Friday, August 7, 2009

Like All Vampires, It's Lifeless and It Sucks. Twilight Review (Review #13)


TWILIGHT (2008)  

Twilight in short, is the erotic fantasy life of someone with the mind of a 14-year-old girl.

It was the worse experience I've ever had in terms of literature. I tried reading it twice, but couldn't get through the insipidness of the writing; it tries the patience of anyone over 16 (physically or mentally) to read endlessly about the perfection and beauty that is EDWARD CULLEN. I resorted to the audio book, and even that was a struggle. I don't know if you were suppose to laugh at certain parts, but it was impossible not to. When the protagonist, Bella Swann (or as I lovingly call her given her predilection for perpetual pining over EDWARD CULLEN, Bella Swoon), said, "His skin...literally sparkled", I howled with laughter for 5 miles. Such lines as "It was the first night that I dreamt of EDWARD CULLEN" or "I couldn't believe that someone as beautiful as EDWARD CULLEN would be speaking to me" are bound to make anyone with an I.Q. of 100 burst into fits of laughter.

It was only a matter of time until we got the film version, and to be fair Twilight sticks close to the novel.  That is also its curse, as there was no great improvement on any level to make one of the most truly dreadful films of Young Adult fiction (with the rest of this series...excuse me, SAGA) probably being equally bad throughout).

Bella Swann (Kristen Stewart) moves from sunny Phoenix to rainy Forks, Washington to live with her father, Police Chief Charlie Swann (Billy Burke). There, she encounters the Cullen family, whom all the kids at Forks High are fascinated by due to their ethereal beauty and perfection.

Chief among the perfect people is EDWARD CULLEN (Robert Pattinson), the most perfect being to ever walk the earth (who was not actually divine). Amazingly, EDWARD CULLEN notices Bella, and even more amazingly, EDWARD CULLEN becomes attracted to her, and soon, EDWARD CULLEN cannot deny his passion for her. Someone as beautiful as EDWARD CULLEN is in love with her.

Eventually, she discovers EDWARD CULLEN'S secret: he & his "family" are vampires, but their "good" vampires since they don't drink human blood. This condition does make their mutual desire all the more difficult to consummate. Near the end of the book, another group of vampires threatens her life, and EDWARD CULLEN saves her. Add to all that a potential love rival in Native American Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who also is beautiful, though not as beautiful as EDWARD CULLEN, who may be a werewolf, and you have the first part of this "saga".

 
There were a couple of improvements in the film version to the novel. First, all the boys at Forks High were not as obsessed about Bella in the movie as they were in the book. It seemed in the novel that every guy wanted to BE with her in every way possible, falling all over themselves to make this "plain Jane" theirs. Second, there was an element of danger introduced earlier in the film with a series of killings, while 9/10ths of the book itself delved endlessly about Bella's obsession with EDWARD CULLEN and his perfection. Finally, we didn't have to hear the name EDWARD CULLEN repeated so much. In the book, every single person in town (Bella, her father, their classmates, their teachers, EVERYONE) refers to him by his full name. He's never Ed, Eddie, Edster, or as I call him, Sullen Cullen. He is always EDWARD CULLEN. This endless repetition soon starts taking on the form of a deranged mantra, to the point where it becomes another thing to laugh at.
As a film, however, it takes already pretty weak material and stomps it to death.

In order to capture the nearly-eternal cloudiness of Forks, the movie has this hazy shade of grey almost all the time, even with scenes taking place inside. It's as if no light ever comes into any room. Not only does it become distracting, it becomes ridiculous and unrealistic.

There is also the problem with the length, not so much of the movie but with the source material. It makes the romance between Bella and EDWARD CULLEN appear very rushed. The sheer scope of the book's narrative made it impossible for the romance to blossom on the screen. In short, it had to be done quickly in order to move on to more important things, like a Vampire Baseball Game (let's thank God it wasn't cricket).


Worse sin of all is the performances themselves. The film was cast to compliment everyone's near total inability to act. The scene in the hospital with Bella, Tyler (Gregory Tyree Boyce), Chief Swann and Dr. Cullen (Peter Facinelli) will be studied in acting schools forever, under the heading, "Don't Let This Happen to You". No one gave a hint of any actual emotion, and none of them were any good in reciting their lines either. In the book, Dr. Cullen was described as an amazingly beautiful creature. As visualized by Peter Facinelli, with his light blond hair, chalky face, and bright red lips, he ended up looking like the Joker's bastard son.

The whole scene had me bursting with laughter at how horrible the acting was. Chief among the lousy performances was the Chief himself. Billy Burke spoke the lines with the conviction of a not-too-eager middle school theater arts student. It would have been better to have gotten the other Billie Burke, even if she has been dead for decades now--she at least could ACTUALLY act.

