I went to the midnight screening with the mass of young female fans that this film targets and what did I find? It's an awkward, if not forbidden, teenage love story between man and monster, or in this case woman and monster. Hmmm! Where have we heard this before? I'll take Linda Hamilton in Beauty and the Beast (1987) for $100, Alex!
With its young stars, who look like they were half pulled from a Calvin Klein ad and the other half pulled from a Gap commercial, and, its corny, and, at times, over-the-top dialogue, this film is unintentionally one of the most comedic ones of the year. Except, this is supposed to be a steamy romance of a girl falling in love with a vampire.
How ironic that the trailer for the new Harry Potter should premiere that night! Based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer, which has a series following not unlike J.K. Rowling's, I have a feeling that director Catherine Hardwicke and her cast of actors struggled with it, but eventually just said, "What the Hell! We might as well just let people laugh at this ridiculousness."
The only problem is that Hardwicke can't rein it in. So, even when everyone's trying to be serious, we in the audience still can't help but laugh at the screen. One scene that has the male lead professing his love for the female lead feels more like SNL writers put it together. The male lead compares the girl he loves to heroin. Heroin? The instant he did, everyone in the crowd around me burst out laughing. Even I had to giggle!
Of course, every woman 2 seconds later forgot and forgave him because the male lead is Robert Pattinson, the young British actor chosen to play Edward Cullen, the lovelorn vampire living under the constant cover of clouds. Pattinson has already been anointed by People magazine one of the year's sexiest men alive, and, as expected, as soon as Pattinson first appeared, every girl around me gushed, their hearts beating a little bit faster.
I will admit that he is James Dean-like or kind of a young Brad Pitt via Interview With a Vampire (1994). I dare say he's nowhere near as good an actor, or at least he doesn't have the material here to make that case. Yes, he's good looking, but come on! Here, he's nothing more than a Ken doll, and practically devoid of a personality.
You want a sexier vampire, or, if nothing else, a more interesting one? Ladies, I advise renting the DVD of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (1997), the TV series, and focus your gaze on David Boreanaz who played Angel for about seven years.
Speaking of Buffy, I saw so many rip-offs of that show in this film that it had me shaking my head. If anyone remembers the 1999 Buffy episode entitled "Graduation Day," which was actually a two-part episode that was split far apart in its airings due to the controversy surrounding the show and the parallels to the Columbine High School killings, you might recall that Buffy's tortured vampire and boyfriend, Angel, had to bite Buffy and drink her blood in order to stop a deadly poison. If anyone saw that episode, then be prepared for deja vu when you see this movie.
Buffy, the Vampire Slayer simply had better writing and directing. The makers of that show certainly had a better handle on tone. They knew how to balance the ridiculousness of it all with the more serious moments and issues. You never once hung your head at that series, and it was by far more fun. I can't really say the same about this film.
There's at one point when Bella, the female lead, played by Kristen Stewart, says to Edward, "Your mood swings are giving me whiplash." And, that's exactly how I felt watching this film. It would go from feeling silly to trying to feel sincere, as Edward does a tug-of-war and back-and-forth dance that doesn't really work. It only becomes frustrating. I felt the whiplash too and not in a good way.
My biggest complaint however! For the first hour, this film is one big cock tease. Going into this film, you know it's about vampires. Yet, the filmmakers decide to make the first hour about Bella figuring out, eventually through Google, that that's what Edward is. My question is why delay the inevitable. Why delay what's already known? It only prevented the film from getting to the really good stuff sooner.
Some might call this dramatic irony a kind of cinematic foreplay, but it only made me feel like the first hour of the film was nothing but a waste of time. Yes, Edward is a vampire. I don't need to be told that after an hour of sitting in the theater. It wasn't as if the first hour was boring or anything, just the one aspect was a little frustrating.
I would have liked to see more scenes of Bella and Edward exploring their relationship beyond the tortured looks at one another, or more scenes of the Cullen family perhaps. That exchange Bella has when she first meets the Cullens was rather clever, appropriately awkward and funny. But, while not great, and somewhat underwhelming, the film does make a great set-up for better films in the future.
Three Stars out of Five
Rated PG-13 for some violence
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 2 mins.