So, as soon as the film ended, Robbie asked me to sum it up in one word. At first, I said “hm…” because I was still digesting everything I’d just seen, but he said “that doesn’t count. It is an interesting response, coming from you, but it doesn’t count.” I thought about it for a few minutes, and “pleased” was my response. There is much for me to discuss, analyze and question, but overall I am pleased.
Firstly it was good to finally see all of the clips that were released prior to the film’s debut edited together cohesively as the film makers wished them to be viewed. I always get a bit worried before seeing films that I’ve studied or obsessed over that I’ve ruined my experience by watching all of the publicity leading up to the release, and while it does give me certain preconceived expectations, I didn’t find that it took anything away from my first full viewing of Twilight. It was satisfying to see it all linearly and not disjointed, not to mention the beauty of seeing it on the big screen with surround sound instead of on my computer screen or re-recorded YouTube videos, and also seeing the scenes that I was present for during filming to see how they ended up after editing, sound added, etc. It was very cool to see those scenes and think, "I'm sitting right behind that tree," and remember how I was an extra in one scene during my last day on set? Yeah... I definitely saw myself in the background of Forks when Bella and Charlie are in the cruiser at the beginning. Very surreal.
As I said, I am very pleased with the film. Whenever a popular book is adapted there is the worry of how it will be done, how they will use the book, what they will do to beloved lines, scenes, settings etc., and for the most part, I think Twilight kept what they needed to keep (thanks to the producers for replacing the previously cut Lion and Lamb line among many other things retained from the book), and they didn’t change much that fans would believe couldn’t be changed (I suppose I can forgive the fact that there isn’t a black leather sofa in Edward’s room… although it kind of pains me as we all know the importance of that piece of furniture). Of the things that were added to the film and not in the book, I feel that the vast majority of the extra scenes are well done; they add necessary information to the story, or develop characters and their relationships effectively.
These additions are important; in the book we have pages and pages to get to know these characters and how they interact with each other, but in the film we needed a few extra elements to develop those relationships since we didn't have pages of text and ample time to get familiar with them. There are many examples that I’ll go into as I thoroughly analyze the film, but the element that sticks out in my mind to support this at the moment are the scenes between Bella and her parents. I think Charlie and Renee are two of the best-interpreted characters in the film. Renee is just the right amount of loving and erratic, and Billy Burke really pins down the taciturn and yet strong elements of Charlie. He is quiet and reserved, but his underlying love for Bella and desire to be with her and protect her is evident every time they are together (The perfect awkwardness of Bella giving him comfort after Wayland dies, the “thank you” to Charlie after he gets her new tires, and I love when he’s cleaning his gun and cocks it, ready to meet Edward).
The film has that edgy, indie look that I’ve come to expect from a Catherine Hardwicke film, and I am very grateful for that. It would have been too easy for this to become a cheesy teenage love story that was over the top schmaltzy with popular music and mediocre, melodramatic
acting. But with Catherine’s distinct style, Kristen Stewart’s stellar performance as a relatable, strong but slightly awkward Bella, and Rob Pattinson clearly illustrating the many sides of Edward from the jovial teenager in the throes of first love, to the self-deprecating and self-loathing monster that he believes himself to be, this is not a typical teen flick.
It is edgy, dark, intense, passionate, and there are no easy answers in this relationship and we haven’t yet seen a rosy, happy ending. I’m also grateful that like Stephenie Meyer, the film makers didn’t speak down to their audience. They maintained the adult themes without being over the top, and they added witty, snarky dialogue that fits in with both Meyer’s style and a teenager’s reality. While lines like “Speedo padding on the swim team…” or “I like this dress,
it makes my boobs look good…” may sound as though they are trying to emphasize more sexual topics, it’s more believable as a real teenage conversation, and the reality of Catherine Hardwicke’s films and the believability of the characters in her films has always been one of her strengths. It’s these added lines as well as bits like Charlie drawing a halo over his head when he’s about to meet Edward, or his nonverbal response (he throws his arms in the air) when Bella asks if he told her mother about the almost-accident that really bring depth to the characters and make them recognizable and relatable. They have quirks, just like us.
I can’t make the whole review rosy, or I wouldn’t be a very good film student, so here are a few quick points that I found jarring and I will analyze further in the future:
* The tinkling sounds effect when Edward sparkled- although I found the sparkle well executed. It would have been so easy to make that sparkle cheesy and unrealistic…but the tinkling almost made it less-believable. The effect spoke for itself.
* Certain lines missing/changed/dropped. I don’t have a problem in theory with changing lines; as I’ve said before, it is necessary to change elements of a book when adapting it for film so it translates well from the medium of text to screen, but there were some missing or changed that I didn’t agree with, or I didn’t see the reasoning behind changing them.
