(director: Catherine Hardwicke; screenwriters: Melissa Rosenberg/based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer; cinematographer: Elliot Davis; editor: Nancy Richardson; music: Carter Burwell; cast: Kristen Stewart (Bella Swan), Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen), Billy Burke (Charlie Swan), Ashley Greene (Alice Cullen), Nikki Reed (Rosalie Cullen), Jackson Rathbone (Jasper Cullen), Kellan Lutz (Emmett Cullen), Peter Facinelli (Dr. Carlisle Cullen), Cam Gigandet (James/Nomad Vampire), Edi Gathegi (Laurent/Nomad Vampire), Rachelle Lefevre (Victoria/Nomad Vampire), Taylor Lautner (Jacob), Anna Kendrick (Jessica), Michael Welch (Mike Newton), Justin Chon (Eric), Gil Birmingham (Billy Black), Ned Bellamy (Waylon Forge), José Zúñiga (Mr. Molina, biology teacher), Sarah Clarke (Renee Dwyer), Matt Bushell (Phil Dwyer); Runtime: 122; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Greg Mooradian/Mark Morgan/Wyck Godfrey; Summit Entertainment; 2008)

“A gentle, sincere and appealing vampire film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The faithful to the book screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg is based on the popular vampire love story novel by Stephenie Meyer (it sold over 17 million copies worldwide), the first in a four-part series, that targets female teens. Twilight is a gentle, sincere and appealing vampire film making good use of weather for atmosphere, throwing in some not too special special-effects to show the powers of its subjects in such things as climbing mountains and trees at a rapid speed, highlighting the differences between good and bad vampires and laying on us an almost normal love story to show the difficulties for opposite teens to fall in love with someone not meant for them. It for the most part doesn’t show its fangs as a vampire bloodfest, instead offers a toothy soap opera forbidden vampire love story that’s hard to fathom without a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief; but if you can, it makes up for what it lacks in the usual film lore thrills over the undead with a fetching love story between misfit teens searching for something to make them swoon. Director Catherine Hardwicke (“Thirteen”/”Lords of Dogtown”) keeps things girlie chic and sympathetic to her young heroine, and flirts dangerously close to the ridiculous but manages to keep things reined in by moving briskly along despite many bumps on the road.

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is an unsettled spunky loner 17-year-old girl who lives in Phoenix with her supportive remarried mom Renee (Sarah Clarke) and after many years apart returns to her rainy and almost always cloudy small hometown of Forks, Washington, in March, to stay with her reliable nice guy but awkward conversationalist downer police chief single dad Charlie Swan (Billy Burke). After rejecting several classmate yahoos and nerds who try to hit on her, Bella falls in love with the eternally-17-year-old freaky pallid standoffish hunky vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, British actor ) who sits next to her in biology class. He finally wins her over for good when he tells her: “You’re my own personal brand of heroin.”

Edward will use his super-strength, super-speed and mind-reading ability to save Bella from a swerving out-of-control car heading right for her and from a group of youthful thugs who in a drunken stupor attempt to rape her in an alleyway. Edward soon takes her to meet his enlightened vampire clan of seven–with the patriarch being Dr. Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli), a respectable medical doctor employed in the hospital (which is a bloody good job for a vampire if you are not concerned about day or night shifts and don’t have this thing about blood that can get the better of you). Since there’s thunder and not sunshine, the vampire clan play baseball with weakling human outsider Bella recruited to be the umpire. The game turns ugly with the arrival of a trio of bad vampires (Cam Gigandet, Edi Gathegi, Rachelle Lefevre), who were on a killing spree in these parts that got the attention of Bella’s father. They now sniff out Bella as human prey, especially the real baddie vampire James (Cam Gigandet). The good vampire clan does its best to try and save Bella from the pursuing bad vampires, which calls for a poorly choreographed vampire fight between the good Edward and the evil James over Bella.

There’s also an undeveloped subplot, I assume will be further explored in the sequels, about a local Indian tribe descended from werewolves that are the sworn enemy of the vampires.

But what prevails in this unconsummated tale of first love, is that Hardwicke tries to get into the head of her young heroine and tries to determine what makes her lust after a lover who can literally kill her with his love (as there’s no sex, not because both aren’t willing but because there’s a fear he’ll kill her if they get it on). The answer as to why she fell for a vampire seems to be that he’s the only one who makes an inner connection with her and she just can’t help feeling this way; while he’s a romantic who has found someone he doesn’t just want to suck the blood out of and run from but someone unpredictable to chat with and to keep him from not always lusting after blood (which sounds more and more inert the longer you are away from being manipulated by the pic).

REVIEWED ON 11/22/2008 GRADE: B-