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Bite me, Edward: Stewart and Pattinson in Twilight.

Of Monsters and Maidens

By Ann Morrow

Twilight

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke

Considering that it’s adapted from the mega-selling novel that’s had teenage girls (and some of their moms) swooning since its publication, Twilight the movie is rather drippy, noticeably calculated for the young-adult market. The reportedly hypnotic sexual tension between introverted Isabella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), is homogenized onscreen by dialogue with all the pulse-pounding ardor of such exchanges as Edward matter-of-factly confessing, “I’m designed to kill,” and Bella tossing off her reply, “I don’t care,” as though he’d just told her he’d been cut from the debate team. TV screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg’s trite sound bites aside, though, Twilight does have a mildly seductive allure, and much of it comes from the preternaturally pretty (and talented) Stewart, who gives Isabella a haunted yearning that smolders through the film’s lapses of seriousness and suspense.

Bella first sees Edward when he makes an entrance at her new high school with his posse of vampire foster-siblings, a quintet swathed in an aura of unapproachable hauteur. Edward notices Bella in the midst of her new-girl popularity—Bella having moved from her Mom’s in Arizona to live with her policeman father in rainy northwest Washington. A nearby mist-drenched forest primeval provides an atmospheric background for Edward’s frolicking displays of super-undeaded strength and agility, but before his unusual courtship commences—he saves Bella’s life by halting a careening car with his fist—Bella must overcome his initial repugnance to her. With a minimum of fuss, and some groan-inducing repartee, Bella accepts that Edward’s lust is of the epicurean variety: his deadly temptation is to devour her, not deflower her. It may be the last taboo left for today’s sexually active teens.

This tension (cagily updated from Stoker’s 19th-century demonizing of venereal disease and death-in-childhood) gives the story its romantic oomph, along with the broody chemistry between Stewart and Pattinson (though Pattinson isn’t nearly as handsome in white makeup as he was as the athletic Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter franchise). Since Twilight’s refreshingly vivacious students dress in jeans and parkas, and the vampires can cavort during the day, the usual brocaded and candlelit ambience is ably replaced by the fog- softened cinematography, Carter Burwell’s lovely score, and seamless stunt work that sends the vampires flying through treetops and sprinting like cheetahs.

One of the novel’s clever gambits is that the Cullens are bound by oath from preying on humans, because Edward’s foster father (Peter Facinelli) is a doctor. The virility of the Cullen coven is tested by the arrival of a trio of menacing, and hungry, vampires who put the delectable Bella in mortal peril. More intriguing than the competent fight scenes, however, are the film’s black-and-white allusions to past events, especially the references to another supernatural force—the wolf people, forerunners of the region’s Native American population, including Bella’s friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner). It’s likely that Catherine Hardwicke, a talented director (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown) is feeling her way into the material here, and if so, the expected sequel could be a follow-up for all ages.


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