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'Twilight' Countdown: The critics weigh in

November 19, 2008 |  1:55 pm

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Excited? I'm sure many of you are going to Thursday's midnight screenings of "Twilight," and I can't wait to hear the reviews.

But what are the critics saying? Are the paid professionals, many of whom no doubt have not read Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" saga, buying into Bella and Edward''s forbidden-love story?   

So far, so good:

Michael Phillips at the Chicago Tribune is mostly pleased, calling "Twilight" a film of "intelligent strengths [albeit] easily avoidable weaknesses." He gives props to screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg for a script he deems "better written than Meyer's book, which tends toward froth and fulmination. (Sample line: 'I was in danger of being distracted by his livid, glorious face.') [...] And she tones up her heroine, who was a passive Victorian simp -- pure fainting-couch material -- on the page." Phillips' biggest beef? The special effects, which he equates to "a weaker episode from season six of 'Charmed.' "

Metromix.com's Geoff Berkshire also says Rosenberg succeeds in upping the ante of Meyer's book but comes up split on leads Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson: "As far as human-vampire romances go 'Twilight' has nothing on the best seasons of TV’s 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' but director Catherine Hardwicke’s cinematic vision is blessedly (sorry, hardcore Twilighters) a lot more enjoyable than Meyer’s clunky prose. Major props to Stewart, who refuses to turn Bella into a lovestruck sap, and anchors the movie with the ease and authority of both a great actress and a true movie star. The same can’t be said just yet for her much drooled over co-star. Pattinson takes some admirable risks to shift his character away from the stereotypical brooding rebel, but whether his career follows the teen idol lead of Johnny Depp or Luke Perry is open for debate."

Rick Bentley of the Detroit Free Press thinks both actors did a fine job, saying: "Their work should silence many of the critics." "Pattinson makes brooding a science. And Stewart finds the right blend of strength and vulnerability to play Bella. The supporting cast is strong, especially Nikki Reed as the headstrong Rosalie and Rachelle Lefevre as Victoria. And the non-vampire high school students are the best supporting cast in a vampire tale since the days of 'Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.'" But again, those pesky low-budget effects are a problem: "The special abilities of the vampires, such as super speed, looks gimmicky. Scenes in which Edward races or flies through the forest come across as bad puppet theater."

The film's strongest naysayer so far is Variety's Justin Chang, who describes the entire affair as anemic: "Even with angsty rock songs, lurching camerawork and emo-ish voiceover at her disposal, Hardwicke can't get inside the head of her young protagonist, Isabella 'Bella' Swan; consequently, Bella's decision to get hot and heavy with a hot-and-hungry vampire, far from seeming like an act of mad, transgressive passion, comes across as merely stupid and ill-considered. The result is a supernatural romance in which the supernatural and romantic elements feel rushed, unformed and insufficiently motivated, leaving audiences with little to do but shrug and focus on the eye-candy."

But Roger Ebert called it "lush and beautiful," said the actors were "well-chosen" and predicted that fans of the book will be "mesmerized": " 'Twilight' will mesmerize its target audience, 16-year-old girls and their grandmothers. ... Last time I saw a movie in that same theater, the audience welcomed it as an opportunity to catch up on gossip, texting, and laughing at private jokes. This time the audience was rapt with attention. ... Afterwards, I eavesdropped on some conversations. A few were saying, 'He's so hot!' More floated in a sweet dreaminess. Edward seemed to stir their surrender instincts."

Seeing "Twilight" on Thursday at midnight? E-mail me your review at Denise.Martin@latimes.com and I'll post a round-up first thing Friday morning. I want to hear all your thoughts!

And catch up on past Countdown interviews: Robert Pattinson (Parts 1, 2 and 3), Kristen Stewart, author Stephenie Meyer, director Catherine Hardwicke (Parts 1 and 2), screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, Peter Facinelli, Edi Gathegi and Taylor Lautner.

-- Denise Martin

Related:
Complete "Twilight" Countdown coverage
Complete "Twilight" coverage on Hero Complex

Photo credit: Associated Press

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