28 November, 2008

Twilight: From Book to Film

One of the reasons I am thankful to be the mother of a teenage daughter is that the young adult books are so much cooler today than they were when I was a teenager. I could go on for days about everything the Sweet Valley High series was lacking back in the late 1980's and early 1990's. For starters, there were no vampires gnawing away at Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. Yes, I was a morbid teen with a major fascination with vampires, werewolves and witches. Apparently, judging from the young adult literary market today, I wasn't the only one who wanted more out of books. Many of my favorite young adult writers are right around my age, suggesting that they grew up to write the kind of books they wanted to read.

Stephenie Meyer is among that list of thirty-somethings who took the pen in hand and sought out to create a better love story. The Twilight series has been on fire since shortly after the first book, Twilight, hit shelves in 2005. The series tells the story of a young woman named Isabella Swan, (Bella for short, if you please,) who moves to the small town of Forks, Washington, to allow her mother room to breathe with her new husband. Reunited with her father, there is a part of Bella that is unhappy with her choice to move to Forks. She's spent most of her life living in bright and sunny Phoenix, Arizona. In Forks it always seems to be either raining or snowing, and Bella quickly falls into a somber mood.

Joining school mid-semester, Bella finds herself intrigued by the Cullen family, particularly Edward. The Cullens are the adopted children of a local doctor and his wife, Carlisle and Esme Cullen. Not only are they obviously rich, they are the most beautiful and mysterious people on campus. The Cullens keep to themselves, that is until Edward saves Bella's life for the first time and opens her up to a forbidden world of secrecy. It isn't long before Bella puts the clues together and discovers Edward's true nature: he is a vampire. Bella is excited by the danger attached to Edward and Edward is drawn in by an uncontrollable desire for Bella's blood: components for disaster or one of the greatest love stories of the decade?

Between the release of the final book in the series, Breaking Dawn, in August 2008 and the film adaptation of Twilight on November 21, 2008, many critics are torn. I have stated in many of my reviews past that Breaking Dawn was somewhat anti-climactic for me, so I won't go into that here. What I will say is that the Twilight movie was fantastic. After my disappointment with Breaking Dawn, I wasn't sure what to expect from the film. I never read or rely on the critics, because frankly I like to draw my own conclusions and form my own opinions. Nine times out of a ten, if a critic says a movie is bad, it rises quickly to the top of my favorites list. So, I wasn't surprised when after hearing all the negative reviews on Twilight just how much I enjoyed it.

The thing about Twilight that drew me in from the start was how realistically Meyer captured that head over heels abandon with which teenage girls often fall in love or at least daydream about it. There are very few girls who did not daydream of their very own Edward, be he a vampire, a prince or some other fantastical savior from the mundane life. Edward is the portrait of the perfect boyfriend. Noble, loyal, charming and gentlemanly, his best qualities are enhanced by his conflicted nature. Here he is a "monster" in a man's body looking for redemption when the ultimate temptation lays down at his feet and says, "Take me, I'm yours."

The directors and screenwriter took very few liberties with the adaptation. There was hardly a scene I couldn't recall with a delighted grin as the story unraveled across the screen. The Cullens were exceptionally beautiful, Bella's insecurity balanced well against the wisdom of an old soul that resulted after years of caring for her flighty mother.

Robert Pattinson did a fantastic job portraying Edward and Kristin Stewart played the perfect Bella. It was like watching the characters I'd envisioned while reading the book come to life from the pages. The most accurately portrayed character of all was Alice Cullen. The moment Ashley Greene stepped up to Bella, hugged her and announced that they were going to be very close friends, I got chills. Alice was one of my favorite characters in the series, so it was awesome to see her live and in person.

The only scene I had a complaint with was near the end, when Bella is being tracked by the bloodthirsty vampire, James. I really loved the scene in the hotel when Jasper and Alice were with Bella and Bella learned more about Alice. In the book, Bella really had to think on how she could outsmart Alice's ability to see the future, but the in film she just easily walked away and no one noticed.

If you're a fan of the books, the film won't disappoint. I can honestly say I enjoyed it and had a great time talking with my teen on the way home about my favorite parts in comparison to hers. On many things we both agreed, including that the actor playing Jacob Black has the whitest teeth in the universe and Robert Pattinson is a fantastic Edward Cullen. Get out and see it if you haven't already! It's a great reason to go to the movies--with or without a teenage daughter.


Susan said...

My daughters and I spent a portion of dinner last night trying to decide whether to read the books before seeing the movie. What do you recommend?

Morgan Mandel said...

Twilight I definitely want to see.

Morgan Mandel

Nicole Ireland said...

I loved your review. I was so excited to see the movie tomorrow night, but it's not looking like it's going to happen. I started feeling off on Wednesday night. By Thursday morning it was worse. Today was no better. Maybe I'll get lucky and be able to see it. John actually admitted he was looking forward to it. If it was as good as you say, do I go even though I'm sick? What do you think?

On another note, much to my husband's consternation, I had a long talk with the cashier at Target about the books and the movie. It was kind of funny because he was about seventeen. You don't hear of a lot of young guys reading these stories. My husband kept rolling his eyes though. Oh well. It was fun to share my enthusiasm with someone else who didn't think I was a nutjob.

Jenny Beans said...

Susan, I have always been one of those people that would rather read a book than watch a movie. I think that they are close enough in this case that you could go either way.

Morgan, I hope you get to see it in the theatre.

Nikki, I haven't felt well either, but I made myself go. My daughter was really disappointed that we didn't make it on Wednesday, so I knew if I told her to wait until tomorrow she'd probably never forgive me. I was so wrapped up in the movie that I barely noticed I wasn't feeling well. Can't wait for you to see it.

Nicole Ireland said...


Even though I haven't seen the movie yet, I've heard from others as well that it is so close to the book that it's okay to see it first. That's a rarity. Most of the time, the movie versions are so different that you miss out on so much of the storyline.

I say go see the movie and then read the book.

Laurie said...

Ah ha! So you adored Ashley Greene as Alice too :) I knew you would. Alice was my favorite from the entire series (well, aside from Edward, of course). I was disappointed with the hotel scene as well. They also skirted over Jasper's power in addition to the Alice/Bella angle. Now, how long are we going to be waiting for the next film installment?!?!? Tick, tock...

I want to go again!

Jacquéline Roth said...

I don't know that I would call the movie fantastic, but it was definitely good and worth seeing. I got a kick out of the portrayal of Emmett as a little hip-hop boy and Alice was great. I think the guy playing Jacob will be perfect for the role if they move on to do New Moon and Eclipse. The only character I had a major problem with was Jasper. NOT what I imagined. And I do think they tried too hard to make Forks "multicultural". It wasn't supposed to be, that's why Bella --a new girl-- stands out so much.

My SO started chanting "stake him" when Edward walked on screen for the first time.

I"m hearing from my middle school students that they didn't like it. Especially Edward. Personally I think it's just because they were finally able to see his whininess and found it annoying as they should have all along.

Go Team Jacob! Go Team Jasper!:o)

vampluver69 said...

I saw the movie and I loved it! I actually thought they should have stayed truer to the book. There were alot of scenes that I would have liked to see...but overall, I'm happy with it.