07 December, 2008

General Review of Twilight

Okay! Here it is! My general review of Twilight (more in-depth stuff to follow in the coming weeks). I've rushed a bit to get it out to you, so I'm sorry if it's not as clean and precise as other articles, but at least it's up and readable :)

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 Port Angeles. In the film it’s just “put your seat belt on,” and while I understand there wasn’t the set-up to the scene to share the “I want to run over Tyler” line, it was a good opportunity to share a well-loved moment from the novel that might have fit better, or a witty Bella-comment from the film like, “I think Kirk stuffs his Speedo” or something… Obviously I’m still thinking all of this out.

*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 First Beach and made it dreamlike, Disney-esque, and fuzzily surreal… I was waiting for the wave-fade and slide effect like a Waynes World spoofed dream-sequence to cap it off... I think a flashback could still occur at this point without my initial reaction being “cheese.”

*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.

-Tyler was basically a bully. While in the book he’s annoyingly persistent, he doesn’t throw things at Bella (in the film he chucks something at her to get her attention in the school’s parking lot… to me this is just as horrid as snapping your fingers to get someone’s attention- rude), he doesn’t make fun of her car as soon as she parks on her first day at Forks High, and he doesn’t pull the chair out from under Mike and give Bella a harassing kiss on the cheek.

-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 “Arizona” repeatedly, and while I love the scene between Bella and Mike when he says “So you and Cullen, huh? I don’t like it… he looks at you like you’re something to eat,” but it was very rushed, and it made Mike look cocky instead of protective.

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.


Obava said...

Thanks for getting this to us! Ever since I found your blog this summer (imagine my shock when I found out my favorite beach in the world stood in for First Beach!), it is *your* review of the Twilight movie I've been anxiously awaiting. Since you are a loving fan of the series who is terribly knowledgeable about movie adaptations and as yet still a movie industry outsider, I knew your Twilight review would be the most meaningful and penetrating.
And although I disagree with you on some points (especially the glitter scene- I thought Edward looked like he was covered in mold!), I agree with you on the movie overall. Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to your future installments!
I came across this article on the Twilight film (http://www.reelzchannel.com/article/780/10-critical-ways-the-twilight-movie-differs-from-the-book) and found it to be insightful, critical (in a good way), and thought-provoking. I want to know what you think- do you agree with these points? If not, why not?
Thanks again for being a sharp set of eyes and a keen mind for us!

Cassandra said...

"The tinkling sounds effect"
I think the sparkeling really good, It could have been worse, he could have looked like a disco ball, but as you said, the sound effect made it less-believebel, they shouldn't have hade that in.

I agree completly with your review.

Karla said...

Thank you for your review! As always, I look forward to your further in-depth analysis on various topics on the film. And thanks for the tip on the songs lyrics - they really did fit so exceptionally well, especially since I believe Pattinson wrote both songs a couple of years before filming Twilight - how serendipitous.
RE: the "bullyization" of Michael and Tyler - I found that very interesting as well. I thought that all of the "high school" actors did a great job in their roles, but they ended up a bit meaner or more competitive in the film than on paper. But I figured, like many other things that went through the conversion process from paper to screen, a vast amount of 'Twilight' is Bella's inner monologue and in order to translate that to screen the high school boys needed to be 'different' in order to separate them from Edward and Jacob.
As much as I enjoyed Twilight (the book), I enjoyed the rest of the books in the series even more, so I think the material in future books will be even more interesting on film. And I give the production team serious cred for turning hundreds of pages of inner monologue into something visual. Stewart is going to have her work cut out for her making the middle portion of 'New Moon' "come to life." And I am on pins and needles to see it.
I do hope you have the opportunity to be apart of all the future films in the series. Your trip entries being on set were fabulous and your insight into production has been brilliant. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

excellent review! i really enjoyed reading it. and i agreed with almost everything you said, except i wasnt a huge fan of the entire meadow scene (besides the scenery, which was perfect). i thought it was too much, too fast, and a lot of the wonder from the book was lost. also, i wanted to ask what you thought of edward honking his horn at bella on the first morning that he picked her up from school...i thought it was VERY out of character, and frankly, quite rude. i've seen the movie three times already and i have to say that i agree, it IS a really good adaptation, the character development for the most part, and the scenes that were added, were very good.


lori said...