For example, “If I could dream at all, it would be of you” isn’t there, and it might not have fit, but it's one of those iconic lines that I'm guessing most of the audience was waiting for… or when he and Bella are walking into school and he says “if I’m going to hell…” and it drops off, and I naturally want to finish the line from the book with “I might as well do it thoroughly.” And also, the conversation in the car after Edward saves Bella in
*I’m not sold on the flash-back scene to the Cullens and the Quileutes. I found them artistically out of character with the rest of the film, and while that is the nature of a flashback, this seemed a jump of genre or class to me. It took us from a rough and raw scene (my crazy-rainy first day of set) of Jacob and Bella on
*There were a few characters that I found jarring: Tyler, Mike, and Esme. I’m not sure if this is due to the difference of the film character to the book character, or if it’s just some other personal reaction, but I found them a bit off.
-Mike is a great character, and I think Mike Welch played him very well, but he also took on a more annoying/bullying slant rather than the golden retriever depiction that comes across in the book. Shaking his rainy hat on her, calling her “girl” and “
Then again, this could be exactly what the film makers were going for. They might have thought Tyler and Mike were too close, and needed to distinguish them a bit more on screen from each other and from Edward and Jacob, so the bullying and pestering aspects of the characters were emphasized. Maybe they wanted to show Mike as cocky, protective AND jilted... Who knows? Perhaps that’s a question I can ask them in the future.
-And Esme I balked at mostly in her first scene when they are making Bella Italian food. It’s a great scene; it takes a rather static scene from the book and makes it more visual. I loved the way that it appears in the book: at the front door, slightly awkward and uncertain, but it would help it to be more visual for the film and could therefore stand to have some humorous action added to it, like the Cullens cooking (it was certainly funny to see Emmet wielding a huge knife and slicing mushrooms). Anyway… it just irked me that the first line to Bella in that scene comes from Esme who says, “Bella we’re making Italiano for you.” This is an awkward moment for Bella, meeting the boyfriend's vampire family for the first time, and for Edward, the perpetually single guy introducing the first girl he's ever brought home, and there isn't a welcome or a greeting. In the novels, Esme is so gracious and thoughtful, and her hospitality is something referred to repeatedly, that it startled me that she jumped straight into that conversation instead of introducing herself, welcoming Bella or some other expected initial response.
Things I thoroughly appreciated/enjoyed and will expand upon in the future:
* The Indi-esque feel of the film. Thank you Catherine Hardwicke. Her architectural background, visual sense for all scenes, her love for the book and her desire to honor it as much as possible, and her sense of reality, rawness and authenticity all shine through. Of course there are blips, in my opinion, but this film would have been so much worse off had it been “Hollywoodized.”
*Bella is strong and independent. Yes, she’s awkward and solitary, but Bella is no damsel in distress. I love when she figures out what Edward is, before they go into the woods, and you can see the determination in her face; the necessity to confront him, call him on all of his crap and get the information she wants.
*The clever inserts: Edward catching the apple like the Twilight cover, Stephenie Meyer’s cameo where she orders a veggie sandwich, and when Bella Googles the legends, Little Brown comes up in the search results (Stephenie’s publisher) as well as Gillian Bohrer who was the Summit representative on set who was there for the extent of the filming.
*Rob’s songs. The lyrics, tone, and placement are ideal (if you haven’t Googled the lyrics yet, do it. It adds a whole new dimension to the songs and their placement in the film). I think the restaurant is where Bella truly makes her choice to be with Edward, but he’s not yet decided and wishes her to be safe from him, so it’s very appropriate for that song to be playing. And in the ballet studio, the pain in his voice during the moment when he puts his mouth on Bella’s arm just has every ounce of emotion you want for a climactic scene.
*The foreshadowing. That great closing shot that focuses on Bella and Edward, pans back over the shoulder of someone, we recognize it’s Victoria who turns, takes her hair down, and the music goes from quiet-romantic to Radiohead; it's intimidating, edgy, and menacing. Also, Edward’s line at the prom after they walk away from Jacob, “I leave you alone for two minutes and the wolves descend…” is great. People unfamiliar with the books will understand precisely what he means without thinking twice, but fans will understand the extra meaning there and appreciate its insertion.
*The soft focus on Mike when he asks Bella to prom and the sharp focus on Edward in the background. It effectively shows where her attention really lies.
*The flowers in the meadow are the same color that they are in the book. If that was just a coincidence, it was a good one.
*Bella’s reaction in the hospital- Robbie (my Nokia technician) found it to be over the top, but I found it necessary to set up New Moon. We needed to see a glimpse of what Bella would do if Edward was gone in order to understand her intense reaction in New Moon.
Oh there’s so much more... but look how long this post already is! I’m going to have to go through it scene by scene, or perhaps by theme, like “In this post, I’ll be looking at the editing choices” or the music, or the characters, or a book to script comparison… the sky’s the limit!
Obviously I have much more work to do, but there are my initial thoughts and musings on Twilight’s adaptation from book to screen. Let me know what you think!
It’s been brilliant to be a part of this process and really see the creation from beginning to end. I certainly hope I have the same opportunities in the future, and that my work will be helpful, inspiring, clarifying or at least interesting. As long as it keeps me entertained and I keep learning things, I think I’ll consider it successful.
Stay tuned, much more to come.