Look, fuck it: If you really liked the Twilight books, you'll probably really enjoy the Twilight movie. Although your favorite line of dialogue, whatever it is, will probably not make it into the movie, and that will give you something to complain about on the message boards at www.bellaandedward.com for months to come. If you have no desire to read Twilight—or if you tried it and found the hackneyed dialogue and empty-headed plotlessness too offensive to continue—there is absolutely no reason for you to see this movie.
The tragic part is that a few of the actors are really trying here, with varying levels of success. Robert Pattinson, with his lustrous hair piled high and weightless as Cool Whip atop his head, does his best sullen, muttery James Dean impersonation as vampire Edward Cullen. Unfortunately, when it comes time for his character to fall in love with Bella (Kristen Stewart), his true lack of acting ability comes through: He all but disappears from the screen when he has to do something more than mope prettily. It's Stewart who surprises: She takes a character as pathetic and poorly constructed as Bella—basically a purposeless cipher until the man of her dreams ambles along—and makes her a convincing, rounded person. Billy Burke, too, as Bella's taciturn dad, brings a much stronger, more nuanced performance to the movie than is really required.
Twilight's production values are exactly what you'd expect from this kind of money-hungry teenage-girl bait. Almost all the special effects consist of muddied speed lines to simulate ultrafast movement or some rickety wire-fu to imitate supernatural climbing. The television show Smallville has better superpower effects than what we get here, and that's not saying much of anything at all. But the cheap-ass effects wouldn't seem so egregious if they were in service to a director who was at all confident in the material. Because most of the film consists of endless stretches of dialogue, Catherine Hardwicke moves the camera around her actors ceaselessly in order to do something. At two points the expository chatter gets so dull that the camera just starts panning around to different elements of scenery—look! A mossy tree!—rather than stick with the monotony of two actors yapping.
Parts of the movie are more satisfying than the book. The bad guys are introduced much earlier in the film, creating a semirespectable simulacrum of a plot. Unlike the book, which relays the climax second-hand during the closing denouement, there is a climactic battle (not a very good one, but still) onscreen. It's better, too, to watch Bella and Edward interact than to read about it. At first, as they snap and snark at each other, they appear mildly alarmed by their own budding puppy love, like a monkey who can't quite stop touching an electric fence. And, most welcome of all, they laugh with each other. Unlike the book, where the two lovers continually make oaths and vows and repeatedly (and with grave seriousness) proclaim their love, these two people actually seem to like each other. It's not enough to save the movie, but it's a notable improvement. Hopefully, Twilight author Stephenie Meyer will notice that little bit of humanity and strive to include it in her next manuscript. Maybe that way, all this celluloid will not have died in vain.