Last week, I read Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, the first novel in her series about star-crossed lovers Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. Then, PJ and I went to see the movie last night. Here’s the trailer:

While I can’t say that the novel is a masterpiece or that the movie is the best one I’ve seen this year, I enjoyed both of them more than I thought I would.

Like everyone else, I’ve felt bombarded by Twilight advertisements recently. I had heard about the books for the past couple of years, but I wasn’t particularly interested in reading the novel. That changed after I read the first three Sookie novels by Charlaine Harris. I needed a break from plowing through those novels, and one of my friends mentioned that she was reading Twilight, so I decided to give it a try.

As everyone probably already knows, Twilight follows Bella Swan as she moves to Forks, a small town in Washington. Soon after enrolling in Forks High School, Bella becomes fascinated with the modelesque Edward, who seems to take an instant dislike to her. When Edward suddenly and miraculously saves Bella’s life, her crush becomes a quest to find out just who he really is. A little googling uncovers the truth (as usual): Edward is a vampire. The rest of the novel deals with the consequences of falling in love with the undead.

Overall, Twilight is an entertaining novel. Its strength lies in its characterization of Bella, the everygirl that most girls, women, and gay guys can identify with. She’s the “normal girl” who awkwardly makes her way through life without being noticed much. She’s therefore surprised when not only several of the guys she meets at Forks High School take a liking to her but also Edward seems fascinated with her as well. Anyone who ever had — or has — a crush on the unattainable cute guy in high school can identify with her.

The novel also does some interesting things with vampire lore, which I suppose is one of the main points of reading a vampire novel: what can an author do that’s new and interesting? In this case, Meyer dumps the coffins and destructive affects of the sun and adds the idea of a family of vampires trying to live among humans without using them as food. Both her deletions and additions work for me.

The actual plot of the book is relatively thin. It’s really just a basic romance. Girl meets boy. Girl falls in love with boy. Boys turns out to be a vampire. Girl almost dies a few times. Vampire boy saves her. The dialogue also has some problems — it can be really corny sometimes. But I don’t mind this campy simplicity; in fact, it’s part of this novel’s charm.

But what can be charming in a guilty pleasure reading can be devastating to a movie, which needs convincing dialogue and a good plot to make it worthwhile (unless you’re making porn, of course). So, I was interested to see what the filmmakers would do to flesh out the story. (True Blood did a great job doing this with the first Sookie novel, so it can definitely be done.)

The first thing the filmmakers did right was cast Robert Pattinson as Edward. He’s pretty enough to play the near perfect Edward. He doesn’t have a lot to do in the film except look pretty and brood, but Pattinson does both really well. I think he’ll get more action and plot in subsequent movies, if they make the sequels.

Kristen Stewart is also good as Bella. She’s certainly likable enough, though I think she’s a little too pretty to play Bella, who I think should be little more plain.

To flesh out the plot a little, the filmmakers have integrated the antagonists’ actions into the story a little earlier than they occur in the novel. This helps to get things going.

I only have two complaints. The first one is about the makeup. I thought that the Cullens looked too vampirish for us to believe that everyone in Forks hadn’t already figured out that they’re all vampires. I think there should have been a little more realism to that part of it. Second, I found Catherine Hardwicke‘s direction to be irritating at times. The main thing that bothered me was the camera movement. Sometimes it was meant to signify a character’s point of view. The same movement at other times was just movement. It felt as if Hardwicke thought that just moving the camera around a lot would add excitment to the plot. I just found it distracting.

But in general, I thought Twilight was an entertaining movie. It kept my interest, and I hope that they get the opportunity to make a sequel.

I haven’t read the other books yet. I want to read the fourth one, just to see why everyone seems to hate it so much. I’m not sure yet that I want to read the middle two. I may get a couple of the second one when I get the next Sookie book. I’ll probably give it a try and see if I like it.

Now that True Blood‘s first season is over and while I’m waiting to decide whether to buy New Moon, I’ll go back to reading my true love: Jane Austen adaptations!