The Sleepless Movie Review
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Written by Melissa Rosenberg and directed by Catherine Hardwicke
122 Minutes
Rated PG-13 for some violence and a scene of sensuality.

I'll go ahead and cop to it now: yes, I watched the entire film, and yes, I ran RiffTrax over it. Anyone upset that this may have somehow diluted experience would do well to note just how little dialogue is actually in Twilight, and that anything is better than the unspeakably lazy voiceover that permeates the parts of the film where people use words. Besides, film is a visual medium, and Catherine effectively communicates boredom visually.

The one-and-a-half stars are going to seem generous by the accounts of the people I watched the movie with, but hear me out: it's not completely godawful. It's not any damn good, but it's mostly just incompetent. It feels like a movie written by, directed by, and starring teenage girls who've learned everything they know about love from Nicholas Sparks. Yeah, it's like that.

Though Stephenie Meyer is regarded as an author in much the same way, say, a cat walking on a typewriter might be regarded as an author, it must be said there are things in the film that just...don't work visually. These elements might have been fine on the page, but in practice they just look awkward. Hardwicke is a halfway decent director, but she's completely out of her element when handling the special effects and wire work parts of the film call for. The whole affair looks stunningly cheap in places; the budget of $37 million is relatively low given how much blockbusters usually run these days, but effects and filters somehow manage to look about as good as any teenager dicking around with After Effects could produce.

And frankly, there's only so much Hardwicke could've done with source material this asinine, helped approximately not at all by Rosenberg's dismal screenwriting. There are many ways to handle a book-to-film adaptation, and going the literal route is often the easiest way to completely screw up the transition. Books are paced a specific way because they are books and can handle operating on an extended timeline that films don't have the luxury of. More than that, quirks of dialogue and action that no one would bat an eyelash at on the page can get thrown completely out of whack when real people have to do/say them. Oftentimes the best way to make an adaptation is to try and capture the soul of the piece, and make the necessary changes to get it to work on the screen. Rosenberg doesn't do that.

It's to the film's detriment. The generic fairy tale love story is a staple for a reason: it can be made to work. Return of the Living Dead 3 is a fantastic love story that's completely asinine in concept, but it works because there's sincerity, commitment, and coherent thought put into the project. Twilight should've been saved from its own author; the problem is that it exists as its own fanfiction, if that makes any sense. I mean to say it's roughly the same quality, and this problem is exacerbated once you understand that the author, Stephenie Meyer, is a housewife who claims her work was inspired by Muse and Linkin Park and already had a film version cast in her mind before the rights were even bought. She was all too happy to share her casting. It was about as bad as you'd expect. That Rosenberg hewed so closely to the source material damned the project.

I don't fault the actors. I kind of fault the director. I heavily fault the screenwriter and the source material. From Robert Pattinson's Dragon Ball Z hairstyle to the completely superfluous superspeed when he opens Bella's car door, this thing is rife with bad decisions. People want to bag on Kristen Stewart's performance as being bland, but I liked Stewart in Adventureland, and she isn't the problem: the problem is her character is a complete cipher, utterly devoid of identity to make it that much easier for female viewers young and old to just slot themselves into the story. Bella is the black hole sucking in the world around her; everything is about her, and she is responsible for nothing. Basically, Bella is very nakedly and obviously the author's surrogate.

The idea of Edward and his family could've worked. So they don't subsist on human blood, but animal blood, fine. A good director could've shot scenes in a way that highlighted these people are still animals, given them some measure of menace, highlighted the frankly naughty delight in being in a relationship with someone whose family could kill you and drink your blood at any given moment. Sex and death are mightily intertwined in vampirism, but there isn't an erotic bone in this film's body. No sense of real danger, no sense of the animalistic tendencies that make it so trashy and exciting.

And that's the worst problem that could've been corrected at any point and never was: this fucking thing is relentlessly safe. The horror is squeaky clean and when it threatens to become something worse, it's deliberately stuffed in the background and concealed from view so as not to encroach on Bella's - and the viewer's - precious innocence. Edward's family rips a motherfucker apart and throw his body parts in an open fire, and this is all largely concealed in the background. It's disingenuous at best.

Twilight is fantasy porn in the worst way, with every nook and cranny dusted, glossed, and cleaned up to a sparkling sheen to ensure there's absolutely nothing objectionable. Stephenie Meyer wrote fanfiction for herself and the whole world bought into it. We worry about our males being exposed to pornography and developing unrealistic expectations of women, but what the hell about the women watching tripe like this?

- Dustin Sklavos

All written content and colored rating system copyright Dustin Sklavos 2009. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.