Sinking Our Teeth Into Twilight, Day 1: Twilight

RT spends a week with Edward, Bella, and Jacob to see what the fuss is all about.

It's had its share of detractors and naysayers, but Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga has become a bona fide cultural phenomenon, a popular and lucrative franchise that has raked in over $2 billion at the box office and spurred a renewed obsession with vampires and werewolves. Unfortunately for its fans, however, the series will draw to a close this weekend with the release of its final chapter, Breaking Dawn, Part 2. As such, we thought it would be a good time to hunker down and examine what it is, exactly, that makes the series such a hit. To that end, we've commissioned two dedicated RT staffers -- one fan and one neophyte -- to trade observations on The Twilight Saga, and it all begins right here with the first film, Twilight.


Cat: I found myself enjoying this film much more than I expected. At the same time, I wish it had been a better film all around because I like the concept of forbidden love. To begin with, instead of coming off as charmingly awkward, it is almost painful to watch KStew's interpretation of Bella. Which in turn seems a little far-fetched to have every teenage boy in town find her so enchanting. Also, did anyone else think Bella and Jacob almost look like twins with that long hair Jake's rockin'? But I digress.

Jeff: I actually found Stewart's performance to be one of the least problematic things about the setup. Which isn't to say her Tourette's-style interpretation of suburban teen behavior didn't give me fits, but I was initially distracted by other things -- like the wagonload of stereotypes the opening act rolls out (hey, look at that -- a friendly nerd to show Bella the ropes at her new school), the stilted, awful dialogue, and the annoyingly obvious cinematography. I came into this movie without reading any of the books, but had to review Stephenie Meyer's "grown-up novel" The Host, so I knew the actors would be facing an uphill battle, and I didn't begrudge Stewart and Robert Pattinson their issues with the material. They aren't any good, but neither is the script.

C: When Bella has her first encounter with Edward in science class, the scene comes across as completely laughable. Not only did it feel like a cheesy '80s hair video, Edward's look of disgust was incredibly overacted. On the flip side, when it came to Bella's friends, I found Anna Kendrick's portrayal of Jessica to be a breath of fresh air in an otherwise lifeless (pun intended) town. She brought a realistic sense to her character creating a great banter that was amusing and spot on.

J: I wanted Kendrick's character to have her own movie. She seems like an idiot, but at least she smiles once in awhile. And we're in complete agreement on the unintentionally laughable nature of the movie's most "meaningful" scenes -- from the slo-mo fan shot in the science lab to the couple's breakthrough moment in the woods when Edward reveals his glitterball face to the baseball game -- more on that in a bit -- Twilight continually mistakes ponderous for thought-provoking. Teen love is all-consuming, sure. But these kids are either stuttering like nincompoops or waxing would-be poetic with horrible lines like the infamous "And so the lion fell in love with the lamb."

C: I have to admit there were a few LOL moments which were mainly due to Edward. Pattinson really tried to show the light-hearted side of the Edward that's written in the books, but in the end I felt disappointed with his rendition; it was forced and overtly unnatural.

J: Pattinson is absolutely flailing in this film, but again, I cut him some slack, because I felt like he was probably just trying to get a bead on how and why a hundred-year-old vampire would fall head over heels in love with a lip-biting sad sack within a few seconds of seeing her, and then risk his clan's survival just for some cuddling and tree-climbing. There are background characters in sitcoms and soaps that are more believably sketched out than the leads in Twilight.

C: For me, where the film got it right was the portrayal of sexual tension. There was enough push/pull for it to feel believable considering we're dealing with teenagers. I also felt Bella had a lot more bite to her than I originally recall which gave me a little bit of respect for her character.

J: The tension rang hollow for me because I felt like the movie poured it all on at a moment's notice. At first, Bella's interest in Edward seems motivated more by pique than anything else -- how dare he not like me? -- and then all of a sudden it's such a full-bore obsession that she's dry-humping him against a log and not only believing he's a vampire, but yelling at him that she doesn't care. Actual line from my notes: "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS GIRL WHO FALLS IN LOVE WITH A VAMPIRE STALKER."

