Movie review by Greg Carlson

It is no secret that most youth-oriented film franchises are created for and marketed to teen boys, so the idea of a wildly popular series aimed at girls of the same age makes “Twilight” a little easier to swallow than its tepid construction might otherwise merit. Based on the inaugural volume in Stephenie Meyer’s publishing juggernaut, director Catherine Hardwicke’s movie version captures only the tiniest spark of the best filmmaking qualities she displayed in the slightly overrated “Thirteen” and “Lords of Dogtown.” An overhaul, or perhaps more to the point, revamp (pun intended), of the lore and legend of bloodsuckers from Stoker’s Count Dracula to Rice’s Lestat, “Twilight” juggles several expectations while remaining true to the genre’s seductive and sensual foundations.

Like Joel Schumacher’s 1987 “The Lost Boys,” “Twilight” jettisons most of the unsavory aspects of vampirism in favor of teenage angst and cool. When Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) leaves sunny Arizona to live with her police chief dad in perpetually drizzly Forks, Washington, she falls hard for pale Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a member of a clan of nosferatu pledged not to drink human blood. Edward might think of himself as a “bad guy,” but his actions prove the opposite, especially when he draws on his superhuman strength and speed to save Bella from serious injury in a car wreck.

Meyer’s conceptual masterstroke, which translates efficiently to the big screen, is Edward’s internal struggle to refrain from sinking his fangs into Bella’s pretty neck. Working perfectly as an allegorical corollary to the teen abstinence movement, Edward’s pledge to protect Bella and remain in control of his desires is the engine that drives the movie’s blend of perpetual longing and honorable chastity. Stewart and Pattinson have the chemistry to pull it off, and several of the movie’s strongest scenes allow the lovers to explore their romantic feelings without going “all the way.”

The courtship of Bella and Edward unfolds leisurely during the first half of the movie, and Hardwicke reasserts the aptitude for the rhythms and patterns of teen communication that she demonstrated in her previous features. “Twilight” takes a major nosedive, however, with the introduction of a silly trio of nomadic vampires who encroach on Cullen family turf. The script fails to explore the motivations of the movie’s true antagonists, and viewers are left with flat, wooden villains unable to generate any intrigue or interest. An insensible ballet studio showdown with one of the evil revenants meant as the movie’s dramatic climax comes across as a futile and dreadfully dull story-topper.

“Twilight” tacks on a shameless denouement that all but trumpets the inevitable sequel. As the credits roll, the tragically hip will cringe at the inclusion of Radiohead’s “15 Step,” out of place alongside the more pedestrian sounds of Linkin Park, Mute Math and Paramore. The younger viewers will not locate any disparity in the choice of tunes, two of which are performed by star Pattinson. Instead, they will be comparing notes on the latest actor to achieve virtually instant heartthrob status and imagining what it would be like to be held in his arms, high above the ground in the branches of a towering tree.

This review was also published in the High Plains Reader the week of 11/24/08.

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