Film review by Mark Wiechman
Technical specs by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke,
Peter Facinelli, Ashley Green
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Audio: DTS HD 5.1, Dolby 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: Movie 122 minutes plus special features
Release Date: March 21, 2009
“Say it. Out loud. SAY IT."
Ah, to be young and female and in love with a vampire who has waited a century to love you. As I was waiting in line to purchase the special three disc set of Twilight at Target, I struck up a conversation with a woman who was purchasing the movie while waiting for her children to finish their after school activities. She said she had already purchased the Borders Books version of the movie, so this was her second copy of the movie. She also said she had read all four books twice. So here was the demographic for the novels and movie, except that she was a mother, not a teenage girl. Clearly this was a phenomenon, not just a movie. Adapting it to the screen would be a tough balance between taking the best parts of the book and dialogue and making it work on the screen.
I purchased the novel years ago not knowing very much about it except that it was a love story involving a young woman and a vampire, but I struggled to read it. Bella, our fair maiden in distress, was a bratty teen who seemed unhappy about everything despite being a popular new girl at school. I tried three times to read past this silly premise and just couldn’t do it. Later I realized that it was written more from a female perspective, but very different from the primordial, sensual world Anne Rice created.
I stayed away from Twilight in theatres because critics almost universally said it would only appeal to a young female audience, but I looked forward to the DVD release so I could judge it for myself and see if it could hold my attention in a way the book could not. The cast is mostly unknowns or lesser- known’s at least, but is uniformly excellent and inspired. I was also anxious to see a movie mentioning my hometown of Jacksonville, Florida (if only as a far off place) and to see a homegrown actress, the lovely Ashley Green (as Alice Cullen) who made it to the big time. The chemistry between Kristen Stewart as Bella and Robert Pattinson as Edward is intense but awkward and anxious, just like everyone’s first love. They really do seem meant for each other, like gravity. Kristen’s performance as an awkward teen is matched by a restrained performance of Billy Burke as her father Charlie.
In a way this is the opposite of my Harry Potter experience: I loved those books, and the movies were alright, but Twilight is much more rewarding as a movie than a book to me. I did not care for Meyer’s style even though she did create a new world based on the real one. Stephen King has publicly criticized her style while praising J.K. Rowling’s and I agree. The ideas and mythology are good even if they are not presented with much craft.
But this movie grabbed me very quickly for several reasons. The baseball game during a thunderstorm was amazing, especially with the music of Muse as a funky, bewitching backdrop. This is an Americanized Quidditch scene of course. But even before this scene, we meet the Coens as her new family, like Hogwarts, and their palatial house in the trees of wet, green, sun-less Pacific Northwest is the perfect place for vampires. I traveled there recently and the movie captures it perfectly.
And I did not foresee Edward playing Debussy on the piano. How classy. Oh heck, even I like him now!
The overcast settings, forest scenes, and intense night sequences make for one terrific high definition offering, which this Blu-ray captures beautifully. Images are crisp and clean throughout...the Pacific Northwest has never looked so alive. Some of the color schemes are deliberately made cooler, but this is a nice touch for the overall appearance of the film. Detail levels are strong and contrast levels are outstanding.
The DTS HD soundtrack packs plenty of dynamic punch, as this movie ranges from the most quiet and ambient scenes to full out rock and roll action. The baseball sequence is particularly striking, as is the intensity of the finale in the ballet studio. The music score is first rate, and well balanced against the spoken words for a full and enveloping listening experience.
This double disc special edition Blu-ray is quite loaded! The first disc features a commentary by director Catherine Hardwicke and co-stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, and they share a lot about what it took to bring a beloved novel to life on the screen. There are four each of deleted and extended scenes, a seven part documentary on the film, and three music videos, from Linkin Park, Paramore and Muse, plus a look at the Comic-Con response to the movie.
The second disc features extended interviews with author Stephenie Meyer, Stewart and Pattinson, along with a terrific look at the music from the film, plus a vampire's kiss montage, Edward's piano concert (Robert Pattinson is a musician for real, and yes, he really played in that scene) and a remix video for "Bella's Lullaby". Rounding out is a couple of trailers.
Just when we were starting to run out of reasons to go to theatres and escape into a young person’s fantasy world, Twilight comes along and manages to be adventurous and fun and chaste, but still intense. I am already looking forward to seeing the next installment.