“Twilight” comes alive on the big screen

 
 

On Wednesday, I was working with The Bonnie Hunt Show on in the background, when the audience went wild. I looked up and saw Peter Facinelli. Huh? He’s cute enough, I guess, but he’s not the kind of actor that attracts screaming fans. Silly me — I should have known. Facinelli plays Carlisle, patriarch of the Cullen family of vampires in Twilight.

Unless you’ve been cloistered, you know that Friday is The Day — the premiere of Twilight, the film based on the vampire romance that causes teenage girls (and, in some cases, their moms) to stop breathing. Literally. And part of the reason is that the fans are wondering if Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) will let vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattison) take her breath away permanently.

I was intrigued enough by the hype (even President-elect Obama is a fan) that I decided to read the first book, the one on which the movie is based. It turned out to be somewhat frustrating, because the writing made me crazy, but the story sucked me in (sorry). Now I’m reading the fourth and final book in the Twilight Saga. I know the ending, but I can’t seem to stop.

I’m not sure if Stephanie Meyer’s writing improved or I just got used to it, but at least I’ve stopped groaning at the prose every few paragraphs. Suffice it to say, however, despite claims to the contrary, that Meyer is not in the same league as J.K. Rowling — and Bella is no Buffy.

In fact, Twilight’s director, Catherine Hardwicke, claims that she’s never seen an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Look at this picture of Hardwicke and tell me if you believe that. (Ping!)

Beyond the fact that the two B’s both have vampire boyfriends, the characters have little in common. Buffy is a strong, smart, sarcastic woman who can fend for herself — a feminist role model. Bella is accident-prone, insecure, guilt-ridden and seriously considering giving up her life to be with a man.

So what about the movie? As long as you don’t expect a film classic, you’ll probably enjoy it. Take a look at the new Twilight feature trailer and then I’ll tell you what I thought. No spoilers, but if you want to see the film with no preconceived notions, read no further.

 

Twilight is one case in which cutting a very long book down to a two-hour movie is a good thing. I was happy to watch the story unfold without having to wade through long narrative descriptions and continual reminders of how beautiful Edward is. Besides, Kristen Stewart is the real beauty. More than once, she reminded me of Kate Winslet.

Stewart’s Bella is a lot less fragile and more confident than she is in the book and, frankly, I liked her more. In an intense romance like this, going over the top would be easy, but Stewart never lets Bella become sappy. Honestly, Stewart is remarkable in this film, although the nature of Twilight is such that her acting may not get the appreciation it deserves. You’ll hear a lot about Pattison, but I think Stewart is the star of this show.

Overall, the movie has more warmth and humor than the book. My guess is that die-hard Twilighters may not be happy with some of the changes. But the differences I noticed as a more casual observer seemed to be for the better, especially in the last few minutes. See for yourself, starting Friday.

Are you a Twilighter? If not, have you read any of the books? When you see the movie, be sure to come back to tell us what you think.

 
 

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