“That’s all superhero stuff, right? What if I’m not the hero? What if I’m… the bad guy?”
The Scoop: 2008 PG-13, directed by Catherine Hardwicke and starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Billy Burke
Tagline: When you can live forever what do you live for?
Summary Capsule: It’s smitten meets yearning as the dullest high school girl in the world falls in love with the dullest vampire in the Pacific Northwest
Justin’s rating: They never write vampire novels about the fat, grumpy vamps, I’ve noticed
Justin’s review: “Critic-proof” is slang for movies that are impossible for film critics to write a review that will have any influence on the public. In almost every case, either the public wouldn’t consider seeing this film in the first place, or the targeted audience is so in love with the movie’s concept/source/genre that they couldn’t care less what houghty-toughty reviewers have to say. “Critic-proof” is the dubious nexus where horror movies and teen girl flicks collide – both have built-in audiences that will see the movie simply because of what it is in their minds, not what it is in any reality that we visit.
Twilight is critic-proof. I might as well not be sitting here, pounding away at this keyboard like a gorilla who just learned how to dominate the home row of keys, except for the fact that my wife dragged me into the theater on vacation to see this, and in writing this review, I am infusing those two-plus hours with an actual sense of purpose, instead of head-slamming meaninglessness.
I know that Twilight’s based off of insanely popular teen novels that have a large, fierce and probably armed conglomerate of girls who would stampede over my soon-to-be corpse if I said anything against this movie in public. I know I’m probably one of only ten actual males who saw this film and survived to tell the tale. And I know that Mutant Reviewer readers have better things to do with their time than spend a couple hours with anorexic vampires who pine after emo girls.
At least, I sure do hope.
Yes, this is the tale of a vampire. Several vampires, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. This vampire in particular is named Edward, and he comes from the heroin-user school of looks: frighteningly thin, big bushy Peter Gallager eyebrows, dark lipstick and Bride of Frankenstein hair. Naturally, all the girls want to jump (and due to their non-stick thin weight, break) his skinny parasitic bones, but he’s been waiting for eons to meet a girl with just the right amount of “realness” and lack of self-esteem to make his vampy bride. Enter Bella (“it means ‘beautiful'” the film nauseatingly exposits), a possible ex-employee of Hot Topic and potential future vampire call girl. She’s moved into a new town, is popular even though she avoids all eye contact and mostly speaks in cryptic, stuttering phrases. She’s got “prey” written all over her neck, and she just doesn’t care.
The first hour of Twilight details Edward’s wooing technique, which alternates between acting like a complete tool and then throwing Bella some googly eyes. Enjoy this period of romancing, as subtle as if Edward pulled his pants down and bent over to present his bright red baboon butt (Animal Planet people know of which I speak), for when it is over, you’re left with emotionally volatile heroin vampire and his newfound girlfriend, who – despite any concrete reason for acting like this – keeps declaring her eternal, steadfast, unrelenting, fearless love of Eddie and his canines. It’s like what Roger Ebert once said – they get together just because they’re two pretty people and that’s what pretty people do in movies.
Oh, Edward tries to keep his vampire nature a secret, but “secret” is a pretty lost cause for a guy who doesn’t age, stalks around the place like he has an all-black MySpace page with blood splatters for a background, has ice-cold hands and keeps acting like the guilty three-year-old who stole a bag of plasma from the blood jar. The shock isn’t that Bella figures his nightlife out, it’s that the entire school hasn’t outed him to the nearest talk show host. “Oh yeah,” they’d say to the listening audience. “Sure we thought it was weird that Edward would look at our necks the entire time we spoke, and that he often came into school smelling of coffin dirt, but we thought it was just a thing. A phase.”
Bella’s excruciatingly slow revelation of Edward’s vampirism is like watching the life and times of the one birthday girl who is being thrown a huge party, and everyone knows but her. We don’t care. It’s been figured out. Move on, already.
