The modestly budgeted film adaptation of “Twilight” doesn’t have quite the bite of Stephenie Meyer’s addictive novels.
But the legions of fans of the phenomenally popular four-book series should be thrilled with the movie, which remains faithful to the first novel without being handcuffed to it.
After her mother remarries and begins traveling with her new husband, awkward teenager Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) reluctantly moves from sunny Phoenix to the small, gloomy town of Forks, Wash., where her dad (Billy Burke) is chief of police.
Bella fits in at her new school better than expected, but notices one group doesn’t: The Cullen “family,” five incredibly beautiful and private teenagers all adopted by the youthful Dr. Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli) and his wife Esme (Elizabeth Reaser).
Bella is drawn to Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), though he seems to take an intense dislike to her — until he miraculously saves her from being crushed to death by a runaway van.
She sets out to uncover an explanation for Edward’s superhuman speed and strength, and when her American Indian pal Jacob (Taylor Lautner) tells her the tribal legend of the “cold ones,” the answer clicks. The Cullens are vampires, though they choose to live only on animal blood rather than feeding on humans.
Edward finds himself just as irresistibly drawn to Bella as she is to him, but his craving for her blood, despite his convictions, puts her in constant danger. The risks get bigger when a coven of not-so-refined vampires starts pursuing Bella.
The novel is driven by Bella’s thoughts and conversations with Edward, and is written in the passionate tone of a romance novel. Some of the dialogue and circumstances translate clumsily to film, but director Catherine Hardwicke keeps the story mostly on track. A few events from the book are shifted to keep the plot moving.
Stewart and Pattinson have convincing chemistry as the star-crossed lovers.
The biggest drawbacks are the cheap special effects, which look cheesy and unconvincing, and the soundtrack, which unnecessarily and loudly punctuates every development.
Still, the film should be considered essential viewing for fans of the books, as it keeps the fundamentals of Meyer’s saga intact. And for people who haven’t read them, the movie offers two hours of solid if not exactly groundbreaking entertainment.