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Yesterday, finding myself with some time to kill, I watched the movie of ‘Twilight’.  My verdict?  A big fat “Huh????  Why on earth is this so popular?” o__O

Ok, so I’m confused.  This is supposed to be a heart-rending teen romance, heady of atmosphere, infused with gothic tragedy, personal moral dilemmas and self-sacrifice?  With a tortured, irresistible, fascinating outsider of a hero, and a beautiful, somewhat unconventional heroine, whose own, rather milder form of outsider-ness leads her to notice the hero and become drawn into his twilight world of passion, danger and desire?  Yes?

Uh, no.  Well, I haven’t actually read the books – and by all accounts, any attempt to do so would be an act of wilful masochism, so I think I’ll pass – but I definitely got the impression that this story should at least have some sort of… atmosphere.  It might be laughable plotwise but at least there might be some reasonably hilly emotional terrain to let the less critical parts of mind wander over for an hour or two.  At least there might be some kind of… chemistry?

Unfortunately, I was disappointed on that point.  Can I just say, I know what it feels like to be completely overwhelmed by romantic love for someone.  I should think most of us know what that’s like.  Although apparently, that level of heightened emotion, the hyper awareness of the very essence of another human being, that saturation of the bloodstream with interesting hormones and of the mind with pleasant perseverations on the theme of one’s beloved… er… *is blithering* …well, this is, it seems, utterly foreign to the scriptwriter and director of this unfortunate movie.  The film (perhaps the book achieves it, however clunky the writing?) in no way manages to capture that feeling – its portrayal of the, uh, ‘plot’ is as matter of fact (or perhaps I mean ‘boring’) as it gets.  If it had been on without sound or subtitles, it would have looked to me much like any run of the mill TV movie about clichéd adolescent rites of passage (except that the vampirey bits would have seemed a bit out of place, but say I’d gone to make a cup of tea at that point, or diverted my attention to a phone call… and then started watching again at the end, with the slow dance at Prom… well, it would have seemed, as I say, like any two-and-a-half-star, *dull and worthy teens being stereotypical in a small US town* type affair!).

For a start, our heroine is portrayed as down to earth, plucky, mature for her age, intelligent.  Ignoring for a moment the age-old problem of teen roles being played by people who look more of an age to be teachers than students, Bella Swan came across as slightly world-weary, very self-contained, and loftily above the usual nonsense of high school life.  For her to believably fall in love with Edward, shouldn’t she have been shy, naïve, romantically-inclined, submissive?  She did not seem particularly fascinated by Edward – just vaguely freaked out by him.  Even when she awoke from disturbing dreams about him, she just made a wry face and shrugged, rather than sitting there fantasising about his icy caress or grabbing her diary (…ideally one of those ones with a stupid redundant lock on the outside) and scribbling embarrassing screeds of semi-poetry in it, as she ought to have done!

Meanwhile, Edward, far from being the brooding romantic outsider, the mysterious and tantalising semi-presence on the periphery of high school life, the gorgeous rebel whose intensely cold glance dazzles and mesmerises the unwary heroine, is really… just your average creepy weirdo.  (‘Boy most likely to be served with a temporary restraining order’, perhaps.)  Sitting there disconsolately on the sidelines in the cafeteria, moping about, looking slightly ill-at-ease underneath his rather unfortunate hairdo…  There was really nothing Byronic or devilishly intoxicating about him at all.  Saying slightly disturbing things to girls and then running away, conveniently turning up at inopportune moments in an expensive but deeply unsexy car…  (I mean, a Volvo…?  I know that’s just product placement, and probably nothing to do with characterisation, but really… his fellow vamps zipped around in a red sporty number.  Edward’s wheels of choice: a hatchback with a really good reputation for safety.  They could have been aiming to emphasise his sensitivity, but unfortunately it just made him look prissy.)  Nothing about this says ‘intriguing, heroic, conflicted, inner torment’.  It just screams ‘STALKER’.

Never was there a sense of Bella being fascinated with Edward, desperately desiring to know the source of his brooding melancholy, becoming drawn to him, intoxicated by his deadly charm…  It was more like she was constantly wondering, “What’s up with this Grade A oddball?  I mean, what’s his problem – psychiatrically speaking?!”  Again it all just plodded along in a very detached, matter of fact way, never pushing the emotional needle past “Hmm.  Weird.  But hey, whatever…”  And yet all of a sudden, she is telling us – in a flat monotone, via one of the occasional intrusions from the rather incongruous voiceover – that she is ‘irretrievably and irrevocably in love with him’.  Eh – what?!  When did this happen?  Did I miss the part when she was writing his name in big florid letters all over her notebook and sighing?  Oops, sorry, I forgot: Bella is above all that teenage hoo-hah.  Her whole approach to her burgeoning relationship with Edward was… well, nothing was really ‘burgeoning’ or indeed blossoming; there was no encroaching awareness of her sexuality or flowering of passionate desire or what-have-you.  It was more akin to a dispassionate, mutually-beneficial arrangement of convenience – like some canny, publicly-acceptable, calculated woman getting together with a slightly pervy policitian.  She gets power, he gets to look like a respectable family man.  Incontinent teenage passions… were absent from the equation.