Once Twilight does move on – only after Edward reveals (and this is so true that there’s no way I could make it up) that vampires actually glitter like human-shaped disco balls in direct sunlight – do we get past the groan-worthy romance and not-so-secret revelation to something approaching interesting. And, to its credit, this movie does get interesting. For one thing, Eddie is part of a slightly dysfunctional vampire family and we get to watch them play vampire baseball. Which is new for this genre, I guess. And another thing: this sect of vampires are actually hippie vampires that only eat deer and bears and manatees instead of feasting on humans, because there was no other possible way for Twilight’s author to emasculate the vampire legend further without personally kicking it in the junk.
The “conflict” of this tale comes in at the last minute in the form of some actual vampires, vampires who you might actually cheer on for being something less wussy than what you’ve been witness to so far. One decides, probably to put the audience out of their collective misery, to kill Bella, which makes her heroin vampire all kinds of angry. So, fight fight, my fangs are bigger than your fangs, and more vampire lovin’.
As has been pointed out by many people before me, there’s an incredibly disturbing subtext going on with Bella and Edward’s relationship, namely that he keeps blatantly telling her how hard it is not to drink her blood and kill her, and yet she sticks with him because she “trusts” him not to do so. Bella keeps making these simpering statements about how she truly sees him and understands him, and here the guy is physically restraining himself not to murder her. It brings to mind the excuses physically abused spouses make for the damning actions and intents of their abuser. That’s… sick.
Frankly, I’ve just about come to an end of trying to understand what, exactly, about the vampire mythos so entrances all these hordes of people. It’s no secret that, Buffy aside, I’m not in the vampire lobby, and their dark sexual libido motif is as old, dry and dusty as the cells that form their human shell. In fact, let’s do bring Buffy back into the conversation here, because I fail to see how Twilight is anything but an extremely shallow rip-off of B’s on-again, off-again doomed romance with goody two-shoes vampire Angel. Is it because there’s been just about enough time that’s gone by for the public to forget and this cycle to begin anew, only much more lame? Do all girls, everywhere, secretly wish that some creepy immortal undead thing was standing in the corner of their bedroom every night watching them sleep?
Forget it, Justin, it’s Critic-Proof Town.
Sue’s rating: The most epic romance since Titanic! The ship, I mean. Not the movie.
Sue’s review: I have a fifteen year old daughter, Spawn of Mutant 2. As I’m typing this, she is in her bedroom, nursing a sprained foot with an ice pack and watching television. I think I’m safe for the moment. At least I think I can outrun her.
The problem started when I noticed the slogan on her new black hoodie a month or so ago. “I dream about being with you forever,” seems rather open-ended and capricious to the casual reader and runs rather against SoM2’s current anti-dating policy. So, I inquired as to its meaning.
“It’s from Twilight,” she informed me with the traditional teenage tonal undercurrent which implies that parents are about as smart as sea monkeys and only half as entertaining. Mommy’s l’il girl sure is growing up, isn’t she?
“Ah,” I said.
“I have a Team Edward shirt too,” she added proudly.
“Er,” I replied.
“Do you have any idea what I’m talking about?”
I flashed her my best Samantha Carter ‘huh?’ smile. You know, Sam Carter from Stargate SG-1? Once in a while she does this quick little smile which implies momentary social cluelessness, but you know better, because let’s face it, Sam is a flippin’ for-real rocket scientist and can use very large scientific words in very long monologues without stopping to take a breath. Also, she singlehandedly saved the world dozens and dozens of times before the series was cancelled. So when Sam does the ‘huh?’ smile, you never, ever stop respecting her intellect.
“Oh my gosh,” SoM2 exclaimed with horrified enlightenment. “You really don’t know what I’m talking about! You’ve never heard of Twilight?! I mean… duh, Mom!” And then she was off and running.
I am reasonably sure that no one in the history of the universe has ever been able to speak as rapidly as a rabid teenage fangirl with a heretofore uninitiated audience. Unfortunately, my ears are aging, my synapses occasionally misfire and my teenage years are long enough past that I’m not reliably bilingual anymore. I probably took in about 35% of what she actually said and figured out the rest from context:
There’s some series of books, by some lady I’ve never heard of, and they’re better than anything that anyone has ever written anywhere, anytime for any reason. They’re not just better than Rowling, Tolkein or… or Hemingway. They’re better than oxygen! They’re even better than Abercrombie & Fitch or… or Aéropostale! And the first book, the book that started it all, is the literary masterpiece entitled, “Twilight.”
