Remarkably faithful to the spirit of its source material, the film version of Twilight crams most of the key episodes from Stephenie Meyer's novel into its breathless, 122-minute running time. Under the direction of Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen), Twilight gallops along handsomely, showcasing the cloudy, misty beauty of its gorgeous Pacific Northwest forest locations; you can practically smell the pine trees and feel the crunch of fallen leaves beneath your feet. Using voice-over narration sparingly, screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg trots out all the major (and most of the minor) characters from the book, recounting the story in abbreviated fashion while demonstrating respect for Meyer's novel and its huge, faithful audience.
Twilight may not add up to much more than the sum of its parts, but those parts can be mighty entertaining, especially when handsome Edward (Robert Pattinson, oozing uncertain charm) is whooshing through the woods with plucky Bella (Kristen Stewart, self-assured and determined) on his back. Still, the romance at the heart of the book has been shorn of some of its heart in the translation to the big screen, sacrificed on the altar of a broader demographic. Readers of the book could feel somewhat shortchanged by the relentless emphasis on forward momentum rather than romantic fantasy; the flip side is that newcomers can enjoy the whirlwind pace and the brooding, ominous atmosphere, and everyone can revel in the spectacle of flying vampires playing a pinball version of sandlot baseball.