Monday, November 23, 2009

Twilight: a review

In recent months there has been an uproar over sparkly vampires and teen angst in Twilight and the rest of the series by Stephanie Meyer. Since I'm a reviewer and have a pretty good rep for making my own decisions as well as reading/ seeing the whole thing through instead of basing an opinion/ review on less than the whole picture, I decided to tackle this one.

This is regarding the film only. I haven't read the book, so I can't/ won't give an opinion on something I'm not educated on. I have however seen the film and am ready to render my opinionated judgment.

It's a vampire movie.

Yep, no shit. The story is of a teenage girl who toddles off to the Pacific Northwest to give her mom and Step-dad a break at some privacy and a life together by staying with Dad (who is Town Sheriff up in the PNW). Sounds feasible. She's a bit of a martyr about it, but hey, whatever, she's a teen.

Getting to the beautiful and disproportionately gray/wet PNW (I'm sorry, I lived in Washington State for most of my adult life, it's not THAT gray/ wet, but it works as far as stereotypes go. People everywhere believe Seattle and the sound are rainy almost all year anyhow, so might as well roll with it...right? My guess is that this is supposed to be set NW of Port Angeles, up in the Olympics somewhere. Gorgeous country and admittedly the wettest part of the state.

The camera work is good. The scenery beautiful.

Getting to the little town in the woods, life is pretty good. You have some weirdness between Bela and Dad. Dad tries but it's clear he's got some emotional comfort issues to work through. Pretty typical really. I bought it. He's trying. He got her a hooptie truck so she has a set of wheels. So far all is pretty well. Bela is still riding the angst wave but it's okay.

So she goes to school. It's High School. High School sucks. Amazingly, largely because Bela is fit, and unbelieveably hot, everyone and their hamster is falling over themselves to be friends with her. Boys drool all over themselves, girls want to be pals, it's disgusting. No problem, it's a movie, not reality. Bela's response is to be aloof and angsty about it. "Oh woe is me". It's starting to get old at this point.

There is one elite clique at the school. The Cullen's. A family with money and they stick to themselves. There are two "couples" and one "badboy loner-type...Edward. All of them are absolutely beautiful, but everyone stays away from them because they have a bit of an air of weird standoffishness about them.

As part of the plot, Bela is of course smitten by Edward from the start. Of course, he's in her Biology class. There's a neat scene where she comes in to class for the first time, walking by the rotating fan, blowing her hair and looking all "voila" like something out of a movie, slo-mo style. Of course, Edward apparently gets a whiff of her and his inner beast is obviously raging. Totally good. Add to this he's trying so hard to remain calm, but really comes off as loathing Bela, eventually looking nauseated and storming out...and not coming back for several days. I though Edward's performance there was spot on. I can't imagine the resolve necessary to endure that, but the actor pulled it off nicely.

Bela, being smitten gets really pissed at Edward's performance. I can imagine that. You got the hots for a beautiful person and they act out, seeming nauseated at your presence? Yeah, I'd be pissed.

The movie rolls on, and there are furtive glances back and forth. Enter the SUV losing control screwing around in the parking lot and suddenly Edward is between the vehicles, protecting Bela from becoming Teen-Jelly. OOOH! Hrm, that was FAST! How'd he stop the SUV? He plays it off nicely, adrenaline and all that, not seeing what she thought, fuzzy memory and all that. Good stuff.

Bela doesn't buy it, and goes on doing some research on the Cullen family. Around the same time Bela hangs out with friends at the beach, including her Native American buddy and some light is shown on the Cullen's. All of this is pretty well done. It's not fast paced, but it works. It's all building up nicely. I think it was a bit easy for her to jump to the conclusions she did, but overall it worked.

So Bela is dreaming about Edward, Edward is following around Bela, she's researching his family, eventually she corners him on what he is: a Vampire. Now you have to realize that so far Edward, is protective of her, but standoffish. Why?