Now, I’ve been a little under the weather lately, so it was entirely possible that I’d somehow missed this cultural “happening.” Also, I’d never seen SoM2 this excited before. Not even when I bought her a hard copy edition of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants a few years ago. I’ll admit it. I was intrigued. Also, I had some time on my hands. So I picked up a copy and I sat down to read it.
My first attempt was a bit of a misfire because SoM2 kept invading my bedroom with cries of, “How far have you gotten?”, “Have you gotten to Edward yet?”, “Ohmygaw Edward is the best!!!! Sqeeeeeeeee!!!!!”
So, I waited until she went to school. (Possibly toting an Edward Cullin lunchbox and an Alice Cullen action figure with high-kick-pitch action. I didn’t check.) The dog was still home, of course, but he doesn’t seem to have bought into the hype yet. I have a feeling, in retrospect, that the dog and I are in the same undesirable demographic as far as the Twilight movie marketing goes.
As near as I can figure, the story is about some klutzy, brainy girl with low super low self-esteem, although she knows she’s smarter than everyone else and every person she meets with a Y chromosome desperately wants to go out with her. (Her parents, incidentally, both score very low on the Sea Monkey scale.) Eschewing all the perfectly nice, normal guys who are all but scattering rose petals (and in one case, a van) in her path as she bumbles around the high school campus, she opts to fall hard for this apparently unattainable, emotionally stunted, latently homicidal, bi-polar who hates her and loves her in alternating paragraphs. He also has the same body temperature as a refrigerated tuna. This is, apparently, sexy. Cold is the new hot. Oh, and he’s a stalker, but that’s probably one of his better qualities.
Her name is Bella. His name is Edward. He is stunning and moody. She feels unworthy. He is stunning and moody. She smells really good. He is stunning and moody. She is enamored by his stunning moodiness, even though he tells her five times a page that he’s really hankering to kill her, although he’d undoubtedly regret it as he drives his Volvo home from the scene of the crime.
Aren’t they kyoot?
Yes, yes, I know this is supposed to be a movie review. I will get to that. I promise.
There is no doubt in my mind that Stephenie Meyers has made a bazilliongillion dollars on the Twilight series. There is no doubt in my mind that she’ll make a bazilliongillion more before she’s done. She tapped right into that “ohmygawhe’ssoooooperfectandsheisjustlikeme!” vein that seems to come standard in teenage girls. Good for her!
But I’ve gotta tell you, the further I got into that book, the more I suspected that my bagel of happy literary anticipation had been generously smeared with moose droppings. By the end of each chapter, I was so tired of Edward emoting up at me from the pages, that I wanted to go take a shower. Edward emotes. He also “mutters” a lot. These things are, allegedly acceptable because Edward also… uhm… twinkles. In direct sunlight.
Needless to say, although I really tried to be gentle, my post-Twilight debriefing with SoM2 did not enhance our mother-daughter relations. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t stop laughing. Hysterically. I almost busted a rib. It’s a darned good thing I’m taking blood-thinning medication. Otherwise she might have employed violence. She probably will after she reads this review.
BUT, when I set my mind to it, I really can be empathetic and loving. So when I knew that she desperately wanted to go see her beloved crap all wrapped up in a greasy cinematic coating, I agreed, nay volunteered, to take her. As we stood in line for popcorn, she turned to me and said, with extra venom, “You. Will. Not. Laugh. During. The. Movie.”
“But what if-”
Chastened, head bowed, I shuffled meekly into the theater, determined not to ruin this special sparkly moment for my sweet second born.
How do I say this?
The movie was worse than the book. How is that possible?
In fact, the movie was so stench-a-riffic, that even SoM2 was appalled.
From the seat beside me came a small shocked voice chanting, “That’s not like the book. That is so not like the book. That wasn’t even in the book! Nothing is in order. Nothing is right. Did these people even read the book?”
And though I was not allowed to laugh, I confess I did lean over and whisper in her ear, “Edward is Anakin Skywalker.”
