Short version: Twilight really is strictly for fans of the book – while not terrible, it’s far from great.

Screen Rant reviews Twilight

So it’s finally here.

Twilight, at least for a select group of ladies, has been THE most anticipated movie of 2008 – and their wait is finally over. The question is: Was it worth it?

For them, yes.

For the rest of us? Eh, not so much.

Twilight opens with the introduction of our heroine, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart). She is in sunny Arizona with her mom and new stepfather, and as they prepare for a long road trip she decides that she’d rather go up to Washington state to stay with her estranged father, Charlie (Billy Burke). He lives in the small town of Forks (population 3,000) and is the local sheriff.

She arrives in the middle of the school year so although it should be hard to make friends (and it’s implied), she manages to connect with a group of kids who are far more welcoming than she is ready to be welcomed. They give her the scoop on who’s who and they soon point out the Cullens, an odd assortment of very pale-skinned guys and gals. To make things weirder, they are apparently foster brothers/sisters yet they are “couples.” They’ve been taken in by the local Dr. Cullen and his wife.

One of the group is of course, Edward (Robert Pattinson). His story is that “no girl is good enough for him.” Of course Bella is immediately fixated on him, although the feeling is apparently very much not mutual. As a matter of fact when she is assigned to be his lab partner, he seems to be repulsed by her.

Edward leaves for a few days, and when he returns his mood towards Bella has changed considerably. He’s now polite and at least feigns interest. She (mostly) gets over being offended and tries to get to know him although he still doesn’t want to get close to her. Almost immediately he saves her from being killed in a car accident in a scene that’s been shown in the trailer. She’s no dummy and doesn’t miss the fact that he was across the parking lot, got over to her in a flash and was able to keep a van from smashing into her (to the point that he left a dent in the door with his hand). [Note slight sarcasm there, folks]

Anyway, we soon meet Dr. Cullen (Peter Facinelli) at the hospital, whose makeup job is so incredibly white that he looks like the Cesar Romero version of the Joker. He is none to pleased about Edward (I guess I can’t call him “Ed,” huh?) possibly exposing who he really is to save Bella’s life.

One thing leads to another and the burgeoning romance is on its way, with a side trip to a confrontation with the “bad” vampires who actually kill humans to feed (go figure). You see the Cullens only drink the blood of animals. The bad guys have been responsible for a number of gruesome murders in town recently. One of them decides to target Bella and thus we get the final confrontation which finally brings us some decent action.

So what’s good?

I thought that the stars and supporting cast actually did a really great job. Bella’s friends were engaging, funny and they played their roles very naturally. Billy Burke was low key and very good as Bella’s father, Kristen Stewart did a decent job, and I have to say that despite his severely sculpted eyebrows and uber-funky hair that I liked Rob Pattinson’s portrayal of Edward Cullen. I don’t know how closely the way he played the character matched the version in the book, but I thought that his uncertainty and awkwardness in light of how powerful he really was made him quite charming.

There were quite a few moments of unexpected humor in the film that I enjoyed. Nothing huge or slapsticky, but just little things that were enough to actually make me laugh out loud (which some comedies this year didn’t manage to make me do). Really the performances made this worthwhile for me.

So what wasn’t so good?

For a non-fan, it was really a pretty bland film. It seemed very slow-moving at times, and let’s face it – it’s a pretty “stock” teen romance movie. There wasn’t anything really special here outside of the fact that it had, you know… vampires.

Nothing really eye-catching as far as cinematography or interesting shots, and one think that really struck me as bad were the visual effects. When the film had its first “super-speed” effect, where the bad vampires corner one of the locals, it was so poorly done that I think I actually gasped out loud. I mean there was this incredibly cheesy blur that I can’t really describe except to say that anything you see on an average episode of Smallville is done far better.

Imagine my shock at the end of the film when in the credits I saw Industrial Light & Magic listed among the visual effects companies. I can only guess that they were responsible for some other effect and not the one I just mentioned (which was terrible throughout the film).

Towards the end the teen-romance-cheese-factor pegged the needle in the aftermath of the big battle in a scene between Edward and Bella. That was about the hardest scene in the movie to sit through, and pretty much from there until the end it was quite sappy and reminded me of a typical teen TV series on the CW.

The audience full of Twilight fans seemed to enjoy it a lot and gave it a thumbs up, so I guess it’s achieved its goal. I’m curious to see if it does well enough at the box office to generate a sequel (which I’m thinking would actually be better than this film).

So take all that for what it’s worth – I’ll leave the decision of whether to see it or not up to you.

Oh, and yes (for the fans), Edward does “sparkle” in the film and Bella is clumsy. :-)

Our Rating:

3 out of 5