recent works of literature that are much better as a read and purely as a work of art. But either way, “a joy read” doesn’t have to be shoddily crafted.
    But yeah, sorry for kind’ve hi-jacking this thread for literary arguement, I know I didn’t do it all, but I’m perpetuating it, and I’m sorry.

    (Btw, when I get home from a hard day, I usually read Nietzsche or Ayn Rand, I loathe most Shakespeare, just soap operas in text in my opinion)

  34. Ken Hanke

    And also, Mr. Ken Hanke, intellectual of the week

    Did you miss the memo? Obama was elected and intellectual is no longer a pejorative term.

    Sorry you had a problem with the “high horse” comment but if your comments didn’t sound quite so elitist about what books you read at what point in your life, I wouldn’t have made the comment.

    First of all, that is hardly a list of particularly elitist authors. Every name contained therein worked in the realm of popular fiction. (Many of the writings in question first appeared in serial form in some not at all elitist pulp fiction magazines.) There’s nothing very esoteric there. This is all populist stuff — even Shakespeare, come to that. Now, if I’d said we were reading Kant or Kafka or Camus or Sartre or Hesse or discussing Spinoza on the existence of the soul, then you’d have a pretty good case for the elitist notion.

    Moreover, you missed the overriding point, which wasn’t what I was reading and when, but what others also were reading at the same time. My point really hasn’t as much to do with the quality of the Twilight books, but with an overall coarsening and, worse, narrowing of frame of reference and taste thanks to focus groups, demographics and niche marketing. To this end, I’ve seen no reference to the possibility of the books in question leading to anything other than more fantasy/horror books — with perhaps one offshot into science fiction. And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the genre. I have shelves of mystery and horror fiction myself. But it seems to me that it has certain limitations.

    I never said the movie was anywhere near as good OR as close to the book. So I don’t know why people are so hot and bothered by the book being a success rather than the movie lacking its core material.

    An interesting point — and one not addressed by any of the defenders of the source material beyond saying that the novel is better. So what exactly is it that movie lacks that the book has? Or what does the movie add that departs from or betrays the novel?

  35. Steve

    Hi Ken – Yay! Kudos to you for defending the intellectual!

    I am embarrassed to admit that I did read the entire Twilight series. (It was very important to a friend of mine that I do so, for reasons I won’t go into.) To compare this to the Harry Potter series is just nuts. The Harry Potter books were delightful little treasure boxes full of interesting surprises and packed with creativity, whatever you thought of the writing.

    Twilight reads more like a long fan fic of a better work. The book too has endless glowering, gazing, and teen drama. I’m assuming this will make tons of money and they’ll make the whole series into movies. One book consists almost entirely of Bella’s mourning a breakup with Edward and courting suicide over it. Can you say extremely dreary movie, boys and girls? Over-wrought drama, to say the least.

    The main reason this movie couldn’t work is that the source material was so bad. It reads like a teen-age girls fantasy of a relationship when she has never actually had one. There are numerous dramatic turns and twists, but she gets to remain forever young and beautiful, and of course this incredibly beautiful vampire picks HER out of the crowd for no particular reason, and falls madly in love with her for no particular reason. He just thinks she’s Special – which is what we all want, but in particular during hormone-laden adolescence.

    The actor playing Edward is playing him exactly as he is presented in the book. He has no independent life aside from Bella – he may as well be a product of her hormonal cocktail of desire. He exists as a construct, a mobile Ken doll, an accessory. His only purpose in the book is to obsess about her. (He breaks into her room at night, just to watch her sleep. Only a teenage girl would find this romantic and not creepy as all get out.) When they are parted, all he can do is long for her presence. Edward is the boy girls would wish for if they had a geenie offer them the man of their dreams at about 12-14. Hence the wild popularity of the singularly mediocre books. I guess the film-makers could have made Edward into a real person, but they would have had to deviate from the source material so much that the fan base would have been outraged. And these movies will definitely be made for the captive audience –

    foaming-at-the-mouth hormonally berzerk clueless teenage girls.

    I’m not saying they’re all that way. I’m saying that is who this movie is made for, and who is the target audience for these books.

