Some friends balked at my preference of watching this movie first in place of other releases this week. I have to admit my interest was piqued at how it performed at the box office amongst the recent slew of less than stellar results by novel to film adaptations. Moreover, there was plenty of talk about how difficult a process it was to find the right cast for the lead roles, and the immense popularity of Stephenie Meyer's novels which had a re-imagining of the vampire/werewolf genre, especially amongst the girls?
Make no mistake, at its core Twilight is nothing but a romance through and through, which explains its fanbase. Set in a high school, it's the usual beautiful, aloof and new girl in town falling for literally the coolest dude on campus who's equally stand offish, but for reasons of course. While Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is fair and has her long brown locks in contrast with her skin colour, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) looked as if he has plenty of foundation applied to his face and neck, with a dash of lipstick to add colour to his look. Oh, and his eyes change colours too, how cool is that?
So while the two hit it off on the wrong foot, a dashing and suave saving of the damsel who was like a deer caught in headlights, provided the catalyst for an intense romance that the two will develop. They consummate their passion in wild forests and atop treetops, and I tell you it's likely any girl would likely be charmed off her socks should a guy pull these stunts off. Standing in the way of the romance are the difficulties that Edward has to face continuously, in not succumbing to temptation to sink his teeth and suck her blood. Being together and hanging out means constantly keeping that vampire base instinct in check, while she becomes the unwitting temptress who has to distract his thoughts if his willpower becomes weak.
There were a couple of departures from the usual vampire characters, and in this case, sunlight no longer is the bane of their existence, only that their skin will sparkle ala having a natural sheen of stardust. Purists of the genre will find this hard to swallow, as with their individual abilities, such as the ability to predict the future, and for Edward, the ability to read other people's minds, except for Bella's, which intrigues him and yet provide for a sense of fear, that everyone in general, fear what we don't understand (Carmine Falcone said this in Batman Begins, which is so apt here).
The movie was destined to succeed thanks to the chemistry of the leads and their sheer charisma. Kristen Stewart had a certain spunk and fearlessness in her when having to deal with her romantic emotions with possibly the best hunter on Earth, while at the same time has a tenderness that we always see whenever she's with family - her dad, her long distance calls with mom, and of course, the love of her life. Robert Pattinson brings about some really jealous protective stance to his object of desire, and if looks could kill, he would have floored their common enemy in a "normal" (because the Cullens only kill animals) vampire in James (Cam Gigandet), who thrives on the thrill of the hunt, and sets his sights on Edward's Bella. There was some clinically brutal finishing off of enemies in this film which the camera flinched from, if only to decide not to mar the sweet romance underlying the story.
Special effects wise by Industrial Light and Magic was nothing intrusive to have stole the thunder from the story or the acting, and there were some pretty nifty moments which were impressive, and I particularly liked the entire baseball game sequence which had a right mix of effects, and tension built into the story, which marked an increase pace of urgency thereafter. The score by Carter Burwell was hauntingly beautiful, as were the carefully chosen songs to make up the soundtrack.
I thought Catherine Hardwicke did a commendable job in making this film, and the word on the street is that she'll be replaced for the sequel which already is green lit. And it's not easy for such sequels to be approved given the lacklustre performance of novel adaptations such as The Dark is Rising, The Golden Compass and Eragon all getting canned after dismal performances in the box office. Unless of course this franchise of only four books want to follow in the footsteps of the successful Harry Potter movie franchise in having different directors at the helm, I feel that Hardwicke should be asked to return.
Twilight took me by surprise, perhaps because I went in with low expectations and not having read the book (though Wikipedia provided some spoiler filled synopsis which I deliberately looked out for), and thus the final result was nothing less than a refreshing take on a different universe of vampires that we're used to seeing on the big screen, as well as the charismatic leads which I felt was the clincher. Perfect as a date movie, and I guess even more so if you're out looking for eye candies. Set up for a sequel (obviously) with some nice placeholders to develop from, you can count me in for another ride when it comes rolling along.