This week, I studied for today's big movie premiere by reading Stephenie Meyer's novel of teen romance-cum-vampire suspense, Twilight. Bazillions of MuggleNet readers had demanded that I read it, but I only recently bought the book and then left it lying unread until the movie was on top of me. Then, out of fear that I would inadvertently see the movie before reading the book (always a terrible idea - it could destroy my ability to imagine the story and characters for myself) I finally crammed it.
Well, I enjoyed the book well enough, but I was a little reluctant to see the movie. As the story unfolded I became increasingly convinced that it was the kind of movie where a single guy, without a girl on his arm, would get funny looks when he went to see it. I toyed with the idea of catching the midnight premiere, but I decided that would just compound the awkwardness. So I went to the earliest matinee that wasn't sold out, and enjoyed the flick.
Twilight, the movie, is very well done. Having only read the book a few days ago, I thought the film captured it very effectively, didn't leave anything important out, and took no unforgivable liberties. The cast was very effective too. Not to mention, very attractive. But I saw that one coming, since there was hardly a page of the book that didn't mention how gorgeous Edward Cullen and his vampire clan were. And even though Bella, as narratrix, doesn't toot her own horn, she gets told often enough that she's a looker too.
Plus, I would have to have been in a coma all year not to have spotted magazine covers depicting at least the lead actor, Robert Pattinson, who first came to teen-crush attention when he played the martyred Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He certainly hit the jackpot in the bone-structure lottery. The surprise, in seeing the film, was that he has also come along as an actor, capable of the tortured smolder that his role demands. On the other hand, I thought he looked kind of goofy with his Las Vegas Elvis hairdo - some of the other vampires were actually prettier.
The soul of the movie, though, is the mortal girl Bella Swan, who falls for Edward. Bella is here played by Kristen Stewart, whom I last saw playing the snotty older sister in Zathura. For all his air of reluctant-monster mystery, Edward isn't half as complex and surprising a character as Bella is. For the more she realizes the boy she likes is tempted to drink her, the more determined she is to be with him forever. In spite of all the scary stuff that happens to her - such as going over for dinner to a houseful of vampires - such as getting a "we're watching you" message from a tribe of werewolves - such as being hunted by some really evil vampires - the only thing that really frightens her is the possibility of losing Edward. How does Stewart make this preposterous person seem real and believable? I can't explain it. I simply enjoyed it. I found her portrayal even more believable than the first-person narrative in Meyer's original book.
It's a smart story, and possibly the beginning of a series. In bookland, there are certainly a number of companion novels following Twilight. If the appreciation of this curmudgeonly, confirmed bachelor is any indication of how wildly a whole generation (or more) of American females should enjoy this film, it ought to be successful enough to generate a sequel at least. It has a cast full of unknown actors (except for a few, familiar, character-actor faces in the adult roles). But they look like movie stars, and if they keep this up they will be.
IMAGES from top: Pattinson and Stewart; the actors playing Bella, Edward, and his siblings; the bad guy holding Edward by the throat.