  36. Ken Hanke

    Btw, when I get home from a hard day, I usually read Nietzsche or Ayn Rand

    I think I just lost the elitist title.

    Actually, though, I’m glad to see this, since, as I recall, you said you were a junior in high school. I can’t say I am particularly keen on your choices, but I’m heartened to encounter someone reading something besides genre works.

    As for your Shakespeare assessment…Shakespeare is really more meant to be performed than read. You might take a look at some of the more interesting film adaptations — try Richard Loncraine’s Richard III and Julie Taymor’s Titus, for starters — and see if there isn’t more at hand than soap.

  37. Steve

    I’m very fond of “Taming of the Shrew” with Elizabeth Taylor. You see one eye – that’s all, and you know immediately who your Katherina is. Richard Burton was never more lackadaisically charming. Sigh.

  38. Ken Hanke

    I’m assuming this will make tons of money and they’ll make the whole series into movies.

    That’s clearly the plan, but the fact that they’re rushing the second film into production by March suggests a lack of belief in the shelf-life of the series.

    This move, by the way, has caused director Catherine Hardwicke to walk away from the series, claiming that this isn’t sufficient time to prepare her “vision.” (That the maker of Lords of Dogtown, The Nativity Story and Twilight has a “vision” is remarkable. Maybe it’s astigmatism.)

  39. Steve

    Astigmatism (chuckles)

    I love you Ken Hanke.

    And I would hope that you were right about the series maybe failing, but they’d only churn out more dreck to fill the void. As soon this as another “Little Man” or Family Comedy starring Steve Martin with a wife young enough to be his grand-daughter – for that matter Martin Lawrence (shudders).

  40. Ken Hanke

    As soon this as another “Little Man” or Family Comedy starring Steve Martin with a wife young enough to be his grand-daughter – for that matter Martin Lawrence (shudders).

    Martin Lawrence as Steve Martin’s wife? Now, there’s a high concept concept, if ever I saw one!

    As for Little Man, they’ll make it anyway. The Wayans are all poised to drop Dance Flick on us in a little while.

  41. Sean Williams

    Meyer is an excellent storyteller, who is praised by Orson Scott Card, among others, for her craft.

    Orson Scott Card also called Mama Mia! one of the best films ever made, contrasting it directly with Citizen Kane‘s “tripe”. Worth noting, too, that Card consistently praises fellow Mormons. (He went so far as to call Wolverton’s On My Way to Paradise one of the best books ever written.) In any case, appeals to authority don’t establish fact.

    Actually, though, I’m glad to see this, since, as I recall, you said you were a junior in high school.

    With all due respect to Calvin, I’m not sure it’s possible to appreciate either Nietzsche or Rand at any level higher than the eleventh grade (although I’ve seen housing projects that could certainly use the Fountainhead treatment).

    It seems that most of the comments here are in respond to the actual book which seems most people haven’t read, and not about the actual movie.

    The majority of the posters who criticized Twilight in this thread criticized its print incarnation specifically. I appreciate your opinions, but it’s frustrating to me that you attack our fellow posters’ motivations rather than the substance of their arguments — even when those straw men are completely incongruous with the available evidence.

    I have no problem with popular literature and actually regard Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as one of the five best fantasy novels ever written. Artistry is independent of either intellect or popularity. But I see no artistry in Stephenie Meyer’s work. She writes as though she learned English as a second language with Borat for her tutor as AltaVista BabelFish for her dictionary.

  42. Ken Hanke

    There’s probably no one still reading this who cares, but I just learned that the Hollywood 14 will be opening Let the Right One In on Friday, December 19. Now, here’s the thing — someone brought the movie in, so….

    Get out there and see it!

  43. Gabriela

    I love this review and I love you.

    I’m a girl. I can understand why Twilight is so damn popular. It’s a self insert fanfiction, the female lead so void and shallow you can replace her with yourself and live your wish fullfillment life where the hot guy loved you for no reason at all.

    I don’t understand, though, how people can say these books are literature, or good for anything other than mind fluff, with a straight face.

    The only good thing about the movie are the – most likely unintentional – hilarious moments. “This is the skin of a killer!” never fails to make me laugh.

