Rating: Rated M (supernatural themes and violence)
With 25 million books sold, novelist Stephenie Meyer seems to have struck a responsive chord with a section of the reading public. Her theme, bluntly, is the vampire as lust object for adolescent girls. Now debut director Catherine Hardwicke, working from a script by Melissa Rosenberg, has made a movie out of the first of Meyer's four (so far) novels that is probably critic-proof and would seem to have box-office success assured.
The teen heroine is Bella Swan (Kirsten Stewart), who moves to the forest town of Forks, Washington, to live with her lugubrious dad (Billy Burke), the local police chief. An introspective loner, she doesn’t mix well at her new school, but she is strangely attracted to Edward (Robert Pattinson), one of the aloof, pasty-faced Cullen family that nobody seems to like.
He, at first, spurns any contact with her — but that's only because he is attracted to her and he doesn’t want to hurt her. You see, the Cullens are reformed vampires who, over the centuries, have weaned themselves off human blood and are attempting to coexist with humans. Edward fears that if he were to get too involved with Bella his old instincts would surface and he would sink the old fangs in the time-honoured tradition. And see, he loves her too much to do that.
Bella, on the other hand, might not be averse to sacrificing her human identity for love of Edward. Not every girl has a boyfriend who has superhuman strength, can read minds, can fly and can piggy-back you to the top of the highest tree in the forest so a helicopter shot can show the magnificent scenery (which really isn’t in Forks, folks, but somewhere in Oregon).
As a movie, Twilight is pretty turgid stuff. Leading lady Kirsten Stewart is urgently in need of a personality, and her style of acting, with all the blinks, sniffs, shrugs and lip-biting, comes perilously close to an accumulation of tics. Director Hardwicke must share the blame for this, as she encourages the sort of longueurs that make TV soap-opera acting so risible. All the long-suffering glances combined with the white-faced makeup of the Cullen clan are very reminiscent of the histrionic excesses of the pre-talkies screen.
With dialogue like “your mood swings are kinda giving me whiplash”, it is an overcooked, melodramatic script that, frankly, makes little sense and, at two hours, is way overlong. The last-minute introduction of a baddie character, an unreconstructed vampire to whom Bella is merely another snack, just so there can be a highly stylised showdown stoush with Edward, is poor plotting.
But doubtless everyone concerned is convinced they are on a winner — the final shot has sequel stamped all over it.
Hoyts Distribution Out December 11
Mr Jim Murphy is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.