Friday, August 7, 2009

Twilight (2008): A Review (Review #13)

TWILIGHT (2008)  

Like All Vampires, It's Lifeless and It Sucks...

I could never finish reading Twilight, the first book of a 'saga' about the love triangle of a mortal, a vampire and a werewolf. Try as I might I could not endure such awful prose. The audiobook was little help, only causing me fits of laughter at its dialogue and plot.

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 (Billy Burke). There, while all the boys appear besotted with the plain-Jane Bella, 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 (Robert Pattinson), the most perfect being to ever walk the earth. Amazingly, Edward notices Bella, and even more amazingly, he becomes attracted to her; soon, he cannot deny his passion for her. Someone as beautiful as Edward Cullen is in love with her.

Eventually, she discovers the Cullen Family 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 film, another group of vampires threatens her life, and Edward saves her. In the midst of all this is a potential love rival in Native American Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who also is beautiful, though not as beautiful as Edward.

There is the idea that Jacob may be a werewolf, and you have the first part of this "saga".

There were a few 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 the majority of the book delved endlessly about Bella's obsession with Edward and his perfection.

Finally, we didn't have to hear the name "Edward Cullen" repeated so much. This endless repetition soon starts taking on the form of a deranged mantra, to the point where it becomes another thing to laugh at.

The book is awful. The film, however, takes already pretty weak material and stomps it to death.

In order to capture the nearly-eternal cloudiness of Forks, Twilight 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 appear very rushed. The sheer scope of the book's narrative made it impossible for the romance to blossom on the screen.

Why we got a rushed romance in order to move on to more important things, like a Vampire Baseball Game only the filmmakers know.

Twilight's greatest sin 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 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.

Another horror was Jackson Rathbone's Jasper, one of Edward's brothers. 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 up-swept 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 as James, a rival vampire. In fact, all the villainous vampires were pretty bad. Their entrance was wildly and obviously overly cinematic, capping off some of the weakest special effects since Howard the Duck.

When Edward 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 were in a curious monotone. In her efforts to appear the Every-girl, she only succeeded in making the Ever-ygirl 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 I remember the chorus included the line "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.

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

Next Twilight Film: New Moon

Here are more thoughts on the Twilight Series...excuse me, SAGA.

POST-SCRIPT: Riddle me this, Twilight fans. Remember that scene in the ballet school where James and Edward 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?


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

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

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


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