    Thank you for this.

    Oh, and I can’t wait to see “Let the Right One in”!

  44. Ken Hanke

    Thanks.

    And, Let the Right One In is now definitely confirmed for the Hollywood 14 this Friday. (I get the listings about an hour ago.)

  45. Mollie

    I’ll come out and admit it, I am a Twilight fan. Of the books, I mean. But Gabriela, you are 100% right. Meyer is a very poor writer. It’s just the plot itself that I think people are drawn to. It’s defiantly not the characters for me. Her characters are all so 2 dimensional. So why do I still like the books? I have no clue. Guess it just comes with being a hopeless romantic teenage girl.

    I was expecting this movie to be horrible. More horrible then it truly was. I was expecting you to not even write a review, much less see this movie, Ken. So when I did see it, I was surprised. The movie, I thought, was very true to the book. Although I do not like Kristin Stewart (how annoying was that goddamn breathing?), I thought she portrayed Bella well (a character who gets on my last nerve). The movie was as good as the book, maybe a little worse, seeing that it just wasn’t Twilight.

    But for New Moon, they’re getting a new director, Chris Weitz. He was the director for Golden Compass (never saw it but I heard the only thing it was praised for was the CGI) and About A Boy (which I did enjoy). So this movie could go either was, but seeing as how Summit is trying to push for only 8 months of filming and with only a 25 million dollar budget (51.5 million is total budget minus the 12 mill for each Kristin and Robert), it’s probably gonna be worst that the first.

    Hilarious review Hanke.

  46. Ken Hanke

    But for New Moon, they’re getting a new director, Chris Weitz. He was the director for Golden Compass (never saw it but I heard the only thing it was praised for was the CGI) and About A Boy (which I did enjoy).

    I actually liked The Golden Compass — and that involved some heavy-lifting on my part, because the little girl bears an alarming resemblance to someone I could happily see tangling with the business end of a steamroller. I will say, however, that it’s a serious simplification of the book. About a Boy is, I think, a fine film all the way around. I’m actually kind of depressed that Weitz is doing this, but then I’m sure it pays well.

  47. Amy Lately

    I watched the movie before reading the book and I have to say it is the first time I think the movie is better than the book. I am glad that Kristin Stewart refused to use some of the cheesy lines from the book. The books are 100% cheesy teenage love. Keep some crackers and wine nearby.

    Yes, it is poor writing. Yes, the characters are emotional and Bella’s low self esteem and clumsiness are painfully pathetic. The ‘simple girl gets the rich hot prince” is beyond Disney cliché. But again, the targeted audience can probably identify. I was insecure and clumsy at 17. The bottom-line message is: love conquers all. Which is not such a bad message after all.

    That said, if you know what to expect (with the movie) and what the movies is about and what is not, then it is not as dreadful as the author of this “review” claims. It is not a horror movie; it’s not an Oscar-worthy movie either. It’s teenage romance. Full of cheese, silliness and hopeless romance. The score and the soundtrack were great in my opinion.

  48. Ken Hanke

    That said, if you know what to expect (with the movie) and what the movies is about and what is not, then it is not as dreadful as the author of this “review” claims.

    Why the quotes? You may not agree with it, but it is a review. Still, I agree that if you know what to expect and what you expect is goopy teen romance with vapid characters that’s badly acted and sloppily directed, then you’ll get exactly what you expect.

  49. Buffy Summers Fan

    The story and movie did not appeal much to me either. It was archaic in the worst sense, and it was lacking in the whole…well, “interesting” area. =)

    I found the atmosphere of the movie dull and boring. I hope they’ll use the money from this one to make New Moon just a bit better. You know, squeeze your loyal fans for more bucks for when the next movie comes out…or maybe the economic disaster will cease even die hard Twilighters from visiting the local theatres…=p

    GO HARRY POTTER!!!!

    tee hee.. just had to say that…sorry.. =]

  50. Kendo_Bunny

    Ah, ‘Twilight’, the series I love to hate. Edward is an abusive stalker, Bella is a shallow whiner, and the books glorify insanely toxic messages, including, but not limited to: teen suicide, pedophilia, abuse, stalking, women’s complete passivity, inherent male superiority, and that love is no substitute for obsession. Plus, the writing is bad: there are lots of typos, grammatically incorrect sentences, and misuse of words that Stephenie Meyer obviously looked up in the thesaurus, rather than the dictionary. Add that to her brag that she does no research on her books, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster on a purely technical level.