C: A highlight to the film was the baseball scene. Since when DO vampires play baseball? Either way, its random shift was pleasant until the bad vampires came and started hissing like cats with the Cullens. I also found the soundtrack to the film to really fit. Catherine Hardwicke seemed to be going for an indie style approach and the music added to that atmosphere. I especially loved the scene (probably my favorite in the film) where Bella and Edward drive by the diner on their way out of town to save her and she gazes upon her friends having a carefree time realizing the life she could have had; what she's given up for Edward. That split second gave her character more credibility than I felt from her in the whole movie.

J: The baseball game, the cuddling in the woods, and that laugh-out-loud piano interlude were the three segments of the movie that I thought really stood out like a sore thumb -- Hardwicke's direction is really intrusive in these spots, and while the editing and wild overacting is a nice change in some respects from all the anguished whining, they're still pretty clunky, and they don't really do anything for the movie. A film this melodramatic needs a light touch, and Twilight never gets it.

C: I really enjoyed the ending, much more than I remember. I initially thought it wrapped up so abruptly with Victoria waiting in the wings; plotting her revenge. This time around, its sudden conclusion seemed to fit. However, can someone please explain why this whole movie was so blue? And I don't mean in tone.

J: I'll say that I thought the climactic action sequence wasn't bad, at least in terms of presenting the fight between Edward and James in a way that made sense and not jumbling up the action with quick cuts and hand-held nonsense. But the rest of it didn't impress me as much. Bella's cop father letting her just walk out of the house with a duffel bag and half an explanation was ridiculous, and the final fruition of the book's heavy-handed sex allegory during the prom scene wasn't done any favors by the thuddingly flat line readings. I couldn't wait for Victoria to swoop down and kill everyone.

C: So, how can I say that I like this film when I've torn it apart so much? I find the simple nature of teenage lust -- sorry, this is not love -- to be endearing in a nostalgic way. Instead of the normal blocks in the road when it comes to puppy love, we have vampires, which are way more amusing. However, I don't think this film will hold up over time, and clearly neither does Hollywood, with the rumors of a reboot already causing chatter.

J: I'm clearly in the minority, given the bazillions of dollars this franchise has generated, but just judging from the first film in the series, I have to say -- this isn't a believable world on any level, and I don't care about anyone in it. I'm still on board to experience the rest of the films, because I'm a masochist, but I don't think Meyer is a skilled storyteller; she has to rely on her books' timeless themes to get by, and here, they're smothered by her wooden dialogue and poorly sketched characters. Here's hoping the rest of the series manages to transcend those flaws.

Written by Jeff Giles and Catherine Pricci

Comments

Tanis W.

Tanis Warren

You guys are better folks than I for being able to sit through these films without rifftrax. They're so ridiculously brutal.

Nov 12 - 07:25 PM

Justin D.

Justin D.

Sorry Jeff, it only gets worse from here. This series and its popularity are evidence of how stupid teenage girls are.

Nov 12 - 07:36 PM

Frisby2007

Frisby 2007

The people who hate it aren't any less stupid. Perfect example being anyone who compares these movies to everything, & anyone who thinks these are the worst movies ever made when they are clearly not Battlefield Earth or The Haunting of Molly Hartley.

Nov 12 - 09:14 PM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

yeah but Battlefield Earth didn't have four sequels and I've never heard of The Haunting of Molly Hartley. I agree there are plenty of worse movies to be watching but if I had to choose between 5 two and half hour movies where dopey blocks of wood express there love by staring at each other or a three hour scientology propaganda film starring John Travolta in a nose piece. I'm taking the Nose Piece.

Nov 12 - 09:19 PM

Frisby2007

Frisby 2007

The sequels happened for a reason, and if battlefield Earth would have had sequels, I could only imagine then. I'll take staring at each other for 2 hours straight over an ugly Scientology bullshit that wanted me to commit suicide every agonizing minute any day.

Nov 12 - 09:28 PM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

You know what's interesting about these awful films (battlefield earth, Twilight series) is both actually have Oscar Winning, and Nominated talent in them. It's always so bizarre to see that in bad films. Anna Kendrick, Michael Sheen, Forest Witaker. I always find it so interesting when Phenomenal actors end up in such critically hated films.

Nov 13 - 08:41 AM

Justin D.

Justin D.

