Posted by: Dr P | May 5, 2009

Twilight

The literary and cinematic worlds have a long tradition of vampire stories. Whether you believe they started with Vlad the Impaler or predate our recorded history, there’s little doubt that the cult of the bloodsucker is one of the most enticing and enduring “myths” we know. The vampire is generally either portrayed as a totally evil fiend (the Hammer versions) or a disturbed humanlike creature we can totally empathise with (Interview with the Vampire). There’s always a high degree of sexuality and romance surrounding vampires, and this is certainly a strong theme of this movie. Of course my own favourite mythos is that which surround Joss Whedon’s epic Buffy and Angel series, but I do confess to enjoying the vampire side portrayed in Twilight a great deal.

Based on the series of novels by Stephenie Meyer, the first Twilight movie introduces the key characters. Our heroine Bella has moved from Texas to the mountainous region of Forks, Washington State to live with her father, the local chief of police. I suspect her dad was initially tempted by other places bearing the names of kitchen implements, such as Yellowknife, the local Wetherspoon or maybe even Multispeed Blender, Idaho.

As the new girl in a local community Bella inevitably attracts a lot of attention, albeit mostly positive, and she soon makes friends. However the community is home to the mysterious Cullen family – the father is the local doctor while the various creepy offspring attend the high school. Bella soon finds herself inexorably drawn to the youngest Cullen sibling, Edward, played by Robert Pattinson. Pattinson of course was last seen dying in the role of Cedric Diggory at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. To all intents and purposes he looks like he just stepped out of the grave here, so pale is his lustre. Despite Bella’s instant attraction, Edward initially appears aloof and almost nauseous in her presence.

When a car spins out of control and almost kills Bella, events start to unfold. It is the lightning fast movement and apparent super-strength of Edward which saves Bella, and she soon realises he is far more than the schoolkid he appears on the surface. It’s not long before she has figured out the family are vampires – it turns out that their clan has sworn never to drink human blood and has integrated well into the community.

Meyer maintains the usual vampiric themes of bloodsucking and hunting, but adapts many traditions. The characters can go outside in daylight, and in direct sunlight they are not destroyed but instead revealed in their true forms – the scene where Edward shows Bella his sunlit skin is superb.

The appearance of a rival vampire clan during an impromptu baseball game sparks the real conflict of the movie, with “James”, a particularly vicious hunter, spotting Bella’s humanity immediately and setting out to hunt her down – the movie then turns into a long chase with the Cullens seeking to hide and protect Bella from their foe while also seeking a way to destroy James.

The movie explores the themes of separation, the awkwardness of broken families, integration into new societies, adolescent angst on many levels, and the sexual awakening of Bella which is on a whole different level to that of her peers. Far from teenage crushes and casual dates, she has found her soulmate – and knows it. The two main characters display an incredible erotic tension; it’s one of the sexiest relationships you could see on film without anything actually visibly happening! The utter longing and passion scream out from the screen, and it’s superbly acted by the leads, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. The supporting cast is more than passable, and I found this a thoroughly enjoyable movie, and one which more than does justice to the novel.

I really enjoyed this, and I hope that the remaining Twilight novels are adapted – although weaker than their parent, there is plenty of scope for more movie magic!

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