Twilight (2008)
By: J.R. McNamara on April 23, 2009  | 
Sony (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. 121 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz
Screenplay: Melissa Rosenberg
Country: USA
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Once upon a time vampires were cool. Creatures of the night, some of whom could turn into bats, or wolves, or smoke, with hypnotic eyes and an irresistible charm - they bit throats and sucked all the blood out of people and reveled in the fact that they could live forever. And then, somewhere, several years ago, they started to become… well, pussies; cry babies who dwelled on their longevity and loneliness and didn't want to drink human blood. Bram Stoker's Dracula may have been a bit of a wuss, but at least he still could kick arse when he had to... but then Anne Rice came along and emasculated and de-fanged these predators; Louis had to be one of the most pathetic characters ever to grace the halls of horror.

And now, for the new generation, we have Stephanie Meyer's band of sad-acts.

The origins of Meyer's multi-part novel series are quite interesting: she had a dream that affected her so much that she had to write it down, and that dream became the 13th chapter of her first book in this series, Twilight. The muse must have been on her shoulder that day, as her dream became a million dollar money earner, and a staple of teen reading due to its themes of alienation and sexual angst. As you would expect of a popular teen series, (like the Harry Potter books before it) the movie people pounced and sunk their teeth into its neck, ready to draw some of its successful blood to sustain them for a little while, or at the very least until the next victim comes along.

On to the show then: Twilight tells the tale of Bella Swan (Kristin Stewart) whose mother is going on the road with her baseball player boyfriend, so Bella is being shipped from sunny Arizona to the bitterly cold and wet town of Forks, to live with her estranged father, Charlie (Billy Burke) who is a member of the town's constabulary. Upon arrival, her father, whose manner is as cold as the town's, gives her a pick up truck to get around in, brought off Charlie's native American friend Billy (Gil Birmingham) and his son, a childhood playmate of Bella's, Jacob (Taylor Lautner). Bella finds that her friend doesn't go to the school she goes to though, so she will be going in cold, with no friends to speak of.

Being an attractive girl though she makes friendships easy, even though her manner is somewhat aloof, but she finds herself irresistibly drawn to a pale young man known as Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Edward however almost seems to be sickened by her, trying to change his school timetable so that he doesn't have to be near her. And there are other strange things about him, almost inhuman things, and that doesn't even begin to describe his family. She eventually creeps through the cracks that Edward has displayed in his emotional armor, and he warms to her, revealing the secret that has been blatantly obvious to the viewer from the start: Edward and his family are vampires. But how can this budding relationship work? And is her new love responsible for the strange murders happening in the town, or are their more vampires than just the Cullen family around…

One thing has to be said about this film from the very start: it is a beautiful film. All the scenes of the forest surrounding Forks are sumptuous and so exquisite that sometimes you feel like you are watching a travelogue rather than a film. I must also give credit to the casting: I found almost all the members of the cast perfect for their roles (baring in mind that as of this review I have not read the books so I cannot compare the movie characters to the literary charactesr). Unfortunately the story is where it falls apart, and I have to say that that is not due to the script writer's abilities; it falls right in the lap of Stephanie Meyer.

Someone once said that there are really only 7 stories that can be told, and this is Romeo and Juliet all over again: two people who shouldn't fall in love but are irresistibly drawn to one another through adversity, attempt to overcome everything to be together. Stephanie Meyer, either deliberately or inadvertently, has slipped straight into this number 1 of 7. From a marketing point of view it falls straight into the hands of the Buffy crowd, who have been starved of their teenage angst ridden, perma-depressed romances and are ready to spend all their money on the next supernatural thing that taps into those feelings, which to its credit this does in spades.

Another thing I must give Meyer credit for, and again I do not know if this is deliberate or not, is her refreshingly different take on the vampire myth. Not being able to go into direct sunlight as, rather than destroying them, it exposes them (which could end up destroying them, I guess) due to their unusual skin coloration is almost a revelation. Actually, she has 'kind of' tapped into a myth from Bulgaria where the traditional vampire spends its first 40 days of existence with sparks on its skin, before evolving into a one nostriled freak who has a sharpened straw for a tongue. Sure, this isn't having skin as smooth as marble with diamonds under it, but it is certainly closer than the conventional Western vampire.