    I’ve been reading the books- slowly- because many of my students are obsessed with them. It seems every page is more sickening, from Bella’s complete inability to focus on anything but how beautiful Edward is, to just how much of a jerk he really is. By chapter four, they have had four conversations, and three of them have been fights. Edward has laughed at Bella six times and has gone out of his way to be unpleasant to her. He then tells her dramatically that she would be safer if they weren’t friends, then insists that they take an almost 300 mile round trip drive together. She, of course, accepts, because he’s just so darn *hot*. Never mind that she’s spent the first part of the book angsting over why he treats her like she’s covered in garbage or like she’s not there: all he has to do is flash his golden topaz ocher melty butterscotch eyes in her direction, and she can’t wait to spend 7 hours with the jerk.

    This is probably why I’m so vehemently against this book series- young women are confused enough by young men and they don’t need to see a relationship with an obscenely controlling man who says one thing and does another as the epitome of TWU WUV!!! Especially the message that without your man, who defines your entire existence, you should just die. And then her best friend falls in love with an infant, his goofy friend falls in love with a two-year-old and practically raises her with the eventual expectation of having a sexual relationship with her, and another friend mauls a girl who rejects him, making her instantly realize that she adores him.

  51. Ken Hanke

    I wouldn’t argue any of your points, but I still have a morbid curiosity to read one of the books (I feel that one will be enough). I hope this passes.

  52. jasondelaney

    My family lives a dogged seven hour drive away from here. My girlfriend read Twilight to me on the way. Let me just say that as a rabid road rager, this book probably saved a good year of my life by distracting me from the stress of being unable to rip the motorists limb from limb. The horrors I would visit upon the people with the audacity to drive in the same lane as me are quite a bit more inventive then anything in that book, but nonetheless it made the drive quicker and more relaxing. I don’t really have any urge to read the others, but I look forward to the second book when this years trip to the coast rolls around.

  53. I have seen the film, which I found to be alternately dull and hilarious.
    I have a copy of the first book, borrowed from a friend of mine, sitting on the desk next to my computer. I am gathering up the courage to read the thing.

    On the more interesting subject of ‘Young Adult’ fiction – As I child I read Winnie The Pooh, Dr Seuss, etc. I also read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings (back to back, took me about from the ages of 9 to 11) and a bit of Roald Dahl.
    I moved on from this to authors like Ian Fleming, Desmond Bagley and John Grisham – I attemped to read several ‘Young Adult’ writers but I found them pretty patronizing, quite obviously written by adults for young teens – I felt more like reading stuff by adults for adults.
    By thirteen I was ensconced in crime writers like Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and Dorothy L Sayers (I came to Chandler and Hammett a few years later). I read some Tolstoy when I was twelve (War and Peace and Resurrection, neither of which I enjoyed) and aside from a brief flirtation with Harry Potter (I read the first 4 back to back after I’d run out of Christie), I’ve never read a ‘Young Adult’ novel I liked. Certainly none that contained accurate portrayals of young adults – even the Harry Potter characters bore only a slight resemblance to any actual teenagers I knew.

    So, I’ll be interested to see how I go with the novel (which I’ll probably get to once I finish Marianne Faithfull’s autobiography), and if it’s as hamfisted and irritating as the film.

  54. Ken Hanke

    I am gathering up the courage to read the thing.

    I haven’t even been able to work up the courage to borrow it.

  55. DrSerizawa

    “What really cheeses me is the big rush in some quarters to praise Catherine Hardwicke as a great filmmaker—and proof that women are capable of being such—based on the box-office of this thing.”

    Amazing. Do these people know nothing of film? Have they ever heard of Ida Lupino for example? Ida must be rolling in her grave to hear such blather. That women can be great filmmakers was proven long before this current line of pap hit the screen.

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