Confession time. I've never read any of the Twilight series of books by Stephenie Meyer. I have a huge collection of vampire novels and somehow this series passed completely under my radar. The first I'd heard of them was when the film was released at Christmas 2008. I'd read mixed reviews of the film but went to see it with an open mind... and I quite enjoyed it.
Just last week I bought the two-disc DVD version of the film from those good folks at Amazon and this is my review of the DVD.
THE STORY. Bella Swan is an American teenager who goes to live with her dad in the small town of Forks, Washington after her divorced mum wants to go touring with her new boyfriend. At high school Bella is curious to know about the five members of the mysterious Cullen family, who are a part of her class, especially Edward, whom she is teamed up with in biology class. Bella's classmates warn her that the Cullens don't mix with other students. But Bella is slowly drawn to the brooding Edward and when he saves her life by stopping a van that was about to crash into her with one hand she becomes convinced that he is not what he appears to be. Yep, Edward is a vampire. He has the ability to read minds but cannot read Bella's mind. So, the pair are drawn to one another and when Bella discovers the truth about Edward she is not repulsed at all but even more besotted with him. Edward takes her to meet his family, the other four "teenagers" and mum and dad - all vampires as well. They get on well together and enjoy a game of baseball, which is interrupted by the arrival of three nomadic vampires. The Cullens were able to integrate themselves in the township by only drinking the blood of animals. These newcomers have no such qualms about taking human blood and when one of them smells Bella's human scent the hunt is on. Can Edward and his family protect Bella, and if so, at what cost?
THE FILM. Edward and Bella were played by Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart respectively and the film was directed by Catherine Hardwicke. The story is a simple love story and is aimed primarily at teenagers, especially teenage girls. So I'm well out of the target audience. But hey, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one of my all-time favourite TV series and I'm a sucker for any vampire movie. Bella is so pale skinned she could easily pass for a vampire herself. I liked her plucky attitude. Edward is such a pretty boy and an obvious teenage heart-throb but I found him too full of angst and way too irritating. Why must so many vampires be such tortured souls? Out of all of the Cullens my favourite was Alice (played by Ashley Greene) who not only looked as cute as a button but who also had the ability to see the future. Plus, she got to rip the head off one of the nomad vampires! For a vampire movie there was very little blood to be seen, which wasn't surprising given its 12 certificate. My favourite scene in the movie was the baseball game, which was worth the admission fee alone! Baseball between vampires is far more impressive than the human version. With vampiric strength they can smash the ball way out of the park. However, with vampiric speed, the fielders can race after the ball in the blink of an eye, thus making for a even-sided game. It was nice to see a new take on just what it is that defines a vampire. These vampires were not afraid of the sun but avoided it as it gave their skin a sparkling diamond-like quality - a CGI effect that didn't quite work. I've seen a lot worse films than this one and it's not as bad as some critics would have you believe, although the acting by the two leads is a bit flat. I'd rate it 6 out of 10.
THE DVD EXTRAS. I love the special features of a DVD - the more the better. This two-disc set does not disappoint in that respect. The second disc contains deleted scenes, extended scenes, trailers for the film, music videos aplenty, an interview with Stephenie Meyer (who comes across very well, I must say), and of course, the obligatory "making of" documentaries, which I nearly always enjoy watching. All good stuff so far and at over two hours long you certainly get your money's worth. However, what does let the extras down is the film commentary by director Catherine Hardwicke with Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. Now I'm usually a fan of film commentaries. If done well they can be hugely entertaining and informative. However, here they make the classic mistake in any commentary of having too many long pauses. Also, there was way too much giggling going on between the three of them. Consequently, I can give the special features no more than 8 out of 10. But for the commentary it would have been higher.
FINAL VERDICT. If you're a fan of the novels you don't need me to tell you to buy this - you've probably already got it! If you're not it is still worth seeking out. For sure, it's a teenage love story, but look on the bright side - it's not High School Musical! The film has whetted my appetite for reading the books and I'll be buying the series very soon. I hear the book is much better than the film, but that is so often the case. Twilight - New Moon, the first sequel is schedulded for a November 2009 release. I'll be there to see it and to review it here.