And, look you, were I a level-headed-beyond-my-years high schooler (whom at least two nice normal boys want to date), who had witnessed all of Edward’s creepy behaviour and was now being confronted with the revelation that he is (or believes himself to be) a vampire…  If I were standing there in that foggy woodland clearing (although to be fair, I don’t think I’d go off alone with him, given his downright peculiar ways), hearing him tell me that I smell like a nice steak dinner to him, and that he’d really rather like to kill me, only he’ll do his level best not to, because he’s decent like that…  Er, I think I’d be tasering him first and asking questions later.  Wouldn’t you?!  Accepting all this nonchalantly, saying “I trust you” and then going round to his house for dinner…  Oh dear god no!

The rest of the action – tacked incongruously on to the remaining running time – is not really worth writing about.  Suffice to say that of course an atrociously plotted movie can often be a fun diversion – maybe the dialogue is quotably over the top and the characters are amusingly clichéd or nonsensical – you hope that there’s something silly to enjoy about it, despite its overall awfulness.  I really thought this might be ‘so bad it’s good’, but unfortunately it was just… mediocre; boring even.  It’s sombre and dull rather than gothic and shadowy.  The characters have wandered in from a different movie and are in such an advanced condition of denial about this state of affairs that the vampire action becomes completely irrelevant.  The dialogue alternates between the sort of boring conversation you might overhear in any school corridor on the one hand, and baldly-recited inconsistencies attempting to paper over the cracks of the rubbish plot on the other.

A final whinge: the guy playing Edward just isn’t leashworthy in the slightest.  If only he had been dashingly decorative, I could have just… appreciated him aesthetically, and ignored all the other nonsense.  But, as stated, his hair is silly; also, his attempts at being darkly irresistible managed instead to evince ‘spoiled rich t**ser having a tantrum’; and whilst he was giving us his best shot at looking pale and sensitive and tortured, he just looked timid and awkward and startled, a bit like someone who’s just been unexpectedly released from six months’ captivity in a basement.  And the sparkliness…?  Like a Myspace glitter graphic, he irritated more than he charmed. ;-P  (“You’re beautiful,” says Bella blandly; so blandly indeed that had she said “You’ve got something on you,” it would have seemed more befitting!)

Short verdict: Next time I feel like wasting two hours of my life, I think I’ll just…

…write a ‘Twilight’ parody.  It would probably be more entertaining than the real thing. ;-)

Comments

( 4 confidences — Confide in me... )
eraser_milk
Jun. 7th, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC)
Oy. I watched this a few months ago for the express purpose of MST3K-ing it.

I was immediately irritated that upon moving to a new school, Bella becomes instantly popular and amasses a crowd of girls who want to be her and boys who want to date her, all while she is projecting her bland, apathetic attitude toward just about everything (including Edward, which you have covered quite well :). And whenever she seemed to be just a little "too perfect," she would trip over something. Really? Her one flaw is that she's clumsy, and this embarasses people rather than illiciting concern?

I read this--> http://www.cracked.com/article_16878_if-twilight-was-10-times-shorter-100-times-more-honest.html beforehand, which sums it up pretty well.
song_of_copper
Jun. 16th, 2009 12:31 pm (UTC)
(Still catching up with replies to comments, aargh...)

Haha, yeah. Ms Instantly Popular was a bit beyond belief... still, it saves having to write too many early plot-'n'-character developing scenes...

Oh, that summary! >_< Very accurate and pretty funny!
undergroundsea
Jun. 8th, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
Agreed, I felt as if I had watched one of the more dull episodes of Charmed or something. The most pathetic part of the film is where they have to travel some silly amount just so he can show her sunlight. And when he does... nothing much seems to happen!

I liked your observation about Bella. She seemed very prepared to cope with everything in that Gen Y way. I did like the slow-motion cafeteria scenes of all the vamp family, but the baseball game in the field was really weird to me!
song_of_copper
Jun. 16th, 2009 12:29 pm (UTC)
Uh, very belated response to comment incoming...!

Hmm, yes, the sparkliness was a big anti-climax! Maybe what with the whole film having that drab, greenish-tinted look, they didn't want to suddenly make everything all super-glittery... still, 5/10 for SFX! ;-)

And oh yes: vampire baseball. o__O V. odd! >_<
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