Twilight (2008)

NOVEMBER 18, 2008

GENRE: TEEN, VAMPIRE
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (PRESS SCREENING)

I remember it like it was this past Spring. I was at the Fangoria convention, and Tony Timpone announced the next thing up was some behind the scenes footage of something called Twilight. All the girls shrieked. I had to ask what the hell it was. What I saw was just a bunch of goofy looking teens with bad dye jobs running around the woods and being flung around in front of greenscreens. It looked suspiciously similar to the BtS stuff I watched on the DVD for Blood and Chocolate. But none of the females seemed to care; to them this was like, I dunno, me watching Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman perform "For Crying Out Loud" in my living room.

Since then I’ve seemingly been unable to escape the damn thing: my wife and most of her local friends are obsessed, my attempts to see the singer of one of my favorite bands (Blue October) playing acoustic were thwarted because his tour was actually just promoting the newest book, and a good friend of mine is currently making a mini version of it with puppets for some goddamn reason. My only interest, of course: seeing it and posting a review. Since it seems anything Twilight-related is devoured by its fans, a review would drive traffic to my site, and maybe inspire some of those readers to buy a few things from Amazon. Win-win-win!

So, penis firmly tucked between my legs, I actually GOT OUT OF WORK so I could attend an early screening tonight. But my reasons were twofold. One was the greedy “reviews = possible cash” excuse. But the other was that I figured that the press crowd would be far less annoying than an opening night crowd. See, if you didn't know, Twilight fans tend to be... well, disruptive in their excitement (to put it nicely. To put it correctly - they're fucking annoying). I learned this the hard way, when a wonderful new Blue October song was completely ruined by some idiot girl yelling "I LOVE EDWARD!!!!" in the middle of its first performance, followed by like 20 seconds of agreeable shrieking and cheering. So I figured the movie would be no different.

Well, no such luck, it was only about half press. The other half was regular folks; radio station winners, theater giveaways, etc. Unsurprisingly, this section of the theater was made up entirely of the 15-16 year old girls I was there to avoid. Oh well.

(I swear, I’ll get to the movie review eventually – if you’re new to the site, this is sort of the norm with me)

See, here’s the thing. Attraction to Kristen Stewart aside, I know I’m not the intended audience for the movie, but I can still understand the excitement of the fans, and didn’t even mind the expected cheering when their beloved Edward Cullen nĂ© Robert Pattinson first appeared on screen. But for the love of CHRIST, every fucking time a new character appeared, he/she was met with applause and cheering. Not to mention key lines, random situations, any sort of romantic moment... Hell, at one point, the cheering began BEFORE Edward entered the scene! So, last ramble type thing before I get to the review – I implore you: if you’re a fan of the book, or the actor, or whoever the fuck, fine, but please – try to respect that not every single person in the theater is a die hard fan. These people were actually detracting from my – gasp, yes – enjoyment of the film.

Because, yeah, it actually ain’t all that bad. There was about 20-25 straight minutes where I was actively enjoying the film and giving a shit about the characters (that would be pretty much from the moment Bella visits the Cullen home, up until the post-baseball game) without getting bored, or worse, annoyed by audience members. I could care less about any of the romantic shit (especially when the love story kicks off with a scene in which the male is supposed to be overcome by lust and hunger and LOVE!... but on film it just looks like he’s getting a boner), but put some vampires on screen and I’m happy, even if they’re not doing much. I liked that the family (save one “sister”, can’t recall her name) were accepting of Bella, and how they all rallied to protect her when the bad vampire guys showed up. In fact, if I feel qualified to make any sort of criticism on the plot, it’s that the more interesting/unique aspects (i.e. the vampire family, and especially the murderous villains) took way too much of a backseat to the rather generic romantic stuff.

I mean, I honestly don’t get what has set off so many young ladies on this particular love story. To me it just seemed like Buffy/Angel crossed with Liz/Max (that would be Roswell), without anything unique to add to it. Like Angel, Edward can’t fuck her or else he’ll... I dunno, I missed the explanation for that. He can’t, that’s all I need to know right now. And like Liz and Max, she is torn between her love of the guy and the risk of him being exposed if he starts doing more human type things. You want true romanticism mixed with sci-fi/fantasy? Check out Ludo’s EP “The Broken Bride”. That shit is EPIC. And you know, maybe the book has more stuff that the film dropped, but as far as the film goes, there was nothing unique about their romance, which I thought was a shame since so much of the vampire mythos was pretty original.

