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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Film

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, from the novel by Stephanie Meyer
Aby Davis review

There’s a well known phrase that goes a bit like this: Behind every big blockbuster is a massively successful novel. It’s not really a well known phrase despite my best efforts, because I just made it up, but there has always been a pattern of books making it visual on the big screen, and the latest one to fill our cinemas is Twilight, a vampire romance based on the phenomenally successful books by Stephanie Meyer. If you haven’t heard of the books, you’ve no doubt heard of the film because all your mates are raving on about Robert Patterson and how handsome he is.

Patterson’s on screen character - Edward Cullen - is everyone’s favourite nightmare, handsome and brooding ala Darcy/Heathcliff/Captain Von Trappe. his love interest, Bella is a gloomy girl- next- door dumped in Forks (a small, rainy town in Washington) to live with her dad, Chief Charlie Swan. Bella is lost and lonely and drifting about school until BAM! Her eyes lock with Edward Cullen as he sits with his weird siblings across a crowded cafeteria. It soon transpires that he is a vampire, she clearly is not, and so the age- old star-crossed lovers formula lays out a love story for the generation that grew out of Harry Potter. Like Harry Potter in America, Meyer’s books have sold in their millions and topped best-sellers nationwide, except the Twilight series is only four books long and much, much sexier. Something HP was NEVER destined to be.

I finished the last in the series, Breaking Dawn recently, and while it was gripping and a satisfying end to the series, I questioned how it could ever be made into a film. The series gets darker with more grit and blood (after all, the protagonist is going out with a vampire!) than anything the first book dealt with, horrifying in detail and Meyer puts her characters through hell.

Twilight, however was a nice easy one to begin with. Boy meets Girl, Boy wants to drink girl’s blood, Boy dates girl despite wanting to drink her blood, evil vampire tries to kill Girl and Boy gets to drink some of Girl’s blood in the end anyway, Girl doesn’t mind and goes to the prom with him. A perfect film adaptation in the making: romance, drama, sexy vampires in tuxedos, oh and a potential love rival to keep things interesting. So it was with ease that I settled back to watch Catherine Hardwicke’s version of events. It looked beautiful: lush green scenery washed in blues created a gloomy small town, heavy with the loneliness and discomfort of the leading lady. I must confess though, I never got what Bella had to be so miserable about, I don’t recall her cracking a smile more than twice. Then what’s there to smile about when your boyfriend calls you ‘yummy’ and means it?

Fortunately, Hardwick’s version stuck nicely to Meyer’s plot and nothing seemed too out of place. The script made me cringe in places, Edward didn’t sound quite right when he told Bella to ‘hold tight, spider monkey!’ as he raced her through the trees, and he sounded like he was thinking of auditioning for a bad grunge band when he told her she was his ‘personal type of heroin,’ but I let him off. Love makes us say funny things. As the book is told in the first person, the issue for Hardwick was to ensure we knew Bella’s thoughts- as they are integral to the story. Cue the opening internal monologue with words straight from the prologue of the book. A beautiful deer sips demurely from a pool deep in a forest as something sinister watches it from the bushes. Bella’s voice is steady,

"I'd never given much thought to how I would die---though I'd had reason enough in the last few months---but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this! Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved,"

Before I saw Twilight I asked my friends what they thought of it, I made a mistake however in asking those friends who loved the books so much that Edward was their screensaver and they were ordering Mrs Cullen t-shirts on the internet. Needless to say, they hated it. ‘Not long enough to fully make us appreciate their love, rubbish acting, ugly actors, ridiculous special effects...ok, the special effects were spectacularly rubbish and the flying/running-really-fast vampires were jerked about on their wires like Pinocchio, but I found that all quite charming. I feel fond of films with bad special effects; they seem earnest and unashamed of their small budget. All in all, it was a very decent book adaptation. Not as good as the book of course, they rarely are, but an enjoyable film. I would think it was necessary for anyone to read the book first as there are subtleties of language and subtext which don’t translate so well onto the screen. And if you really hate the film, the soundtrack is a decent enough distraction.

Twilight is not the first popular book to make it onto the small screen, but it is also not the best. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of book to screen adaptations, as well as ones to watch out for on DVD:

Based on Louis Sacher’s bestseller of the same name, Holes tells the story of Stanley Yelnats: a boy with terminally bad luck. When a case of wrong place, wrong time leads him to a detention camp in the middle of a desert, he is forced to dig holes all day with a merry band of inmates. No one questions why their digging holes, or what it is that the manic Warden is so desperate to find buried beneath the desert.
The film’s screenplay was also written by Louis Sacher so the plot is pretty identical to the book. Sigourney Weaver is brilliantly brutal and absolutely nuts as Warden Walker, and a young Shia LaBoef of Transformers fame plays the terrifically named Stanley Yelnats. It would be hard to mess up such a satisfyingly tidy storyline as the one in Sacher’s book, so the only qualm I have about this movie is: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Funny, silly, exciting and downright ridiculous. This parody of the fantasy-adventure genre is very eightees and out-dated, but still good. Buttercup is the most beautiful girl in the land and only discovers she loves her ‘farm boy’,Westley, to lose him to pirates as he tries to make his fortune for their future overseas. Being the most beautiful girl in the land, Prince Humperdink decides to marry her, and as Westley is gone and she doesn’t care much about anything anymore, she decides to go along with it. A plot to kidnap her and start a war with a neighbouring country soon unravels, and Buttercup’s less than able kidnappers are thwarted by a man in black...but who is he?
William Goldman’s novel is still much funnier, the writing is witty and the characters are all bonkers, but this is one case of reading the book afterwards and loving it...whilst still holding the film in high esteem.

© Aby Davis Jan 2009
Aby is in the final year of her Creative Writing Degree at the Univerrsity of Portsmouth
Laura Marling
Aby Davis Review
The Wedgewood rooms, Portsmouth. Amidst the company of young girls with un-straightened hair and charity shop scarves, and some mums wearing embroidered jeans I anticipated excellent live music from 18 year old new folk-ist, Laura Marling.

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