No, you're right. Detractors aren't brain trusts either, though I hope you're not comparing me to the ones you're speaking of, since nowhere in my comment did I say it was the worst thing ever. But to be honest, if I were given a choice over which movie I'd rather watch (and "neither" wasn't an option) I'd pick Battlefield. Why? Because that movie is awful, but hilariously so. Twilight has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. My initial impression of the series was apathy. I knew it was nothing I'd watch and so I felt no way towards it. Then my at-the-time girlfriend had me sit down and watch it (not in theaters of course). It takes a special kind of movie to make me want a refund when I hadn't even spent any money on it. Is it the worst series of movies ever made? No, but so what? It's still bad. I'm sure there are worse ways of dying than getting shot but that doesn't mean I'm going to rush in front of a firing squad.

Nov 13 - 01:09 PM

Antonio Buono

Antonio Buono

#1 is bad, but it looks like a masterpiece compared to #2 and #4. This series was doomed from the moment it started. Meyer's books are really awful.

Nov 12 - 08:26 PM

C Damien Belyeu

C Damien Belyeu

Consider me another naysayer, because there isn't a single thing about this movie series I can say is decent. ...strike that, I have found one good thing about this series: it's about to end.

Nov 12 - 09:06 PM

Frisby2007

Frisby 2007

The people who hate it aren't any less stupid. Perfect example being anyone who compares these movies to everything, & anyone who thinks these are the worst movies ever made when they are clearly not Battlefield Earth or The Haunting of Molly Hartley.

Nov 12 - 09:14 PM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

yeah but Battlefield Earth didn't have four sequels and I've never heard of The Haunting of Molly Hartley. I agree there are plenty of worse movies to be watching but if I had to choose between 5 two and half hour movies where dopey blocks of wood express there love by staring at each other or a three hour scientology propaganda film starring John Travolta in a nose piece. I'm taking the Nose Piece.

Nov 12 - 09:19 PM

Frisby2007

Frisby 2007

The sequels happened for a reason, and if battlefield Earth would have had sequels, I could only imagine then. I'll take staring at each other for 2 hours straight over an ugly Scientology bullshit that wanted me to commit suicide every agonizing minute any day.

Nov 12 - 09:28 PM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

You know what's interesting about these awful films (battlefield earth, Twilight series) is both actually have Oscar Winning, and Nominated talent in them. It's always so bizarre to see that in bad films. Anna Kendrick, Michael Sheen, Forest Witaker. I always find it so interesting when Phenomenal actors end up in such critically hated films.

Nov 13 - 08:41 AM

Justin D.

Justin D.

No, you're right. Detractors aren't brain trusts either, though I hope you're not comparing me to the ones you're speaking of, since nowhere in my comment did I say it was the worst thing ever. But to be honest, if I were given a choice over which movie I'd rather watch (and "neither" wasn't an option) I'd pick Battlefield. Why? Because that movie is awful, but hilariously so. Twilight has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. My initial impression of the series was apathy. I knew it was nothing I'd watch and so I felt no way towards it. Then my at-the-time girlfriend had me sit down and watch it (not in theaters of course). It takes a special kind of movie to make me want a refund when I hadn't even spent any money on it. Is it the worst series of movies ever made? No, but so what? It's still bad. I'm sure there are worse ways of dying than getting shot but that doesn't mean I'm going to rush in front of a firing squad.

Nov 13 - 01:09 PM

Frisby2007

Frisby 2007

#1 - Okay
#2 - over 2 hours of my life I will never get back.
#3 - Improvement
#4 - where the acting was good for once.

Nov 12 - 09:16 PM

SionnachOghma

Padraig Fagan

#1 - Meh.
#2 - Unintentional comedy gold.
#3 - The most fun I've ever had at an awful movie.
#4 - Someone. Please. Kill me.

Nov 13 - 09:28 AM

Justin D.

Justin D.

#1 - Awful.
#2 - Worse than awful.
#3 - Still pretty bad, yet somehow better than 1 and 2 (and thank the gods for rifftrax).
#4 - Didn't even bother.