Edward can read minds, but not hers. She's unique. Add to this the obvious...she's hot and she's obsessed with him. He REALLY wants to keep her away, because he realizes that she is functionally FOOD. She likes her, doesn't want to hurt her, but as any Vampire story goes, he has a beast inside him that he keeps chained up via willpower. One slip and she's an entree. He knows this and portrays it admirably.

Bela will not be put off by this. No, even though he explains this in detail, she won't be denied. She wants some Edward steak! He's the bad boy, and the good guy...all wrapped in one. Again, a pretty typical desire for anyone. On one hand, everyone wants that hot hunkalicious bad boy/ girl but they also know deep down that they need the loving caretaker too and usually it's hard to get both. Flirting with danger is a common premise in teen stories.

I think the only difference is that Bela is SO angsty, and SO emo it is distracting, and her willingness to throw herself at someone who can't really make it any clearer that she's petting a viper is just awkward. It's beyond any sort of reason and firmly in the realm of obsession.

Eventually she "meets the family" which is a bit weird but cool. It works. Neat to meet the characters that will be a part of the saga. They have an outing and meet other Vampires, including a super-hunter/ tracker guy who decides he wants Bela. No problem. This all turns nasty and ends up with the family secreting Bela away and trying to cover her trail. All this culminates in the capture of Bela and a big climactic fight between Edward and the hunter. Great fight. Awesome effects. Great vampire stuff.

While I would have preferred a stronger female lead or that lead acting more strongly...she's a teen. Actually as a teen she embodies everything I loathe about emo, wailing martyr teenagers. Sweet Zombie Jesus, shut up about how bad you have it. Serious. All the character Bela did was keep me from relating to her character at all. I hated her from the get-go. I really tried not too. I wanted to like the characters. Edward was understandable, I think his character was portrayed nicely. Totally worked. Bela I wanted to get crushed by an SUV...repeatedly.

Who cares about glitter? It worked. It fit the story as portrayed. Vampires are in every single way designed to look desirable. It's a trap. It works.

Yes, I see parallels to Mormonism. Who cares? I mean really. Who gives a shit. It was far less obvious than Neo-Jesus in The Matrix FAR. People need to get over themselves.

I don't like a female character who needs a man to save her. I don't like a female character or any character who is so obsessed that she is drawn in to danger and it is shown as a positive thing. That's not good. Obsession=Bad. I can see teenagers getting Bela. I'm not a teen, but I can certainly see teens understanding and relating to Bela, which is fine. Teens don't have the experience to balance obsession with reality. When I see grown adults "totally relating" to Bela...I see people who need to check in with a Psych STAT!

It's a Vampire film, with money behind it and good effects. The story isn't bad. Everyone is played admirably (except for Bela). It's a good film.

I think if obsession was seen in a negative light instead of rewarded I would have enjoyed it more. If I could have related to Bela's excessively emo portrayal I wouldn't have wanted her to die...repeatedly.

Overall though, I enjoyed the film. It had some serious negatives, so I give it 3 stars out of 5.


Sirh0213 said...

Based on the previews and trailers I have to refuse seeing this film. The scene with those two in the car, where she touches his hand and he looks away...

Yeah, hard to believe it but the trailers made me not only want to see it but to avoid any place where it is shown (same goes for its sequel) so that I will not have to deal with annoying teeny-boppers.

I liked your review, well written and with the right amount of depth. It also reinforces my commitment to not supporting this franchise in any way, shape, or form.

Jeff said...

Totally understandable. I had to do it. I'm a reviewer, and I refuse to make any opinions based on less than first hand knowledge and as much of it as I can. Like reading the WHOLE book or seeing the whole movie. That's just me.

DarkChaplain said...

If you didn't like the obsession-part in the story -
just don't read the books.
without wanting to spoil:
It only gets worse. and worse.
You can't find as much SUVs as I wished could have killed her.

But even worse than the story itself, the teens here in Germany are even more obsessed with Robert Pattinson than Bella is with Edward.