For starters, sunlight has no harmful effect on them. Instead, they just... sparkle? It’s kind of goofy, but whatever, it’s unique, I’ll give it that much. And if any of the other traditional weapons have any effect (garlic, crosses, etc) no mention is made of it. Also, they don’t get long teeth (interestingly, the only guy who has pointy teeth is this Jacob dude, who I understand is or at least becomes a werewolf later on, or something?). And I love the scene where they play baseball; using their vampire powers to dive around and what not. It’s a great scene, and it actually has a sense of excitement that was missing from the Quidditch scenes in the first couple Harry Potter movies (I’m actually kind of glad they stopped bothering with them).

Stewart aside, the casting agent apparently went out of his/her away to ensure the guys in the crowd had plenty to look at as well. Nikki Reed, Ashley Greene, and Rachelle Lefevre all instantly earned their place in the Hot Vampire Chick Hall of Fame (run by one Satanico Pandemonium), and Stewart’s best friend (Anna Kendrick) is pretty cute too. Hell even the vampire mom (Elizabeth Reaser) is pretty smashable. None of them get much screentime, since Stewart is the front and center of all but two scenes in the film, but there’s nothing wrong with that either. On that note - Greene, as the mind-reading vampire Alice... I guarantee I’ll watch the sequel if she’s given a bigger role.

I also dug the dad, played by Billy Burke, who was also a (actually, THE) highlight of Untraceable. While the rest of the audience laughed constantly throughout the movie, at things like the sight of Bella wearing a cast or a girl trying on a dress, I only legit laughed twice in the movie. The first was when Bella has Edward come over for the first time, something that occurs as Burke is cleaning a shotgun (he’s the sheriff). She asks if he can come in (oh yeah, vamps don’t need to be invited either I guess, since Edward just watches her sleep sometimes. Guy’s kind of creepy), and he pumps the gun and says “bring him in!”. It’s a generic gag, but Burke totally sells it.

The other laugh I got was when Edward shows her a giant mural made out of all the graduation caps that he and his brothers and sisters had amassed over the years. It’s a hilarious sight gag, but at the same time, it just brought to mind a slight plot hole that I didn’t quite get: the fact that they all go to school. I suppose that they need to “keep up appearances” so that they avoid suspicion, but they don’t talk to anyone else at the school, and even though they are technically stepsiblings, two of them are dating (which the rest of the school knows), so they stick out anyway. Plus, they seemingly live in the middle of nowhere (and not even technically in the school’s town), so if they were just “home-schooled”, wouldn’t that be LESS suspicious than a bunch of pale faced kids who keep to themselves and engage in light incest? They are also ALL absent whenever it’s actually sunny out, another thing that I think would cause more suspicion than it would theoretically prevent.

Another thing I was pleasantly surprised by was the almost total lack of music. Edward plays the piano, and there’s occasional score (actually quite good, courtesy of Coen brothers regular Carter Burwell), but until the final scene at the prom, there isn’t a single pop song on the soundtrack. Since the soundtrack went #1, and Meyer has posted “soundtracks” for all of the books (songs that she was inspired by, or listened to while she wrote), I thought for sure that popular music would be a big part of the film. Not that I’m some music snob by any means (on the contrary, a quick glance at the soundtrack’s tracklist revealed I already had a lot of the albums that the older songs originally came from), but since the crowd was taking me out of the movie enough as it was, I was thankful that Linkin Park and Paramore weren’t doing the same.

I’ve never seen any of Catherine Hardwicke’s other films, and this film didn’t really inspire me to do so anytime soon. It’s technically proficient, but her hand-held, small zoom “indie” style filmmaking felt very much out of place at times, which suggests that she is someone who would rather do her own thing (her other movies were legit indies) than do what is right for the story. It also hurts the romance angle; it’s supposed to be like, the strongest love of all time or whatever, and yet everything about it feels small and minor. I already mentioned the boner, but further scenes feel the same way; it never feels like more than a regular crush. Michael Bay can make a couple of guys taking medical exams seem exciting; why can’t Ms. Hardwicke make taboo love feel the same way?

My only other issue is that the movie had too many things that seemed like it was just setting up a sequel. The werewolf/Indian guys show up just long enough to foreshadow their eventual importance (without ever having any sort of bearing on THIS movie), and the final shot of the film shows the bad vampire chick watching them dance at the prom (something entirely unnecessary, if you ask me – a sequel could easily just flashback to show she was there). The bad guys aren’t even really introduced until the end of the second act, which is also a bit annoying. Maybe it’s like that in the book too, but it’s kind of hard to really fear for Bella’s life when it’s being threatened by someone we don’t know. It would be like if we never saw Darth Vader until he fought Obi Wan in New Hope. Christ, Edward posed more of a threat to her with all his silly “Spider Monkey”/tree jumping stuff. She could fall! I would have liked to have seen the “setup” elements dropped entirely in favor of further developing the threats in THIS movie.

