Twilight (2008)

Rated: PG-13 for some violence and a scene of sensuality.
Length: 122 minutes
Grade: B+CBA=B+
Budget: $37 million
Box Office: $466 million (191 U.S., 191 Intl., 84 DVD)

Written by: Melissa Rosenberg did the screenplay (A bunch of TV episodes and Step Up), based on the highly popular teen novel by Stephanie Meyer
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke (The Nativity Story, Lords of Dogtown, and Thirteen)
Starring: Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.

When her mom and step-dad leave Phoenix for Florida and spring training, Bella goes to Washington state to live with her father, the chief of police in a small town. While there, she draws the attention of a strange boy from an outcast family who turn out to be benevolent vampires. Unfortunately, other vampires are in the area killing people.

Entertainment Value: B+
First of all, this is a truly beautiful film. The visual imagery and cinematography alone are stunning, which show that Hardwicke has really mastered her visual style after Nativity Story and Lords of Dogtown. Granted, the acting is a bit overdone at times, but the plot itself is intriguing and the love story is an original and fascinating twist on the classic vampire romance because these vampires don’t try to turn people and only feed on animals. Not having read the book, but having heard from a couple who have, this seems like a fairly good adaptation of a hugely successful teen romance novel series.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol A-, Sex/Nudity B, Violence C, Language B+, Illegality NA
What you normally expect in a modern vampire movie is pretty much just what this movie doesn’t give you. There is very little sexuality, even though it’s a romance. There is virtually no drug use, other than a local drunk and a reference to heroin. The language is very mild. And even the violence is only an issue in one or two scenes, particularly the end sequence. The normal blood and gore of vampire movies just isn’t here.

Significant Content: B
Unconditional love is about sacrificing yourself for someone else. Just because you have a powerful temptation, that doesn’t mean you have to be defined by it or let it overtake you. Evil nature is not evil destiny. Self-control is easiest when you have a community of support to help you with your struggles. Vampires are people, too.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
Although I can’t quite put it in the same category as 300 or Sin City for artistic accomplishment, the fact that I want to even compare it with them should tell you something. This felt very much like a graphic novel brought wonderfully to the big screen. And at the same time as the movie is visually overwhelming me, it presents semi-familiar topics in such a fresh way that my own experience was to keep asking questions about theology and ethics that I found fascinating. Simply put, this is very good art, and I would encourage parents to not dismiss this as some silly teenage obsession. This is genuine storytelling and filmmaking. Almost half a billion dollars isn’t a fluke here.

Discussion Questions:
~Are vampire movies compatible with Christianity or should Christians avoid them? How, if at all, do vampires fit a Christian worldview? Consider ideas like that life is in the blood and that blood is the source of salvation.
~Why do you think these novels and this movie have been so wildly successful with teenagers? What does this movie’s popularity have to tell you about teenage girls? It’s been said that poetry has historically served as an outlet for sexual desires that were not allowed to express themselves directly. In what way might this idea fit in here?
~Why isn’t Bella scared of Edward? Why does he seem to want her to be afraid of her? Why is he reluctant to be around her? Does her trust in him help him to overcome himself and restrain his vampire desire to drink her blood? Is she his savior? To what degree is it fair to say that the mark of the right woman is that she is enough to motivate her man to subdue his barbaric tendencies for her?
~If you could be immortal, would you want to be? Thinking about Edward’s reading and musical interests, how would immortality make all of your choices meaningless because they don’t involve any real sacrifice of something else?
~Why is forbidden love so appealing? What do you make of the comments about the lion and the lamb?
~Do you think that powerful desires of the sort the vampires feel can be overcome by self-control? What is the Christian perspective on this? In what way are the two sorts of vampires in this movie an illustration of sinners and saints?
~To what degree is the vampire concept a good metaphor for lust, especially as opposed to love? Consider Edward as a very self-aware sinner who wants to protect Bella from himself. How does Dr. Cullen represent love as opposed to lust in his use of his own vampireness?
~For vampires trying to overcome themselves, how important do you think it is that they openly support each other in a tight community like this? How might we learn from this?
~Do you think that our natures define our destinies? To what degree can we resist an undesirable self-nature?

Overall Grade: B+
Christians might have been skeptical about this one because it’s about vampires, but there’s plenty of interesting stuff here to think about from a Christian perspective. Whereas Lost Boys turned out to be another good vampire movie, this is a breathtaking romance that happens to involve vampires.

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