Twilight: Book vs. Movie


I first read Twilight in 2008, a few months before Breaking Dawn was released and before the popularity of the series led to the first of the Twilight movies in the franchise. I was pretty into the series for a little bit there, though I moved on from the mania before it became overblown and went through a minor “no I don’t like Twilight anymore” phase. That phase and the time since the books and movies came out have allowed me to gain enough distance to see the problems with the series, as well as see what made the content appealing in the first place. Hence why I’ve been letting some nostalgia guide me lately with indulgent posts about the Twilight Saga. That being said, I do recognize the elements that others take issue with–largely the treatment of the Quileute tribe in the series, which was written by a white woman. There are also some religious overtones due to Meyer’s personal beliefs that can be interpreted in pretty negative ways.

What the movie got right

The first movie has some beautiful cinematography, especially concerning the forest setting and the way the Pacific Northwest has that iconic blue around it. In general, I think the way the Cullens are styled worked well. The actors for the Cullen children do look older and more refined than the human actors–probably a wise choice as they are meant to be such elevated beauties. They managed to create the eye color effects, as well and I think had more success in this first film than in the others with that.

Some of the choices they made–such as having real climbers go up into the tall trees for that helicopter shot–were interesting and made the movie a little bit more there. I think some of the later movies rely too heavily on CGI or bad effects, and this first one has something more raw and interesting about it.

In terms of adapting the movie, this book definitely gets book loyalty points. The plot beats are there, the main characters all make their appearances, and things that were described specifically tend to be exactly like the book counterparts. A few minor things were changed, some with larger implications, but other than that I think a lot of good choices were made with this film when testing the waters with the fanbase and what they would and wouldn’t like.

What the movie got wrong

The majority of things that went wrong in this movie were ultimately, I believe, directing decisions. Not to say the director was the worst of the whole series, and also to point out she did make a lot of good choices that are reflected in the better parts of the film. But Kristen Stewart’s directing could have been better, I think. Robert Pattinson didn’t take the role particularly seriously as we all know, but still managed to do a pretty good job of showing the hot and cold confusing way Edward interacts with Bella. Kristen Stewart’s shining moments were probably also the ones where book Bella is most clear–her dry, sarcastic moments, and her moments of high emotion and intelligence. When Bella is observing Edward, expressing anger, or being fed up with something she’s clear and decisive. But for some reason, stuttering and blinking a lot became the hallmarks of Kristen’s Bella. I honestly think this was due to poor directing, due to the way in the commentary Kristen Stewart describes trying to figure out what to do in certain scenes–usually the ones where her acting is the least convincing–and being given little guidance.

Other than that, the movie only made a handful of deviations from the book. One was to show James, Victoria, and Laurent hunting earlier in the film–but this was also a good choice for a screen adaptation, and didn’t really mess with the story at all. The wardrobe choices for these vampires were incorrect but more interesting, thus I enjoyed that. The inclusion of that last scene where Victoria makes an appearance at the prom was interesting but highly unlikely. Edward and Alice would absolutely have known if Victoria was at their prom, but it does set up for the fact that later in the series Victoria is still bent on revenge. Also that last scene is iconic.

Perhaps one of the few deviations from the book that really bothered me was how Edward and Bella go into the woods for their discussion of vampires. They do it by leaving the parking lot of school, fully visible, and then have a montage of scenes in the woods where Edward reveals more and more about himself. This is blatantly the opposite of what Bella actually did. Namely, Edward kept telling her to tell someone they had a date: her friends, her father, anyone. He did this to protect her because he was afraid he might not resist her when alone and wanted an incentive to bring her home. Bella purposefully did the opposite, in order to prove that she was ready to protect his family. She misled everybody in her life to believe she’d be in Seattle and then to believe she’d be home doing laundry. She was being immature and stupid about things, which pissed Edward off, but she felt right about it because she was trying to appeal to his family. Taking off in the middle of a school day from the school itself? Yeah that would’ve led to Edward being screamed at by half his family.

Did the movie do anything better?

I think in a lot of ways the Twilight movie did bring the book to life. I enjoyed the way the teenagers in the movie felt more like teens than in the book– a result of younger actors shaping roles written by an adult. There are some seriously funny moments of dialogue that come across like genuine seventeen-year-olds interacting! Also, some of the actors in this franchise are underappreciated gems. Actually, most of the actors are. Billy Burke, Gil Birmingham, Anna Kendrick, Nikki Reed…

Final thoughts

I don’t think either the book or movie are groundbreaking in any way. But I do think that Twilight was an entertaining and somewhat relatable escapist fantasy for a lot of us when it came out. I think the movie managed to capture that same spirit and do a pretty decent job of adapting the book loyally. There were some interesting choices made in the movie, some of which demonstrated real insight into adapting words to screen. The actors involved were talented, the soundtrack amazing, and the general vibe of the movie has a lot of nostalgia for me that’s pretty soothing against the backdrop of 2020. That being said, no franchise is without its major issues. Please take a moment and visit the Quileute Move To Higher Ground donation site, as they are raising money to move the tribal school.

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By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

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