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Let the Right One Bite

MOVIE REVIEW
Twilight (2008)

T-12301
Deana Newcomb/Summit Entertainment

For those knowing close to nothing about the “Twilight” phenomenon, it's tempting to approach this heavily promoted adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s novel with extreme trepidation. Oft-circulated clips of thousands of teenage girls descending upon star Robert Pattinson in a possessed frenzy further reinforced the notion that this is probably not something made for another demographic. Indeed, the film lives up to your expectation – for better or worse.

Still, in the realm of boilerplate teenage drama, this comes off much better than most of the shows on the old WB network and the turn-of-the-21st-century movies of Mandy Moore or Julia Stiles. The credit belongs to director Catherine Hardwicke, who brings gravitas to moments that should have none, and cinematographer Elliot Davis. The movie has been filmed on location in the Pacific Northwest, where Mr. Davis immerses us in the gargantuan, mist shrouded trees and endlessly green expanse of the region. It’s frequently possible to ignore the narrative and just enjoy the imagery, which serves as an effectively inviting travelogue.

The film stars Kristen Stewart as the unfortunately christened Bella Swan, returned to the town of Forks, Wash. to live with her father (Billy Burke). At her new school, she encounters the mysterious Edward Cullen (Mr. Pattinson), who – along with his siblings – keeps resolutely to himself. His schizophrenic nature – cold and distant one moment, warm and inquisitive the next – fascinates her. Soon, he lets down his guard and she discovers the truth: He’s a vampire.

The rest of the movie plays out more or less exactly as this sort of adolescent fiction would. Edward agonizes as he tries to resist snacking on the girl he describes as “my own personal heroin.” Melissa Rosenberg’s screenplay consists of many dialogue zingers even more hackneyed than that. Bella and Edward share a lot of intense, tender eyeline matches meant to convey impassioned romantic longing. Ms. Stewart tries awfully hard to not seem bland and boring. Periodically, she succeeds.

Then some baddie vampires go after Bella, the dreamy, doe-eyed Edward protects her, and girls in the audience swoon. If there’s one thing “Twilight” makes clear, it’s that the age-old fantasy of the forbidden, perfect man is as potent as ever. The movie gets completely wrapped up in the superfluous vampire gimmick, with its silly conflicts and age-old legends, and Ms. Rosenberg crams way too much contrived dialogue into the film’s overstuffed 122 minutes. In other words, it’s total hokum. But “Twilight” has been rendered with affection and not ambivalence, which is more than one can say for most of its counterparts.

TWILIGHT

Opens on Nov. 21 in the United States and on Dec. 19 in Britain.

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke; written by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer; director of photography, Elliot Davis; edited by Nancy Richardson; music by Carter Burwell; produced by Greg Mooradian, Mark Morgan and Wyck Godfrey; released by Summit Entertainment (United States) and Contender Films (Britain). Running time: 2 hours 1 minute. This film is rated PG-13 by M.P.A.A. and 12A by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Kristen Stewart (Bella Swan), Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen), Billy Burke (Charlie Swan) and Cam Gigandet (James/Nomad Vampire).

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