Watching with my Finger on the Rewind Button: My Twilight Experience

Twilight

Yesterday I checked out a library copy of the movie Twilight with Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson and found myself unexpectedly enthralled by the chemistry between Bella and Edward onscreen.  Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I watched anything that had me pausing and rewinding so much so as to catch every expression and nuance.

Confession: I’m kind of out of the pop culture loop now and have been since I quit my job as a youth services librarian to stay home with my son and downscaled my life accordingly.  But I did read Twilight when it came out and found it entertaining but hardly inspirational.  I didn’t go mad for Edward Cullen, and I did not go on to read any of Twilight‘s sequels.  It has not escaped my notice that Stephanie Meyer’s books have become a YA marketing sensation, but I never felt the need to immerse myself in her world again.

I was also only vaguely aware that a movie of the first book was being made.  I wasn’t at the movie theater when it opened, and I didn’t rent it when it first was released on DVD either.  I waited until a library copy became available.  I’d heard there was some mild controversy over the casting of Robert Pattinson, previously only really known for being Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but I was unconcerned.  Really, I only wanted to see how they translated this story visually.  It’s actually nice when you have so little invested because the possibility of being disappointed is so much less.

So imagine my shock when I cued this thing up on my DVD player and found myself completely entranced with what was happening in the little town of Forks, Washington; vampire population: 10.

I suppose I should make a note of my grievances first.  They are few, but not unimportant.  First, this star-crossed lovers’ story is not exactly groundbreaking fiction.  Edward is a vampire who tries not to victimize people but spends much of his time loathing his noble, beautiful (but monstrous) nature.  Bella is the new girl in town and at school who doesn’t fit in and finds herself drawn to the one boy who is the worst possible choice for her in terms of a future together and her present personal safety.  They are inexplicably drawn to each other, sensing in the other a soulmate and therefore ignoring or attempting to sweep away the barriers to a relationship.  Nothing really new there.

Second, the suspense part of Twilight‘s plot is not much more skillfully interwoven with the love story in the movie than it was in the book, and Bella makes the same bone-headed decision to sacrifice herself (completely unnecessarily) at its climax.

And third, clearly this project’s special effects budget was an early casualty of this recession.  Edward’s vampire gifts and talents don’t look real.  When he all but flies up a steep hill, you can almost see the wires.  When he sparkles in the sunlight, it looks more like he fell in a vat of glitter glue than that his skin is glowing.  And occasionally Edward’s blocking, such as that in the Big Reveal, is clumsily done.  The viewer is told that he is amazingly powerful, but despite some evidence, it’s sort of hard to believe.

But, honestly, who cares if he’s not really that scary?  Robert Pattinson’s oddly flat, sharp planed face is the most fascinating thing to watch.  The triangles that make up his eyes, his nose, his cheekbones, shift from equilateral to isosceles to scalene with his changing expressions, and it’s the most interesting geometry lesson ever.  And his chemistry with his costar, Kristen Stewart, is explosive.  They are interesting enough in their scenes with other people, but when they  are onscreen together, the tension and intensity rachets up about 50,000 notches.  You cannot take your eyes off of them.

It wasn’t just that I wanted to watch Edward.  I wanted to watch Bella too.  I wanted to study her expressions.  I wanted to watch her watching him.  The story has a fairly decent-sized cast, and some of the secondary characters are quite enjoyable (I particularly enjoyed Bella’s laconic father), but anyone fades in the background the second these two start interacting.  His obsession and protectiveness; her determination to not be put off by him – this is good stuff.

And when they finally decided to get it on, it’s just, well, WOW.  I don’t think I’ve ever watched an onscreen kiss and actually felt my heartbeat slow and then quicken.  It’s such a slow, slow, deliberate embrace – until it isn’t.  I was shocked at how erotic the scene was when basically they were just kissing for a minute.

Twilight is a romance more than it is a fantasy or a suspense story.  A real romantic romance – lovers divided, coming together, an epic, toss-everything-else-to-the-wind sort of love, and I can’t remember the last time I saw anything on the big screen that effectively invoked that kind of romance magic.  I feel slightly embarrassed writing this – I’m a 38-year-old mom and this is a teenage love story – but there you have it.  I’ve watched numerous key scenes five, six, or seven times because of their emotional impact, and I haven’t been this familiar with the rewind button since I watched Anne of Avonlea as a teenager and swooned over Gilbert Blythe and Anne Shirley’s interrupted love.

Again, WOW.

– Rachel Potter

17 thoughts on “Watching with my Finger on the Rewind Button: My Twilight Experience

  1. Thanks for the review, Rachel. I am like you. I read the first novel, was not impressed, and did not read any of the other books. My daughter was very disappointed in me, especially since she couldn’t coax me to get to Book 4 (or was it Book3), where she swore I would really love the series. She’ll be happy to know I will try out the movie. In fact, I will send her a link to your review and see what she says.

