When my tin-can phone rang to wake me up at Critic of Pure Reason HQ in the weeds along Highway 240 to let me know my latest assignment involved vampires and sexy teens, I was so excited I almost spilled my swamp-water.
Vampires and teens fit like feet and fingerless foot-gloves. They're both moody and romantic, and if you try to date one you end up with pointy things jammed in your neck, be they extended fangs or sharpened prison spoons. Another movie to combine the two, Lost Boys, remains a timeless classic. (Seriously.)
So it's about damn time someone wrote a young adult crossover smash book series that demanded to be adapted to the silver screen, no matter how lifeless and unskilled that adaptation may be. At last, our collective national prayer has been answered: Twilight has reached our theaters, and from here, the inevitable second movie will have nowhere to go but up.
Kristen Stewart is living every teen's dream: forced to move mid-semester to small-town Forks, Wash., with a distant but well-meaning dad. As the hot new property, she's beset by guys on every side, but has eyes only for pale weirdo hunk Robert Pattinson.
He, on the other hand, gets physically ill when she sits next to him in class. As with all classic love stories, it isn't until Pattinson saves her life by punching an out-of-control car out of the way and later rescuing her from a gang of drunken rapists that he admits he's been watching her all along.
Using the powers of deduction and Google, Stewart makes him confess his secret: he's a vampire, and he's afraid of being with her because he wants so bad to drink her blood until she dies. Yet they can't deny their feelings for each other. And meanwhile, bodies are turning up around town -- mutilated, apparently killed by wild animals.
Twilight is the progressive tale of the creepy, overprotective boy and the girl who is quite literally a helpless piece of meat. Also, in an extended metaphor for the evils of premarital sex, these young lovers can't screw or even kiss without it leading to the girl dying in a tornado of blood. You know, just like last Saturday.
As an illiterate, I can't say for certain whether this follows author Stephenie Meyer's wildly popular source material, but if anything, it should have diverged more. Playing like the first chapter to a franchise its makers must feel is guaranteed, Twilight spends far too much time leisurely establishing a relationship that isn't compelling until (as usual) the vampirism kicks in.
This is a far worse crime than its eye-rolling thematic material. It's OK to have long tension-light stretches in a book (books are supposed to be boring), but when your first external threat doesn't show up until the movie is 85 percent over and is then established through two lines of expository dialogue, it might be time to think about restructuring your story.
The writing's more interesting on a line-by-line level, where the teen characters speak and act like real teens: stumbling over words, going vague when they try to express their feelings, flustering under pressure. Don't see that very often.
Downside is, the reason you don't see it is because it's not actually all that fun to listen to. Confusingly, Pattinson, who's been alive for more than a 100 years, is one of the worst offenders when it comes to sputtering around like a cartoon Model T. I don't know what he's been doing in the last century that involves never, ever speaking to girls -- radio DJ, maybe -- but when you think about it, not only does it make no sense that a guy who's 100+ years old still has the mentality of a high schooler, but it's also kind of freaky that he's desperately in love with a 17-year-old girl.
That's the kind of thing I'd get to thinking about as Twilight consistently failed to hold my interest. With its plodding plot, humorlessly melodramatic characters and backwards messages, it's hard to imagine it'll convert anyone who isn't already a fan.