Biting with angst

It’s fitting that “Twilight” slipped in to the “Harry Potter” slot this year; which was set to be the year-end blockbuster in a season generally overrun with more serious, artier fare. (“Harry Potter” is now premiering in June 2009.) Ironic it is too that not since “Potter” has a series of novels, along with a fiendish cult following, taken over the zeitgeist in such sweeping fashion.

It was only matter of time before Stephenie Meyer’s wildly popular novel about forbidden love between a vampire and a human made its jump to the big screen. But the wait that so many “twilighters” have been chomping at the bit for leaves you unquenched.

Social outcast Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and resident bloodsucker Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) play Romeo and Juliet, the “emo” version. The long faced, darkly clad lovers substitute romantic prose and starry-eyed gazes for distorted dialogue and intense glares of verbal constipation.

Edward can barely stave off his thirst for human blood (only possible via a “vegetarian diet” of animals). He and his family of veggie vamps must protect Bella after a “tracker” vampire named James (Cam Gigandet) gets a whiff of her scent in a confrontation with her and the Cullen clan. From there, “Twilight” morphs into a game of cat and mouse. It’s a subplot that feels not like an organic part of the story; but as a contrivance thrown in to make you believe there’s a coherent story with a defined ending being told.

“Twilight” works better when it focuses on the inner struggles of Edward and Bella’s emotions. Pattinson and Stewart do convincing enough jobs in several key scenes together to engage even the most testosterone driven viewer (who are few and far between). But an unnecessary voice-over from Stewart takes away from the anxiety that builds up waiting to see what she is going to do next. When she finally shuts up and you start to take the dive with the young lovers, you’re abruptly interrupted by a subplot that is rushed and underdeveloped.

Grade: D+