For no reason I’d like to point out that both of Bella’s parents are played by 24 vets. Burke was the psychotic Gary from season 2, and her mom is played by Sarah Clarke (another MILF), aka the villainous Nina Myers. I miss 24.

So I dunno. Same deal as Prom Night (oh yeah, my man Rick, or Kellan Lutz as he’d probably rather be known, is in this movie too!): it’s not that I loved the movie, but I could never actually hate something that is designed for a completely different audience. Would I rather watch a bunch of vampires tear each other apart? Of course. But, I say again, I try to judge a movie based on how well it presents the story it’s trying to tell. It would be easy for me to write “Twilight sucks! Down with effeminate PG-13 vampires!”, but it’s not like the movie is being sold as anything BUT a PG-13 vampire love story, and no one forced me to watch it. I get what I don’t have to pay for.

Besides, I can appreciate that my opinion on it simply doesn’t really matter to the die-hard fans, so might as well just be honest for the folks that read this site regularly, because I’m sure a few of them will end up seeing it for whatever reason. If you think less of me for not slamming it, then fine. But think about it: if a 14 year old kid tells me that Dawn of the Dead sucks, I’m not going to listen to him/her, so why should the reverse be any different? Plus, I defy anyone to convince me that the gory, R-rated Lost Boys 2 is better than this in any way shape or form.

In short: If a 15 year old girl sees this movie and hates it, then the movie has failed. But if a 28 year old man sees it and doesn’t fall asleep, and even becomes a bit Twi-curious in the process (does the blond vampire like, kill everyone at the prom? And does the dad ever find out that the dude’s a vampire but become an ally, a la the Sheriff in Roswell?), then I guess the movie is probably doing its job. And obsessive as they may be, I do think anything that gets teens to read is fine by me. Just shut the fuck up in the movie theater.

What say you?

25 comments:

  1. The first couple of books aren't as action-packed as the second two in my opinion. Looking forward to bringing my old butt to the theater to squee along with all the 13 year old girls.

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  2. A story about a sandwich:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27793459/?GT1=43001

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  3. read first 3 books..and thats correct..the first 2 are more character build (with some other stuff of course)...but the last 2 are much more action packed..

    love the books..glad you actually liked it.
    thanks for waiting til friday to post. AHHAAH.

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  4. Here is my riff: most of the "insane legion of fans" aren't even Stephenie Meyers. They seem to have little respect (rightfully so) for her ability to construct a sentence or tell a tale... they are fans of the CHARACTERS, rapid legions of drooling, bleeding-from-self-inflicted-wounds fans who love Meyer's half-baked CHARACTERS... I've met dozen of fans of the books, NONE of whom can say anything good about the books other than a vaguely shamefaced grin and "I just love Edward and Bella, it's SOOO romantic!"

    I think a lot of genre fans/critics/the online presence are being vicious towards the Twilight Phenom because they view the dark-fantasy world as being theirs- and traditionally, it is. They don't like to share. It's like the old skool punk rawkers who get pissed off if they hear a Michael Graves era Misfits song.

    "Pfft, that ain't the Misfits!" they sneer. "Misfits ended when Danzig broke up the band".

    They have a point, but they are wrong. Likewise, the tween auds that are shrieking for a slightly warmed over melodrama can't take away Old Skool Horror fans love of their genre, it's just a subgenre, which isn't a bad thing.

    But the level of intensity for it, that is what has me bewildered. The pure fanatical love... Brrrr!

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  5. Yeah, I mean, I honestly knew ZERO about this stuff other than the two main names, that it was about vampires (and eventually, werewolves), and that teenage girls go downright batty for it. But in the past, what, 18-19 hrs, i admit to actually reading a few of the IMDb threads and such (where i went just to link HMAD - only reason i saw the movie at all was for the guaranteed increase in site traffic), and I'm getting that folks seem to kind of hate the broad, which is funny to me.

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  6. Hey BC,

    I just read an interesting tibit on Twilight this morning. The author is Mormon and the book has long been considered a metaphor for teen girl sexuality, mainly that girls like boys who stare at them from afar, stalk them, show up in thier bedrooms at night and then stare at them some more while they sleep, and then save them from peril.

    "I feel . . . very protective of you."

    That's how a boy gets in a girl's pants. I guess.