Nov 13 - 01:29 PM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

yeah but Battlefield Earth didn't have four sequels and I've never heard of The Haunting of Molly Hartley. I agree there are plenty of worse movies to be watching but if I had to choose between 5 two and half hour movies where dopey blocks of wood express there love by staring at each other or a three hour scientology propaganda film starring John Travolta in a nose piece. I'm taking the Nose Piece.

Nov 12 - 09:19 PM

Frisby2007

Frisby 2007

The sequels happened for a reason, and if battlefield Earth would have had sequels, I could only imagine then. I'll take staring at each other for 2 hours straight over an ugly Scientology bullshit that wanted me to commit suicide every agonizing minute any day.

Nov 12 - 09:28 PM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

You know what's interesting about these awful films (battlefield earth, Twilight series) is both actually have Oscar Winning, and Nominated talent in them. It's always so bizarre to see that in bad films. Anna Kendrick, Michael Sheen, Forest Witaker. I always find it so interesting when Phenomenal actors end up in such critically hated films.

Nov 13 - 08:41 AM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

Funny Stuff guys. I like how civil this discussion was about the film. I read the first book and I think Kristen Stewart nailed Bella's blank slate no personality Bella Swan. I think just about any actor alive could play Edward, so Robert Pattinson wasn't a bad fit either.

Nov 12 - 09:21 PM

Frisby2007

Frisby 2007

The sequels happened for a reason, and if battlefield Earth would have had sequels, I could only imagine then. I'll take staring at each other for 2 hours straight over an ugly Scientology bullshit that wanted me to commit suicide every agonizing minute any day.

Nov 12 - 09:28 PM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

You know what's interesting about these awful films (battlefield earth, Twilight series) is both actually have Oscar Winning, and Nominated talent in them. It's always so bizarre to see that in bad films. Anna Kendrick, Michael Sheen, Forest Witaker. I always find it so interesting when Phenomenal actors end up in such critically hated films.

Nov 13 - 08:41 AM

SionnachOghma

Padraig Fagan

#1 - Meh.
#2 - Unintentional comedy gold.
#3 - The most fun I've ever had at an awful movie.
#4 - Someone. Please. Kill me.

Nov 13 - 09:28 AM

Justin D.

Justin D.

#1 - Awful.
#2 - Worse than awful.
#3 - Still pretty bad, yet somehow better than 1 and 2 (and thank the gods for rifftrax).
#4 - Didn't even bother.

Nov 13 - 01:29 PM

Epic Barney Funk

Barney Funk

Glad to see this franchise come to an end!

Nov 13 - 12:26 PM

Justin D.

Justin D.

No, you're right. Detractors aren't brain trusts either, though I hope you're not comparing me to the ones you're speaking of, since nowhere in my comment did I say it was the worst thing ever. But to be honest, if I were given a choice over which movie I'd rather watch (and "neither" wasn't an option) I'd pick Battlefield. Why? Because that movie is awful, but hilariously so. Twilight has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. My initial impression of the series was apathy. I knew it was nothing I'd watch and so I felt no way towards it. Then my at-the-time girlfriend had me sit down and watch it (not in theaters of course). It takes a special kind of movie to make me want a refund when I hadn't even spent any money on it. Is it the worst series of movies ever made? No, but so what? It's still bad. I'm sure there are worse ways of dying than getting shot but that doesn't mean I'm going to rush in front of a firing squad.

Nov 13 - 01:09 PM

Justin D.

Justin D.

#1 - Awful.
#2 - Worse than awful.
#3 - Still pretty bad, yet somehow better than 1 and 2 (and thank the gods for rifftrax).
#4 - Didn't even bother.

Nov 13 - 01:29 PM

Ulisses Junior

Ulisses Junior

youtube apresenta ulysses junior poeta do amor

Nov 13 - 03:26 PM

Jon Cox

Jon Cox

this 1st movie I was interested beacause I love the vampire mythos so much and I understand it changes with each new writer, this stuff didn't bother me
the dialogue was cheesy though and they go overboard with the sudden forlorn thing, the villain was poorly written as well
but I like these actors and Catherine Hardwicke knows how to direct teenagers
plus the thing you have to understand is that Meyer had a dream and that's when she concocted the story to make it for teenage girls
how many girls do you know that want to be the bell of the ball for that one insanely attractive guy, especially if he's immortal?

Nov 14 - 10:34 AM

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