After a moment of reflection (or it might have just been Edward sparkling on screen), she whispered back in rising hysteria, “Edward IS Anakin Skywalker!”
She may never recover.
But it’s true. While book Edward just emotes and mutters and wrestles kyootly with his inner-psychopathic killer, cinematic Edward’s version of romance was totally channeled from Hayden Christensen’s monotonic woo from Naboo. If our popcorn had come in a bucket, I’d have puked in it.
To be fair, I should say that there were three things about the movie that I enjoyed watching. In the interests of full disclosure, I should add that two of those things were… not in the book.
First of all, I loved Bella’s dad, Charlie. Thank you Billy Burke. You took the blandest character created since the invention of the Gutenberg Press and made him both human (which he was supposed to be, but Meyers doesn’t write humans very well unless they’re emo girls) and entertaining. Charlie’s possession of any sort of personality was not in the book, but it made the movie just a little more bearable for me.
The second thing I enjoyed was the scene of the Cullen family doing their best to cook a nice supper for Edward’s horrifically under-aged girlfriend. Did anyone else notice they were cooking Italian? Does anyone think that garlic wasn’t a part of that? Thanks for destroying yet another fundamental vampire truism, people. Not in the book though. It wasn’t in the book.
The baseball game WAS in the book, and I think they did it a fair amount of justice in the movie. For the ultra-suave Cullen family, baseball seems a really weird choice for family fun-time, but I guess lacrosse sticks wouldn’t hold up very well to super-human athleticism and polo ponies are probably a little too snackable.
Other than those things… well, I guess Bella’s truck was pretty accurate. Beyond that, I got nuthin’.
In the aftermath of all this, and with the understanding that I have not read any of the other books in the series to date, (although I will. It might be a condition of not being murdered in my sleep.) I’ve been a little thoughtful, even a little worried. How is it that I completely missed the pop culture juggernaut that is Twilight? How can it be that the best thing I could find in the book was its inflammability in the event that the recession gets worse and we need to build a fire to keep warm? Have I lost my Mutant powers? Have I truly turned the corner into fuddy-duddy middle-age?
Should I resign my commission, trade my collection of Star Wars books in exchange for a copy of “Chicken Soup For The Terminally Uncool Soul”? Should I learn to… knit?
Naaaaaaaaaaah. I don’t think so.
- So Edwards is 108 years old. Isn’t dating Bella kind of illegal?
- So none of the other doctors and nurses in the medical center notice that the vampire doc has no pulse and is freezing cold?
- All of the actors playing the Cullens wear topaz-colored contacts.
- The author of the original books can be seen next to a laptop ordering a vegetarian salad in the diner at the beginning of the scene where Charlie asks Bella if she likes the boys in town.
- At the cafeteria salad bar, Bella drops an apple which Edward kicks back up and then cradles in his hands, copying the cover image of the Twilight novel.
- All vampires are pretty. What, are they all prejudiced against transforming people who couldn’t grace the cover of GQ or Vogue?
- Twilight Vampires laugh in the face of Vampire “Facts”:
- Wooden Stakes? No problem.
- Religious Symbols? Big whoop.
- Not only do vampires not sleep in coffins, they don’t sleep at all. So they don’t need beds and have lots more room for their CD collections.
- Bats are for baseball.
- Sunlight does not hurt them. It makes them all twinkly and visually stunning.
- Since Kristen Stewart was a minor during most of the filming she wore hair pieces so they didn’t have to waste time doing her hair, and therefore had more time to shoot. The actors who played vampires needed to be pale, so it was written into their contracts that they had to stay out of the sun.
Isabella Swan: You’ve got to give me some answers.
Edward Cullen: I’d rather hear your theories.
Isabella Swan: I have considered radioactive spiders and kryptonite.
Edward Cullen: That’s all superhero stuff, right? What if I’m not the hero? What if I’m… the bad guy?
Edward Cullen: It means if you’re smart… you’ll stay away from me.
Isabella Swan: Okay, let’s say for argument’s sake that I’m not smart.
Isabella Swan: You know, your mood swings are kinda giving me whiplash.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Romeo + Juliet