  2. Twilight makes a lot more sense if you’ve read “Midnight Sun”, the story told from Edward’s point of view. Stephenie Meyer has put the unedited, unfinished version of “Midnight Sun” on her website. She says she will finish it one day. Hopefully not too long in the future.

    I’m in my forties, I don’t read YA novels but hearing so much about Twilight, I decided to give it a try. When I went to see the movie, I hadn’t read the book yet, only “Midnight Sun” and I really, really enjoyed myself. Of course, you have to suspend disbelief quite often, but if you let yourself go, you can have fun with Twilight.

    I read the book afterwards and if I had done only that, I would have missed a lot. I feel the story told only from Bella’s point of view doesn’t always make sense, there are things missing, quite a few elements remain unexplained.

    So, have some more fun with Twilight and go and read “Midnight Sun”, even if it not the final version yet.

  3. I am a 53 year old and I read the first 3 Twilight books and plan to read the last one. My 16 year old daughter got me interested and I loved them all. I fell in love with Edward and I couldn’t believe I’d be interested in a book about high school kids. To me Edward is my secret fantasy: he’s handsome, romantic, has super strength, is always there to save Bella from danger, and he’s rich too! I also enjoyed the movie, but the books are better!

    Perhaps I never really grew up because I read all of the Harry Potter books too and eagerly await each movie’s release along with my kids!

    One of my friends who is 49 also read all the Twilight books because of her daughter and enjoyed them also. So ladies give them a try!

  4. i enjoyed the movie too…and i have now watched it six times (including the audio commentary version). while i cannot pinpoint why i am so addicted to it, i think much of it has to do with the chemistry between the characters and their earnest delivery. the movie and book had their faults (six time viewing does not diminish those), but i liked it.

  5. I have read all of the Twilight books and enjoyed them immensely.
    I am 66 years old and don’t usually read YA, but needed to see what all the hype was about. I am very glad I did.

  6. I haven’t watched the movie (did enjoy the book) but I had much the same reaction to the movie “Secretary.” I could watch their faces for hours.

  7. Wasn’t that the best screen kiss ever? Definitely erotic, one of my favorite parts in the whole movie. I agree with your assessment of the special effects – hopefully movie two will be better.

  8. Count me as another who is enthralled by the movie. I own the DVD and I admit that I’ve watched it frequently…more times than I can count, truly. (Sometimes I just put it on as background.) The first time I saw the movie (in the theatre), I thought the acting was stilted and awkward, but now I truly think that Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson do a great job of capturing the essence of the characters and the push-pull of their relationship. There’s no question that the effects are rather cheesy, but I find that I don’t mind too much. I appreciate that they stayed so true to the original story, and I thought they did an excellent job with the casting and the imagery. Another favorite part of the film is the music! They really did an excellent job with the song selection. (I bought the soundtrack, and my particular affection for Flightless Bird/American Mouth — the song Edward and Bella dance to in the prom scene — has introduced me to the group Iron & Wine. I now own many of their CDs. I recommend the album “The Shepherd’s Dog” and particularly the song “Resurrection Fern.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMouvawdbKc )

    I’m VERY MUCH looking forward to the New Moon movie this November…as well as Eclipse in June 2010. My confession-of-the-day is that I have a few Twilight sites bookmarked so I can get the latest updates on the movie’s progress. Ha!

  9. Three friends and I went to see “Twilight”–three of us had read the book, one had not. While I found myself explaining some things to our uninitiated friend, I still really, really liked this movie. And you’re right about that kiss. Wooeeee. But the best part of going to the movie was hearing the young teenage girls in front of us squee whenever Bella and Edward kissed! I would go see it again. And now I’m off to read “Midnight Sun” to get Edward’s point of view.

  10. Loved the book, loved the movie, loved the soundtrack – and so therefore do the neighbours (: The scene where they walk into the cafe and Bella first sees them, the kiss, the car accident, the baseball scene… Its probably one movie that has translated well to the big screen and I think that has to do with the fact that they actually followed the book fairly faithfully.
    Ditto on the casting. Just perfect, except for the slight possibility of Rosalie – I was definitely hearing a different accent in my mind.

  11. Loved all four of the them. Being a big vampire romance fan I enjoyed reading all the books because I wanted to see how it ends. After reading all the books, I was over the moon when I heard they were doing the movie. I was very pleasantly surprised when I saw the movie (four times). Not only did it translate very well to the screen but they stuck very closely to the novel. Of course I had to buy the DVD when it came out (and watched it again…).

    After reading Stephanie’s novels, I’ve read a few other YA books that impressed me (authors such as Melissa Marr, Susan Beth Pfeffer and Jeanne DuPrau to name a few).

    I’m looking forward to New Moon when it comes out. Thanks Tara, I’m going to read “Midnight Sun” shortly.

  12. I read all four of the books in the Twilight series and the only one that I give a second look at is the fourth one. I only read them to find out what all the hype was about, it must be a teenage thing I have read much better. As for the movie I only made it through the first ten minutes, after this review I might give it another try.

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