    I haven't read the books, have conducted zero personal research on the books' author, and I don't plan to see the film in theaters. I'll see it on DVD though. Admittedly, I dig vampires vampire stories and vampire seduction, especially the whole Dracula thing, and how Dracula is an obvious Anti-Christ figure, and how Lucy, once bitten, becomes a baby eating slut. Awesome. Another metaphor for female sexuality, yeah?

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  7. i read the books when i was unemployed and bored-- i was hooked. they were really good for young adult literature. i hate the harry potter series and they seem to have the same sort of fan base, so i was skeptical... i'll see this when the hulabaloo dies down and i can watch it in peace.

    also, i laughed at Twi-curious. your sister has my books and my mom is pissed because she wants them!

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  8. Seems like you gave it a fair shot. I'm proud of you for that. I love the books but I'm kind of preparing for a disappointment with the movie. Movies adapted from books often don't meet what I have imagined in my own mind. That is why I did not go see Eragon or The Golden Compass. I'm going tomorrow and I'm just trying to go for the fun of it and not have to many expectations.

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  9. As a vampire purist, yeah, it sucked (no pun). I've read all the books and while enjoyable and entertaining, they are far from "literature." These won't be classics like Potter. Potter at least has an audience that contains basically everybody on the planet instead of hormonal teenaged girls (I'm talking about the books instead of the movies which sadly on opening nights is as loud). As a female, I did dig the flashbacks more than the actual present day stuff.

    This was brought up in another review, but I think it's a tragedy when stuff like this is going to make millions and a movie like "Let the Right One In" is pushed to the side and unknown. I heard they are debating on making the main characters "sexy" teenagers instead of the innocent kids to sell the US remake. Ugh.

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  10. well...you got your incest. No wonder you liked it.

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  11. I'm a fan of the books; I was one of the shrieking college girls on thursday night. Sorry about that. =)After reading your review, my suspicions were confirmed that the movie had failed to really explain things adequately.I figuered for the sake of those who care, I'd clarify a few things.

    - you mention the cheesy love story dominates and drags on until james and the other dangerous vampires show up. its pretty much the exact same way in the book. you survive 250 pages of crap and then all of a sudden you're on the edge of your seat. meyers is definitely not a profound writer, and i want to slap the stupid people who have the audacity to consider twilight literature. ick. (i DO love the books, but really? we're talking about the difference between bologna and filet mignon. or maybe im just an elitist english major.)

    - the love story is appealing because edward is supposed to be absolutely perfect. meaning, every girl interpreted him differently and fell in love with exactly what they wanted to. they made him up. the real appeal of the story (in my opinion) is how dynamic the characters are (with the exception of bella. she's pretty much poor developed and self contradicting). the backstory and details provided about the vampires, and werewolves later on, is really interesting. it's almost like a comic book in that respect. the book definitely devotes more time to an explanation of that stuff than the movie does.

    - the bitchy "sister," rosalie, continues to cause probelms and just suck at life throughout the series. everntually, though, her story is told and you kind of get where she's coming from.

    - nope. crosses, garlic, sleeping in coffins, sunlight... nothing effects them. the only way to destroy a vampire is to rip it apart and burn the pieces. (only vampires and werewolves are really capable of killing vampires since they are pretty much invincible.)

    - the idea between not having fangs is that they are much more gruesome this way. they have to rip and tear. it also makes it easier for them to lure in their prey should they chose to be sadistic about it like succubi.

    - if you enjoyed the baseball scene, stay tuned. after the angst at the beginning of book two there should be much MUCH more like that.
    alice (the psycic one) becomes one of the main characters later on, too.

    - explanation on why they go to school: they don't talk to anyone else because no one is comfortable around them (except bella who doesnt seem to be afraid. she's a freak). people struggle to place exactly what makes them uncomfortable about the cullens; it's instinct. as beautiful and alluring as they may be, humans are naturally on guard around them and find it is easier to ignore the cullens than embrace the anxiety they can't explain. no one cares and they try really hard not to notice when the vampires arent in school. their perfection and beauty are completely overwhelming, anyway, so they get away with whatever they want in school. this is what the characters refer to as "dazzling" humans.

    - as far as the vampires are concerned, rosalie and emmett's relationship(and alice and jasper's - which was almost entirely absent from the film) is the farthest thing from incest. rosalie changes emmett because she watches him get attacked by a bear and she is tired of being alone. alice is psycic so she already knows she and jasper are going to be together. she seeks him out and tells him how it is. haha. these are individuals from completely different walks of life. they only pretend to be adopted siblings to keep up appearances; honestly, the could care less about the petty human facade.

