Twilight of the Vampire

Vampires have graced the silver screen since the early days of cinema.

German director F.W. Murnau and actor Max Schreck defined the vampire genre in Nosferatu (1922). Ever since then we’ve had the Hammer Horror series (starring Christopher Lee) and the odd Dracula film here and there — but none have matched the classical film as of yet. Hungarian actor Béla Lugosi became a legend of the silver screen defining the character of Count Dracula. So much so, that he was associated with it for the rest of his life.

Later, notable entries in this genre included Joel Schumacher’s Lost Boys (1992), which was more comedy than horror and was popular with teenage audiences. That same year, Francis Ford Coppola made Bram Stoker’s Dracula, adapted closely from the Irishman’s novel. Though it did create a ruckus at the box office, critics questioned the faithfulness of the movie against the novel and Keanu Reeves’ lackluster performance.

Two years later, Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire (1994) redefined the genre, resurrecting the bloodsucker from slumber. Though Rice considerably diluted the origins of the fabled beast, her humanisation of the characters is what made the movie strong. And not to mention some amazing performances by Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and an 11-year-old Kirsten Dunst.

Sixteen years later and there’s a new contender to the box-office throne of the vampire. Novelist Stephenie Meyer joins the prestigious league of writers whose novels about vampires have been made into blockbuster movies. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) the film opened to the highest grosses every by a female director.

Twilight dilutes the vampire mythos further by turning it into a teenage romantic drama. The once menacing story about a monster now becomes a shadow of beauty and the beast.

After her father remarries, 17-year-old Bella Swan moves to another town to live with him and his new wife where new surroundings, new school and new friends await her. But when she sits next to Edward Cullen on her first day, there is a strange attraction between the two. More strangeness happens when Edward stops a speeding van — with his bare hands no less — from hitting her. Ultimately Bella learns that Edward is a vampire.

Edward displays characteristics unbecoming of a vampire, he only drinks the blood of animals and uncharacteristically introduces Bella to his vampire family. News spreads fast in the world of vampires, and word of Edward’s infatuation with a human reaches James, Victoria and Laurent. They’re three nomadic vampires who share a much more monstrous interest than Edward in Bella. Will Edward’s angst save the helpless Bella from them or will they spell the end for their romance and Bella herself?

On many levels, the whole aspect of vampirism in the story plays out more like Romeo and Juliet. Those expecting gore, fangs and tall capes better look elsewhere. This is just a simple story about forbidden teenage love.

Kristen Stewart stars as Bella Swan. Stewart has stared in an array of productions, Panic Room, Zathura, In the Land of Women, The Messengers, Catch That Kid, and the critically acclaimed Into the Wild. However she will probably be best known for her role in Twilight. And it doesn’t stop for her here since the remaining two books and adventures of Bella await her.

Newcomer Robert Pattinson stars as Edward Cullen, the 108-year-old vampire who appears to be 17. Pattison achieved minor fame when he portrayed Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And now he’s earned a heartthrob role of his own in Twilight, in which he mostly looks around, acts morbid and pouts every now again.

Hardwicke’s direction of the actors, particularly the leads, is impressive. She captures each actor’s best emotions and gives them a completely natural feel. It is something that she previously did in Thirteen. Also most of the film has a hand-held type feel, which boosts its realism. Melissa Rosenberg developed an outline by the end of August and collaborated with Hardwicke on writing the screenplay during the following month. She was a great sounding board and had all sorts of brilliant ideas.... I’d finish off scenes and send them to her, and get back her notes, writes the screenwriter about working with the novelist.

Due to the impending WGA strike, Rosenberg worked full-time to finish the screenplay before October 31. In adapting the novel, she “had to condense a great deal.” Some characters from the novel were not featured in the screenplay, whereas some characters were combined into others. “Our intent all along was to stay true to the book,” Rosenberg explained, adding, “and it has to do less with adapting it word for word and more with making sure the characters’ arcs and emotional journeys are the same.” Hardwicke suggested the use of voiceover to convey the protagonist’s internal dialogue — since the novel is told from Bella’s point of view — and she sketched some of the storyboards during pre-production.

Overall, it is a faithful adaptation of the story and in this age of Eragons and Harry Potters, Twilight stands on its own feet rather than ride on the coat tails of other teen movies. And while the film has gone on to make an impressive $187 million dollars at the global box office so far and plans for its sequel, New Moon, are underway, director Catherine Hardwicke has parted ways with its production. She cited time restrictions, saying, “I am sorry that due to timing I will not have the opportunity to direct New Moon. Directing Twilight has been one of the great experiences of my life, and I am grateful to the fans for their passionate support of the film. I wish everyone at (the production company) the best with the sequel — it is a great story.”

It was announced that Chris Weitz, director and writer of The Golden Compass and co-director of American Pie was hired to direct New Moon. Weitz said, “I am honored to have been entrusted with shepherding New Moon from the page to the screen.”

And so another legacy of blockbusters begins at the box office. Twilight is a film that will surely deepen its bite into the interest of audiences around the world.