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Caution: potential spoilers
So, of course this is the first installment of a hugely popular series of movies, which are based on a hugely popular series of books (none of which I've read). The series (in either book or film form) is supposed to appeal more to girls than guys (and to a certain extent, to girls more than women). But hey, I'm a guy, and I liked it. A bit more than I expected to, though still not nearly as much as the movie's core demographic of teenaged girls and young women. Anyway, I should probably tell you a bit of what the movie's about, though unless you've been living in a cave (without magazines, TV, or internet), chances are you already know. Before I get into it, though, I should say that throughout the early part of the movie, I kept feeling that I might like it more if I didn't know as much about the movie as I did before I even watched it. Not that the "secret" certain characters were keeping would have been hard to guess, in any event. Still, I'll also say that while I knew the basic premise of the movie, I didn't really know much in the way of details, so there was still room for a few surprises, and certainly for entertainment.
It begins with a high school junior named Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), moving from Phoenix, Arizona, to the small town of Forks, Washington. Her parents had divorced when Bella was young, I guess, and she's been living with her mother, Renée, for years. She used to visit her father, Charlie (Billy Burke), for a couple weeks a year, though apparently it's been some time since she last saw him. I guess. Anyway, he's the chief of police in Forks. Um, I should say that Renée has recently married a guy named Phil, and the two of them went to Florida together, while Bella went to Forks to stay with her dad, for awhile. She soon encounters a childhood friend named Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), whose father, Billy, is a good friend of Charlie. Jacob's family are part of the local Quileute tribe, who I guess live in or near a place called La Push, which as far as I can tell so far is a beach somewhere outside Forks, but maybe it's a whole town, I dunno. Anyway... we see Jacob a few times in the course of the movie, and there's something I already knew about him, which is barely hinted at in the movie. I was kinda surprised it didn't actually come into play yet, but there are a few more movies after this one, in which I suppose Jacob will become a more important character, and the truth about him will be revealed. For now, he basically served to provide Bella with a bit of information about the Cullens. But I'll get to that in a bit.
Bella starts school in March, the middle of the semester. She seems to sort of like being an outsider, but nevertheless she quickly makes a few friends. There are a couple of guys, Mike Newton and Eric Yorkie, who both seem to be interested in Bella, though she isn't really interested in them. There are also a couple of girls, Jessica Stanley (Anna Kendrick) and Angela Weber. Eventually, Bella encourages Mike to ask Jessica to the prom and Angela to ask Eric. Meanwhile, Bella herself had quickly become interested in a boy named Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), though Jessica had told her on the first day not to even bother trying with him, because he wasn't interested in anyone. Still, Bella and Edward become lab partners in Biology... and at first he seems totally disinterested, and even tries (unsuccessfully) to quit the class to avoid her. Then he's absent for the rest of the week, which I guess piques Bella's curiosity... or something. Um, and while I'm on the subject of Edward, I should mention that he was adopted by Dr. Carlisle Cullen, and his wife Esme. The two of them had in fact adopted a number of children: Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene), who is totally my favorite of the group, Emmett Cullen, Rosalie Hale, and Jasper Hale. They all go to high school together, and apparently Emmett and Rosalie are a couple, as are Alice and Jasper, which the other kids find weird, even if none of them are related by blood. I dunno, so far I haven't really seen anything particularly relationshippy about any of them, it's just sort of mentioned, in passing. Also I should say that in the first movie, I never really felt like I got to know most of them at all, with the exception of Alice and Rosalie. Just a bit. I should also say that Bella's complexion is ridiculously pale, but not quite as pale as that of the Cullen clan. They're like preternaturally pale (or some were; certainly Edward and Carlisle, I don't actually remember the others being so pale, but maybe. My memory sucks, I just finished watching the movie and already I forget such details; but like I say, I didn't really get to know most of them).
Um... so anyway, the second week, Edward returns, and starts acting a bit friendlier toward Bella. And at one point, saves her life when another student almost hits her with his truck. Even though he'd clearly been standing too far away to get to her in time, and certainly a normal person wouldn't be strong enough to stop a vehicle like that (though Edward later claims it was an adrenaline rush). Still, the incident makes Bella more curious about him than ever... and over the course of their acquaintance, he's constantly giving her mixed signals; often he says they shouldn't be friends, even though he wants to be. Eventually, Bella figures out the reason behind both his seeming impossible speed and strength, as well as his strange behavior: he and his family are actually vampires. Also, he says he can read people's minds, but not Bella's. And Alice gets visions of the future (though the future can change). I don't recall any mention being made of the others in his family having special powers. Though we do learn a few things about vampires that don't fit with traditional lore. For example, according to the movie, the real reason vampires avoid sunlight isn't because it hurts them... but I won't reveal what the reason actually is. (Though it's kind of funny that they choose to live in a place like this because of the frequent rain, which means there are often clouds obscuring the sun.)
Anyway... Edward continues trying to convince Bella that she should fear him, because he wants her blood more than that of any other human he's ever encountered. And when a vampire starts drinking, a frenzy comes over them, and it's nearly impossible to stop. But his family only drink from animals, not humans. Still, he's not sure he can resist the temptation... but ultimately, both he and Bella can't avoid their feelings for each other (even though I don't think the movie ever really demonstrated any reason for them to fall in love). But after awhile, Edward introduces Bella to his family, and while most of them are welcoming (especially Alice, who says they'll be good friends), Rosalie is pretty much against Edward's involvement with her. Meanwhile, throughout the film there are a couple of killings being investigated by Bella's father, which at first were thought to have been done by animals, though it later becomes clear they were done by vampires. (Or actually, as far as Charlie knows, by a human, since he has no reason to suspect the existence of vampires.) But eventually, we meet these other vampires: James, Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre), and Laurent. James and Victoria will become a problem for Bella and the Cullens, but I don't really want to give away anything specific about that. I do think it's the most interesting aspect of the movie, though.
Um... so, yeah, I don't really want to say any more about the plot. I feel like I've given away too much already, but I can't think how to say less. It's not a bad story, even if I found the romance at the center to be somewhat underwhelming. It's a basic Romeo and Juliet scenario, taken to a supernatural extreme... and while that is probably the most famous love story in literary history, personally I never saw any reason for Romeo and Juliet to fall in love, either... so there you go. Of course, vampires have also often served as a metaphor for sexual desire, and Twilight's main theme is basically about the difficulty (and virtue) of abstinence. Which is something I can support, though I do think it's a bit extreme to compare abstinence from premarital sex to abstinence from succumbing to a desire to drink someone's blood until they are dead. But whatever. In any event... not a great movie, but it was a decent start. There were definitely some things I liked about it, things I found amusing (like the baseball game during a thunder storm), as well as some good action and drama. And I suspect the subsequent installments could get more interesting....