    - the future werewolf, jacob, actually tells bella that the cullens are vampires in the book. or at least, according to their tribal legends they are vampires. so... he did originally have a purpose for being in the first book. in the film, its a little too obvious that he's only there to foreshadow. that's unfortunate, because one of the better plot twists in the second book is finding out there are werewolves.

    basically, yeah. you can tell the director had her own agenda when she made the film. a lot of the more exciting things were ommitted from her script. oh well. im hoping one day there will be a graphic novel version of the series. THAT would be exciting.

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  12. sorry about the spelling errors/wrong word mishaps. its late.

    just thought i'd mention the review about meyers being mormon is bull. shes a stay at home mom and she dreamt about these two characters. there is no profound, conspiratory religious allgory behind it.

    thats all.

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  13. I'm a diehard fan of Twilight (the books!), though I refuse to see any of the film(s). No real actors could ever play what Stephanie inspired in my own head. But I'm here to tell you that yes, in the book the villains don't come into the story until the "last act". Yes, Edward IS a tad "creepy", and Jacob's (future werewolf) part in the book is very brief. You made a great review, though. It told me precisely what I wanted to know but wouldn't find out on my own. So thanks.
    Cool blog, btw.

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  14. great review!

    The music...completely SURPRISED me.. i TOO saw the soundtrack and knowing the target audience, even after reading the books, i was nervous. The music was GREAT for the film.

    I liked the feel of the movie, and they cut alot of the teeny bopper feel i was worried they would make it. It didnt go far off of the book at all, but it is only 1 of 4.. and they all do tie in together.

    The film actually cut out some of the "i shouldnt love you" (touch touch touch, squeeze squeeze squeeze) scenes out, which made everything move fluantly. You almost have to assure most people reading it, that it gets better. the stories just get deeper and better as they go.

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  15. I haven't seen any of Twilight before, but damn, that first bit of the preview is a blatant ripoff of the first scene of Roswell... Surely that can't be unintentional.

    5 stars for unoriginality.

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  16. man, i thought this movie was unbelievably corny. i think it was aimed at 15 yr old girls and under. probably one of the worst vampire movies i've ever seen.

    i knew things were goin South when she's talking about how in love with edward she is when they've been hanging out for like, 2 days.

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  17. Aw, man. I was hoping that the movie was going to be loyal to the book. My cousin said it would. Judging from what you wrote, I'm going to be sorely disappointed.

    Well, at least I'm certain that it can't be as a big a rip off as "Nancy Drew" (the one featuring Emma Roberts) or "Stormbreaker".

    P.S. How could they not talk about Jacob telling Bella the legends?! It's an important part of the series!

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  18. Oh, and I forgot to add:

    I didn't actually think the characters were right, because from how the characters were described, it'd be like showing God's face. (Okay, an extreme, but you get what I'm saying - you can't use a normal human being to put as a "perfect" person)

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  19. No interest in this crap, but "For Cryin Out Loud" is awesome isn't it?

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  20. hmmm...somehow...with my devotion to this site...I never read your review...maybe I just assumed you would hate it/slam it...so I did not bother with it...but I am here sitting in my hotel room on a business trip with nothing to do...so I am catching up (actually I was looking for your Let The Right One In review...since I just watched it...and came upon this...)

    I would have enjoyed the movie more...but the acting was complete crap (from the main to two stars...everyone else was desent...like Burk anc Clarke..)...Whenever stewert and pattinson were on the screen "talking" to each other, to me, it was like nails on a chalk board...damn it sucked!

    But the baseball scene, with Muse playing in the background, probably the best part of the film!

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  21. I am a sixteen year old girl, and I thought both the book and movie fail epically.

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  22. I usually love your reviews, but this was disappointing. Maybe your wife reads this so you have to be nice? The books are crap, all run-on sentences and crap dialogue. The movie was worse. Slow, mind numbingly bad, and hysterical. There's no reason for anything. At least Angel couldn't have sex with Buffy because of his soul. Edward can't sleep with Bella because he's frigid. It's one entertainment phenomena I have no patience for, and this review makes me sad.

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  23. i actually kind don't like the books and espically the movies...but its true thier sissy vampires like sparkle? really? why can't they just burn!? i think i might be the only teenage girl that doesn't squeel for the characters and hates to watch the movies...trust me if you want to waste 8 to 10 dollars to see the stupid series go ahead!

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  24. great review dude. it's one of my favorite movies and i'm glad to see someone tried to review it objectively.

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