I was reading your review and I coudn't help but think that, "this is problably the most realistic review I'll ever read about twilight!". I'm love books as much as I love films, but I can`t help to be extremely critic when I see one of my favorite books turning into the big screen. I take for example, pride and Prejudice, the last adaptation was so thoughtul about the book and close to the main characters, well, I must admit that I had highly expectations on Twilight.And to be honest, as much as I agreed with you about the complications on adapting books into movies, in Twilight's case, the film didn't capture the essence and nature of the books. And I'll not repeat myself here, because in your review you show the exactly cause of that: the changes made were done in a crucial point of the book. Basically, the main relationship between Bella and Edward had grown so fast emotionally before the part where she meets Edward's family, so who haven't read the book may be totally unaware of how deep and meaningfull the relationship between then really is. So, the scene between Bella and Edward at the hospital when her mother leaves can really gives the whole perspective of the collapse that it's going to happend to Bella's character when Edward leaves her?
I don't want to be so negative, especially because I know that the film had such great production involving Stephanie Meyer as well, but maybe screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg could have worked more on that.
On the other issues, I totally agreed with you. Tyler and Mike Newton changes were necessary. Was interesting to see how the kids at school get along really well, just like in the book, and how Bella easily fitts in that environment, so at the point she sees the group comig out from dinner when she is running from James with Edward, she gets a reflex of what her life could be. Still, really fast, like many of the scenes,it felt like the editors were running. But, about that, I'm still looking foward to read your coments.
I'm sorry for being so long and for the msitakes(english is not my primary linguage), but i have a clue that you understand people with this "mania".
And if not asking too much, I would like to know a little bit more about your PHd. I'm about to graduate and I'm still doing some research about possibles ways to go next year.Thank you!

caninecologne said...

Thanks for a brilliant review! It's fascinating to read your insight especially since you were able to view the filming process earlier this year. I too, disliked the "tinkling noise" during the sparkling scene. I thought it was unnecessary.

One scene that was irksome to me was when Edward and Bella were driving to the baseball game.There is a shot of them arriving in the jeep, then a long shot of them walking by a waterfall, then it quickly cuts back to them walking on the field. It didn't seem to fit in because they looked closer to the waterfall when it was far away from them in that scene. I know, nitpicky details, but it seemed like they had to walk a long way to get to the field, but it looked like they were already there when they parked. Perhaps the long shot was one of the scenes they filmed at Multnomah Falls?

Anyhow, I've seen the movie now 4x and I'm looking forward to the dvd (I'll look for you in the background! :D)

i hope you will be able to visit the "New Moon" set as well! Looking forward to more posts about your thoughts on "Twilight" the movie.

Anonymous said...

Once again, thanks for your awesome review. I come to your site everyday just to see if you have posted anything new. Please keep 'em comin! Also, what are your thoughts on Summits decision to cast a new director?

Melissa said...

Just like with Harry Potter, I've been trying to stay blissfully unaware of all things Twilight. Today, my resolve broke. Despite the fact that I really should be working on my final projects (!!!) I saw the film and crap, I'm hooked.

If there's one thing that stuck out at me to be bummed out about, it's all the flying scenes. I don't know what I would have done to improve them-- I'm no stunts coordinator-- but the effect left me disappointed. I felt like I could pick out where the wires were probably rigged, and the camera spinning didn't do it for me. Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is, it's one thing for a movie to be about character development, but it's another thing entirely when the characters are superhuman.

But that being said, I know that I'll be seeing it again, and I'll DEFINITELY be keeping an eye out for you in the background! Which scene was it again? (It's in another post isn't it? Maybe that's what I'll read the next time I need a fix...which should be in about 15 minutes.)

(you know, from MWC, in SF)

Tessa Talk said...

I'm so wondering what your reaction is, to the new news... That Catherine is not going to direct 'New Moon'?

Twilight Lexicion

Please and thank you, for your comment on this.


Amy said...

Thanks for your thoughtful review! I agreed with most of your assessment right on.

One thing I loved that I haven't seen mentioned much are the many times the film shows Edward & Bella talking without letting us hear their conversation. I thought this was an absolutely brilliant way to quickly and subtly show them getting to know each other and becoming closer. It happens three times, that I can remember - as the camera swoops over them in the meadow, when they are climbing around in the trees, and lying in Bella's bed after the big kiss. I was really struck by the intimacy of that device in the film, and how well it conveyed to me their strengthening relationship.

I agree with the chimes sound during the sparkling... I cringe every time I watch it! The effect is not so bad, but the sound almost pushes it over to cheese-ville.

Anyway, would love to hear more about what you think! It's been fun to read about all your experiences.

Sarah B said...

I agree with almost all that you have said. Though in my opinion, Mike wasn't really supposed to come off as cocky. I think they made him comic relieve which did kind of make him seem cocky. Thanks for the awesome blog!

m~ said...

I have been looking forward to your review for several reasons. 1) You were there from the beginning and 2) You're a film student.
I have to say I agree with you on so many levels. There were some changes that were appropriate. I happened to enjoy how they set up the rogue vampires and I thought Charlie's character was just perfect. But there were other elements that really bothered me like Edwards sparkle and the antaginizing relationship with the school boys.
I wonder how Chris Weitz is going to work with what Catherine Hardwicke left him. Are you going to be present in the filming of New Moon? Oh, I sure hope so!

coffee said...

i don't understand what is the appeal of Robert Pattinson (Edward); he has an unusually shaped nose