Now don't get me wrong: I love vampires, but I want my undead, blood-drinking monsters to be just that: monsters. If I want teen angst I'll watch The Breakfast Club, if I want romance I'll watch… well nothing, because believe me I DON'T WANT ROMANCE. This is a beautifully shot movie for sure, but give me the tooth-toting, leather wearing plasma munchers from Underworld any day!
This DVD is presented in 1.78:1 and is a luscious transfer. The cinematographer of this film deserves an award, and this DVD shows off the beautiful work wonderfully: free of artifacts and blemishes.
Really nice Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack on this disc. Really though, on one of the biggest releases from Sony this year, what would you expect?
Extra Features
Disc one opens with three trailers, for Seven Pounds, Angels and Demons and The Spirit before we even get to the menu.

Also on disc one we have three music clips: 'Super Massive Black Hole' by Muse, which is introduced by author Stephanie Meyer and director Catherine Hardwicke, and is filmed live at Wembly arena. The second clip is 'Decode' by Paramore, introduced again by Hardwicke, who also discusses the lead singer's early obsession with Meyer's books. The third is Linkin Park's 'Leave Out All The Rest' which is taken from their 'Road to Revolution – Live at Milton Keynes' DVD.

There is a selection of extended scenes, all introduced by Hardwicke, who also points out that they were all cut as they slowed scenes down, or altered the pacing of the film, which seems to be the common thread for reducing the length of a scene. There are five extended scenes in this section: 'Are the people talking about the Cullens again', ' James, Let's not play with our food.', You don't know how you've tortured me', 'A hundred years worth of journals' and 'Don't read Charlie's mind'. All these bits do seem quite throwaway, and I don't believe the scenes suffer from their absence.

Finally on disc one we have the commentary, in this case performed by Catherine Hardwicke, and male and female leads Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattinson. It is a fairly disjointed commentary at first, but the performers soon warm up, though Hardwicke seems to be the one offering all the serious information, while Stewart and Pattinson come across a little like buffoons, but I guess that is part of the warmth of this commentary: it feels a little like family.

Disc Two has even more stuff for the Twilight lovers:

The Adventure Begins: The Journey from Page to Stage is a 7 part documentary, or series of mini-docos, that feature interviews with pretty much well all the major players involved (and THEN some!). The 7 parts are titled: The Beginning, about the origins of the book; The Partnership, which looks at the pre-production of the movie; The Vampires, has us look at the casting of the vampire players (including the completely unrecognizable Cam Gigandet); Capturing the Action, which sees us smack bang in the middle of the filming of the film; Vampire Baseball, which is a fun look at my favorite scene in the film, the baseball game; The Final Word On The Final Battle, which has us look at the stunt players of the final fight in the film; and finally Putting It All Together, where we see how post production works and how it takes the raw footage and makes a feature film. This is a pretty all-encompassing look at filmmaking, and Hardwicke is very hands on at all stages of the production and offers many interesting insights.

The Comic Con Phenomena is a mini-doc about the absolute madness that happened at the San Diego Comic Con when the cast of Twilight turned up to do a little Q and A. It seems that they had NO IDEA how popular they would become once they became the faces of the characters from these books.

Deleted Scenes is our last stop on disc two, and has Hardwicke introduce each scene and explain why it was omitted from the film, which appeared to be mainly pacing reasons, like the extended scenes on disc one. The deleted scenes are titled: "Edward, She's not one of us', 'That's the first time I dreamt of Edward Cullen', "Bella, your number was up the first day I met you', 'She's bought him to life' and 'I love it when men chase me.'

One thing can be said about this two disc set of Twilight: it certainly has a lot of decent extras for the fans of the filmmaking process, and offers a look into the behind the scenes world of Twilight.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
There are so many fine elements in this film that fall apart under the pressure of the most important part of any movie: the story. This film is beautifully shot, in some amazing locations, with good-looking people who for the most part can act but unfortunately weren't given much to work with. It is essentially a romance film made exotic with the addition of vampires. Horror fans won't really get into this, but people who love Juno or Wild Child will probably be right into it. For those of you who want a vampire film: try Near Dark or 30 Days of Night. Those of you who want to get into a girl's pants: watch Twilight.

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