Movie Review: Twilight
It's difficult to denounce the allure of vampires, those mythological bloodsuckers of folklore whose various tales of legend remain just as immortal as the creatures themselves. Stephenie Meyer discovered this when a dream involving a human teenage girl and her night-stalking boyfriend influenced her to put pen to paper in 2003 despite never having written creatively before. Three months later, a simple illusion evolved into a full-length novel entitled Twilight, and faster than you can illegally download the latest Jonas Brothers CD, three more books followed and won the hearts and minds of adolescent girls the world over. Considering the box office successes of the Harry Potter and The Lord Of the Rings franchises, big screen adaptations of The Twilight Saga were a no-brainer. Eclipse, the third film in the series, opened a few weeks back in theaters everywhere, so let's take a look at the first movie and see how it stacks up in the endless pantheon of vampire cinema.
The first film of The Twilight Saga, simply entitled Twilight, was released in 2008 and introduced us to Bella Swan, the heroine of the series played by Kristen Stewart. Bella has just moved to the quaint town of Forks, Washington from Phoenix to reunite with her estranged father (Billy Burke) while her mother hits the road with her new minor league baseball player boy toy. For someone who has spent nearly her entire life situated in some of the hottest climate inside the United States, Bella is unusually peaked, but her paleness allows her to fit in perfectly with the palette of blues and grays that saturate the gloomy northwestern weather around her. Twilight surprisingly avoids the "new-girl-in-town-has-trouble-making-friends" cliché as Bella immediately joins up with an assorted group of classmates (including the delicious Anna Kendrick from the upcoming Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World), but it doesn't take long for her new pals to take a back seat to the mysterious lurker from her science class.
At first, Bella is confused by the odd behavior of Edward Cullen, played by Robert Pattinson, a ghoulish young actor who has inexplicably captivated an entire generation of prepubescent females with his powder-caked face and high-grade hair gel. Edward continually glares at Bella in class and contorts his face as if trying to hold in a giant fart. After a few more awkward encounters, Bella musters up the courage to confront Eddie, but he quickly dismisses her. It isn't until one faithful day when Edward saves Bella from being crushed by a speeding car that their impending romance starts to bloom. Ed urges Bella that they shouldn't becomes friends but pursues her regardless of his own warnings, and before long, her curiosity about this brooding enigma comes to a head. An evening of extensive Googling convinces Bella that Edward is a vampire. Strangely, none of this research mentions crucifixes, garlic, sunlight, wooden stakes or any other weakness traditionally linked to these mythical beings.
News flash -- what we see in the Twilight series are not vampires. The 108-year-old Edward and his adopted siblings (who apparently are also vampires) attend public school in broad daylight using the constant cover of clouds to shield them from the sun. What a tremendous cop-out that only begs further questioning. You would think that nearly a century of high school would drive anyone bonkers, but if Eddie were to suddenly drop out to follow other interests, the arbitrary love story between he and Bella would be null and void. The relationship that eventually forms between the lovebirds seems to appear out of thin air. Nothing happens between them that would normally draw two people together; their connection only exists to service the flimsy story. When Edward finally gives in and reveals that he is indeed a vampire (or at least what passes for a vampire in this teeny-bopper universe), the extraneous melodrama kicks into high gear.
It's understandable that screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg desired to put a fresh spin on an exhausted genre, but vampires who sparkle in sunlight as if they just rolled around on the floor of a high-class strip club? Twilight shamelessly spits in the face of eons worth of vampire cinema and literature, trading in blood and fangs for two hours of frolicking through the woods between its two young stars. Nothing of note even happens until the last thirty minutes of the movie when James, an dastardly vampire who decides to hunt Bella for sport, lures her into a trap to trigger the film's only interesting scene -- a showdown between good and evil that takes place inside of a dance studio. Edward shows up to save the day, but James is too strong, leading to a conclusion that demonstrates lazy screenwriting in its top form. Edward's family swoops in and takes James out just in the nick of time, putting the cherry on top of this shit sundae until the inevitable sequel, New Moon, wormed into theaters the following year.
The Verdict: Listen... I know that I don't fit into Twilight's target audience, but I know a lousy movie when I see one. This movie was made for a crowd who enjoys their vampires mopey and overemotional rather than dark and frightening. Perhaps when today's crop of teenaged moviegoers mature, they'll be able to handle the awesomeness of HBO's True Blood, a television series that doesn't hold back from displaying vampires doing what they do best -- biting necks and steaming up the screen as the violent but enchanting creations that they're meant to be. This was originally supposed to be a two-part review also featuring New Moon, but that film is even worse than this one and sees Bella transform into a whiny little bitch who sulks around her room for months when Edward leaves to ensure her safety... or whatever. I'll give Twilight a 2 out of 10 and be done with it. "Fangs" for reading.