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Twilight's love bites 

Teen vampire romance Twilight opened to impressive box office numbers and crowds of screaming girls.

Not since Harry Potter has an occult- themed book series struck the imaginations of millions of youth. But the grade-school ragamuffins who were nagging their moms and dads to take them to midnight launch parties for the young wizard just moments ago are now all grown up in high school and can get their older siblings to drive them to the mall. Enter a Mormon stay-at-home mom who dreamed about a teenage girl falling in love with a vampire and turned it into a multimillion-dollar book enterprise. Since Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series debuted in 2006, the books have been captivating teenagers and perplexing critics---it wasn't long before Hollywood decided to cash in.

In Twilight, the first novel of four, 17-year-old Bella moves to a damp Washington town to live with her father and falls for Edward, a loner at school, who turns out to be a vampire. Edward wants to be with her, but also wants to eat her. Cue drama.

The choice of Catherine Hardwicke as director, also the director of 2003's Thirteen, should have been spot-on for an edgy portrayal of teenage life. But Twilightlacks the feeling of danger and the believable, if precocious, characters of Thirteen. Hardwicke nails the film's action scenes, but it's the mundane moments where she fails and the main characters ultimately feel hollow. Meyer wrote four fat novels whose protagonists have no personality. It's difficult material to work with when you have thousands of rabid fans expecting you to remain faithful to the characters' lack of quirks, but the movie could have taken more liberties. After all, three years from now those fans will be too old to admit to liking Twilightanyway.

Meyer and the Mormon church have made millions on teenage girls' endorsements of how they can relate to Bella, but I found nothing to relate to. Full disclosure: At 17, I was in love with a tall, dark and handsome loner who I secretly considered might be a vampire. It became torturous and melodramatic in my mind in a way that I never witness from Bella and actor Kristin Stewart's portrayal (in her first lead role) feels a bit empty. Bella has never had a lot of friends at school, but there's nothing notably weird about her---Bella's interest in Edward stems primarily from his looks and his outsider status. Edward's interests aren't mentioned until later and prove irrelevant anyway.

As Edward, male lead Robert Pattinson feels more sincere. Pattinson also played Cedric Diggory in the last two Harry Potter movies and should have plenty of work as long as the young-adult occult-fiction trend keeps up. His Edward Scissorhands-like gothic good looks fit the bill and he's sufficient crush material for teens to tape to their lockers.

In the 500-page plus book, it's easy enough to get bogged down in the mundane details and equally easy to see what might attract the average 16 year old, raised on incessant Facebook status updates and text messages. Fortunately, film lets one cut out the descriptions of dinner menus and emails to Mom. "They cut out so much," whined one teenager after the movie, but I was only too happy to do without the filler.

Since it's a Mormon novel, nobody has sex and parents and teachers are mainly enamoured with the books being good, clean fun. The allegorical aspect of Twilight seems to escape Meyer's notice: If you go too far with this boy, he'll kill you. This comes through strongly in the film, where, in the single "sex" scene, Bella and Edward start making out and Edward is forced to fly into the wall lest he lose control. The audience cracked up.

Though not phenomenal literature, Twilight had great potential as a movie, but loses out with the one-dimensional leads that make the secondary characters feel more believable. "It was OK," was the general consensus the cluster of adolescents ahead of me came to, as they discussed the film for about two minutes and then resumed text-messaging their boyfriends.

I also had high hopes for the soundtrack, which had the potential to be as outstanding as Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, but there isn't a single exciting track.

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