Another horror was Jackson Rathbone's Jasper (I pray no relation to actual actor Basil). When the Cullen family make their debut in the cafeteria, I wouldn't have thought they were beautiful. I would have thought they were on their way to perform at a Kabuki theater. Specifically with Rathbone, whenever I saw him on screen, with his upswept hair, bulging eyes, confused expression, and little dialogue, he reminded me, not of a perfect being, but of Beaker from The Muppet Show.

He doesn't compare to an even worse performance by Cam Gigandet (which I learned is pronounced Ji-gahn-DEY, not GIG-an-det) as James. However, there's nothing giant about his acting. He was lousy on The O.C., and he was lousy here. Does anyone else sense a pattern? In fact, all the villainous vampires were pretty bad. Their entrance was wildly and obviously overly cinematic (i.e. it looked fake), capping off some of the weakest special effects since Howard the Duck. When EDWARD CULLEN'S skin was suppose to sparkle, it just looked like he was reflecting sweat.

Only Ashley Green as Alice brought any sense of fun to her performance. Her performance was the most "human" of the vampires, but at least she had a personality that stood out from all the others.

As for the leads, I will give credit to Robert Pattinson for speaking with a very convincing American accent, although he had little to do except look longingly and beautiful. Since that was all that was asked of EDWARD CULLEN, I guess he did it well, albeit without any hint of what can be called emotional range.

However weak his performance, it was Kennedy Center Honors-worthy compared to Kristen Stewart's Bella Swoon. She looked perpetually dazed and never spoke like anything resembling an actual person. Her constant protest of love to and for EDWARD CULLEN were in a curious monotone. In her efforts to appear the Everygirl, she only succeeded in making the Everygirl a whiny, brainless twit. Finally, Taylor Lautner's Jacob Black had little to do, so it will be hard to judge whether he can actually act.

Watching the film, a song that I heard in a Goth bar came to mind. I can't remember who sang it, but it describes the performances en masse. It was a catchy little ditty called "Christian Zombie Vampires". Take the 'Christian' out (maybe substitute 'Mormon'), and that's what you have: Vampires who look and behave like Zombies.

 
There are some positive things to Twilight. I think it's a positive both in the book and film to see Native Americans portrayed as regular people, not as either bloodthirsty savages or superior spiritual beings. I also commend the film for having a multi-ethnic cast. We had an Asian in Eric and an African-American as Tyler (I guess the Hispanics were too busy in the cafeteria kitchen to notice all the goings-on around them). The fact that it's making positive steps in portrayals of minorities does not remove the fact that the actors were themselves still pretty awful.

The book is trash. The movie is trash. The fact that it's insanely popular should not be a surprise. The fact that people think it's Good (as in it's quality stuff) is a sign of THE END OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION. It's a case of projection: every girl sees herself in Bella: not particularly beautiful, or smart, or talented, or athletic. Yet she knows that there is something special about her. Then comes the Perfect Man: handsome, muscular, mysterious, brooding, who notices her, sees her as she really is: a beautiful woman, worthy of love, of inspiring passion. He's been waiting for her, longs for her, wants her, but he resists his desire to use her because he loves her. That's what girls respond to, not its literary qualities (of which there are none).

This is the thing one has to remember about its rabid fans: they don't care the book is lousy (or for that matter, that the movie is equally lousy). They're too busy obsessing over the pseudo-romance between its main characters to notice that it's the dumbest thing to have ever achieve popularity. Either Stephanie Meyer KNOWS she has no talent for writing or she doesn't. If she knows, then I congratulate her for taking Steve Miller's advise to "take the money and run". If she doesn't, she has deluded herself into thinking she will rank among the likes of Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, or Anne Rice. That, my dear Mrs. Meyer, is as likely as Lady Gaga being the new Ella Fitzgerald.

In conclusion, this will appeal to the "Twilight Twits", those ABSOLUTELY convinced the books are the Citizen Kane of Vampire Literature (or ALL literature). To the rest of the world, one will wonder what all the fuss was about. To misquote from another (and far better love story), "For never was a tale told more woefully, than that of Bella Swoon, and her Sullen Cullen".



POST-SCRIPT: Riddle me this, Twilight Twits. Remember that scene in the ballet school where James and EDWARD CULLEN fight? If I know my vampire lore (and I think I do), vampires cast no reflection. Why is it then that their faces appear in the mirror? Here are more thoughts on the Twilight Series...excuse me, SAGA.

4 comments:

  1. Oh, you and I are going to get along juussssst fine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad I'm not the only one. Bless you.

      Delete
  2. Say what you will about Harry Potter, but twilight (or toilet as I like to refer to it) is far worse...

    ReplyDelete

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