Vampires have been a integral part of story telling for a large portion of mankind’s history. The specifics naturally change from country to country and in response to the flow of time but a few basics remain a constant. The classic vampire is a creature of the night. Daylight is deadly to them frequently resulting in them bursting into flames. The most defining quality of a vampire is that the feed on the blood of the living. While human beings are preferable a stray mammal of any kind will do in a pinch. There is something inherent about these blood suckers that make them perfect for a large variety of stories. Traditionally the vampire story is a main stay of the horror genre. In 1922 the silent film Nosferatu thrilled and horrified audiences as the barely human vampire preyed on its innocent victims. In the early thirties ‘Dracula’ became a central part of the classic Universal studio monster flicks and the vampire had achieved world wide recognition. In the seventies and eighties the vampire’s lighter side was explored with several comedies with these creatures as the main punch line. In 1979 a new dimension of the vampire began to take hold as Frank Langella increased the sex appeal of these dark creatures. His presentation was a natural extension of Bela Lugosi incarnation of the role. We all remember how suave and sophisticated his Dracula was in his formal eveningwear and cultured mannerisms and the famous line ‘I never drink … wine’. Now the trend for vampires has taken a drastic alteration from the hideous and creature to an all out sex symbol and romantic icon. All forms of media have begun to jump on the juggernaut of a band wagon. On cable television one of the most popular new series is ‘True Blood’ about a nice southern girl who falls in love with a 260 year old vampire. For literature the header of the pack is the ‘Twilight’ series created by Stephenie Meyer. The first novel has been made into a highly anticipated movie and the teens of the world have taken notice.
At first glance it may seem strange for a foreboding creature that drains the life’s blood from its victims should become a teen movie icon but there is some rational for this. The vampire has all the requirements for a sex symbol. The male variety is typically sullen and brooding, surrounded by an air of mystery. The female vampire oozes sex and is a teenage boy’s ultimate fantasy. For both they come out at night and offer the powerful seduction of danger. Blood has always been tie to life itself and the vampire mythos tapes into the very essence of our existence. The novel ‘Twilight’ made Ms Meyer a household name in the female tween and teen world. I have read a lot of her works and she is an extremely talented story teller with a knack for off beat stories. Many kids have aged out of the Harry Potter stories and Meyer was there to give these kids something to engage them.
When a series of novels is such a fantastic success it is evitable that a movie studio would become interested in obtaining the film rights. This requires obtaining the talents of someone to translate the book to a screenplay. Taking on this task was Melissa Rosenberg. A look at her resume will show that Rosenberg has the precise experience for a project like this. She the teen part of the resume down with writing credits in television series like ‘The O.C.’ and ‘Party of Five’. She also has fantasy experience with ‘Birds of Prey’ and currently works on the immensely popular and blood laden cable television series ‘Dexter’. When writing a script for a novel that has a strong cult following there is a level of difficulty that is unheard of in other film adaptations. The fans will scream in protest at any alteration from the written work. If it is not true to the book the film will flop. The problem arises with the demands of a movie screenplay. The story has to be told in a limited amount of time. In this case every attempt was made to be faithful to the novel but some characters had to be combined for the sake of timing.
Since the primary target audience is girls it is only proper that women head up the key parts of the production. We already have a woman writing the novel and another one on the script so the triumphant was completed with the director Catherine Hardwicke. Here previous times in this capacity demonstrate a strong female voice in her films. In her 2006 film ‘The Nativity Story’ she tells a familiar story from Mary’s point of view. She also had a great narrative in ‘the Lords of Dogtown’ and told the story of a troubled teenaged girl in ‘Thirteen’. This vampire story is told from the perspective of the female lead and Hardwicke does and excellent job in relating it to the audience. The only problem in this film is not the fault of anyone involved. This is the start of a longer story that spans several novels. Any fan of comic book based films knows that the ‘origin’ story is always slower in pacing since it has to introduce the characters and lay the foundation for the major plot lines that will follow. Despite this Hardwicke does a great job of discovering the proper voice for this work and the film works for those in the target audience. It is important to remember this for those not part of that select demographic. The film received some criticism from people that the film was not intended for and some may have missed the point. Overall the films for adults but for the young girls out there this is an incredible Gothic romance.
At the heart of the story is Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart). She is experiencing one of the most dreadful things possible for a teenaged girl. She has been uprooted by her family in the middle of her junior year of high school and relocated to a small northwestern town. She feels isolated from the already predetermined social hierarchy of her new school. Bella is friendly and soon is fitting in well at school. There she meets the proverbial dark and brooding boy Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). When Bella is almost killed by a van in the parking lot suddenly Edward is there and saves her by stopping the vehicle with one hand. She discovers that Edward is a vampire and the pair fall in love. Naturally there is a rival group of vampires and a vampire hunter drawing close helping to create the required tension and conflict.
This is really a variation of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. In this case the star crossed lovers have more to contend with than opposing families; one is alive and the other, well, isn’t, technically. In watching this film I tied my best to put myself in the shoes of a teenaged girl and that helped to appreciate the romantic style of the flick. The film is reasonable for adults but lets face it we are not the people that this film is trying to reach.