By Sara Frederick, The Miami Herald
Note to mothers and teenage boyfriends accompanying Twilight fans to the theater: Bring earplugs. You’ll want to protect your hearing from the shrieks and screams coming from teenage girls.
And there will be screams each time a beloved character from the first novel in Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling young-adult series appears for the first time; each time a particularly juicy line of dialogue from the book is recalled; and each time the story’s star-crossed lovers touch.
In one of the most anticipated novel-turned-movie to hit the screen since the Harry Potter franchise, Twilight centers on Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a 17-year-old from Phoenix who moves to a tiny, rain-soaked town in Washington to live with her father after her mother remarries. Once there, she falls in love with the beautiful but moody Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).
Edward is a vampire, though not one who adheres to traditional mythology. Sure, they live forever and feed on blood, but Twilight‘s monsters have no fangs. They don’t disintegrate in the daylight, and a stake through the heart probably wouldn’t kill them. But even in this vampire world, the Cullen family is different: They feed as ”vegetarians,” drinking the blood of animals to spare human lives.
While Bella is immediately attracted to Edward because of the mystery surrounding his family — five extremely attractive teenagers living with an extremely young set of foster parents — Edward is drawn to Bella because of the potent scent of her blood, which is sweeter to him than anyone else’s. The fact that his special mind-reading ability doesn’t work on her only intrigues him further.
Bella takes awhile to figure out what exactly is different about Edward. Hearing an old Indian legend from her childhood playmate Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner, who gets little screen time but will have a much bigger role if sequels are made) points her in the right direction.
Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg speeds up the budding love story between Edward and Bella to give the couple more time together on screen, which thoroughly pleased the teenage audience at a preview showing. Rosenberg also borrows lines directly from Midnight Sun,Meyer’s excellent but half-finished telling of Twilight from Edward’s point of view that was leaked onto the Internet this summer. (Note to Meyer: Please, please finish this.)
But the movie’s Cullens are never menacing enough. Their classmates aren’t put off by the standoffish, pale-faced vampires. Instead, they gaze at them in the awe-inspired way dorks in high-school movies look at the homecoming queen and quarterback.
Pattinson, known mostly for his pivotal role in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,attempts a couple of dark, tortured expressions but comes across more ridiculous than scary. When he meets Bella in biology lab, he shrinks back almost violently in his seat and actually holds his nose, leading Bella to sniff her hair to see if something’s wrong. The scene is over-acted and unintentionally hilarious.
As Bella, Stewart (In the Land of Women) is a little stiff and over-confident, a weird combination. She’s also funny. When Edward appears in her front yard out of nowhere, Bella chastises him: “Can you act human? I have neighbors!”
In a move that will keep nonreaders more entertained, director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) has made her film a cross between a love story and thriller. The novel is decidedly a romance with a bit of action tossed in at the end, but the movie spends more time on the ”normal” vampires — the bloodsuckers that feast on humans — who are killing townspeople and eventually pursue Bella.
That pursuit follows one of the best scenes in the movie in which the Cullens play a game of baseball during a storm, their superhuman strength making the crack of the bat against the ball as loud as thunder. The vampires’ speed at fielding the ball reminds you of the Quidditch matches in the Potter series. But the game comes to an end when the killer vamps make an appearance and catch a whiff of Bella. The fight you’re expecting takes place, and the movie ends with a big opening for a sequel.
And there should be one. None of the movie’s flaws will matter. Teenage girls are going to love Twilight,and many are sure to see it more than once. Hang on to those earplugs: This time next year, you’ll need them again.
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Taylor Lautner, Anna Kendrick, Michael Welch, Cam Gigandet
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Screenwriter: Melissa Rosenberg. Based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer.
Producers: Wyck Godfrey, Greg Mooradian, Mark Morgan, Karen Rosenfelt
A Summit Entertainment release. Some violence and a scene of sensuality. Running time: 122 minutes. Playing at area theaters.