Stephanie Meyer be darned I will not be denied my Edward vs. James duel to the death!
In November 2008 hordes of eager Twilight fans raced to movie theaters to see their Bella and Edward on the big screen. The result was a lot of disapproval and disappointment, with arguments abound over what the movie did right, but mostly did wrong. Now that I’ve finally read the book and seen the movie I can see where these people are coming from, though I don’t entirely agree that the movie was terrible. It was…adequate.
The major problem with Twilight lies in the story. It is not easy to take a 500 page book and turn it into a two-hour movie. Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are proof of that. Such book to movie transitions result in a catch-22 in which you want to include all of the cool parts of the book, but are unable to fit them within the confines of a movie. In the end, the movie does a faithful adaptation of the book in that it does stray too far from the plot. Yes, there were some extra stuff involving James and his coven, but that was a good thing. In the book, James suddenly and unexpectedly burst onto the stage as if to say “Stephanie Meyer called, she needed a villain!” The movie does a much better job of capturing James’ antics and the subsequent effect on the area. So when he makes his actual appearance in the book, it works far better.
Unfortunately some of the key events were downplayed rather spectacularly. The car accident, the first major clue for Bella that Edward was a vampire, was horribly directed. Although I give props for the surprise lead-in, it quickly fell apart after that. A word to the director: if Bella ends up going to the hospital for hitting her head and risking a concussion, make sure she actually hits her head!
The rushed plot does more than hamper the overall story. It creates a major dilemma for people who watch the movie without having read the book first. While a devoted Twilight fan will have no problem keeping up with the action, Twilight-newcomers will likely get confused at speedy plot, trying to figure out who is who while chapters of the book fly by in minutes.
Plot aside, the characters were fairly hit-or-miss. While Kristen Stewart played a satisfactory Bella (good voice-over’s especially), Robert Patterson did a poor job with Edward, especially in the early parts of the movie. Having read the book and knowing what drives Edward during his initial encounters with Bella, and during subsequent meetings (especially as guys try and fail miserably in asking Bella to the danc-errr prom) Patterson just did not seem to get it. Edward was cold (pun intended) towards Bella, yes, but half of the frustration resulted in Edward trying not to rip Bella to pieces because she smelled like the vampire equivalent of an Omaha Steak. I was dying to see some of that frustration in Patterson, especially during the scene in which Bella walks in on him trying to switch out of Biology class. Remember, you find out later that Edward was *this* close to devouring Bella and disposing of the other woman, something he claimed he could have done easily. Patterson’s performance improved a little bit after the vampire revelation was revealed (the meadow scene between the two in particular) yet he was for the most part batting below par.
Speaking of baseball metaphors, most of the Cullen’s weren’t all that impressive. Although Peter Facinelli did a fantastic job as Carlisle, though everyone else just ended up blending into the scenery. In their defense, the movie downplayed most of their roles to the point of non-existence due to the rushed plot. Jasper in particular lost a lot of his edge, with non-book readers missing a lot of cool points about his character.
As for the other characters, they played their respective roles adequately. The high school kids acted like typical high school kids, and that’s exactly the point. Billy Burke played a pretty good Charlie, but my eye is on Jacob. He doesn’t get much screen time in the book or the movie, but from what I saw, I remain optimistic for his leading role in New Moon.
Rushed plot and shallow characters aside, the movie did have a few redeeming qualities. I’m glad they included the baseball scene (though to be fair it would have been hard not to) yet the ending of the movie pleased me greatly. One of my biggest gripes with the book involved the relative lack of suspense in the final moments of James plot to kill Bella. Stephanie Meyer might be incapable of writing an action sequence, but oh yes the movie is quite happy to oblige. I would have made a few changes to the scene (Bella shouldn’t have been conscious for example, at least not for the entire fight) but overall it redeemed the book in my eyes.
I’d say Taylor sums up the movie best of all. Is it fantastic? No. Is it terrible? No. Does it provide an adequate summary of the book wrapped into a tightly-knit 2 hour package? Yes. This movie will not win over newcomers to Twilight. Let the devout Twilight fans bicker over what worked and what didn’t. I’ve said my piece.
On a final note, I have to admit I am looking forward to New Moon. Although seeing trailers has me worrying that they downplay certain sections of the book in favor of later events, the uber-cool Volturi will be worth an extended glance. Thank you movies, for not being afraid to show a little action.