NOVEMBER 18, 2008
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 né 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?