Monday, January 25, 2010

Movie Mondays: Soapbox Rant - Twilight

Let me say from the start that I really, seriously, do not like Twilight. Commence the clutching of pearls.

To be fair, I've never read the books, so it could be said that I'm forming an opinion in ignorance. But I think that I've participated in/read enough commentary and discussion to at least have a bead on things. Now, if I were the fan and someone made such a sweeping statement about a beloved book series, I'd be all "if you haven't read it, then you don't get to have an opinion."

Oh, if only the world were that fair.

Still, I felt a nagging sense that I should at least gain some – and by some, I'm mean the very least I could possibly get away with – exposure to this, and I shudder to use the word in connection with this claptrap, phenomenon.

But, there it is.

I wasn't going to spend money doing it though because I am an exceptional cheapskate. But Showtime was kind enough to debut the movie Twilight this weekend and I though, eh, why not?

Oh, how I long for those 2 hours of my life back.

It wasn't a total loss. I identified the Arizona landscape in one frame (thanks Sis!) and that's always pretty in its own barbaric way. Remember, I've never read the books, so all I knew to expect was the towering trees of the Pacific Northwest and I only knew that much thanks to the proliferate marketing campaign. So I got pretty scenery from the get go. Check.


Bella is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Really? She shows up in this small, woodsy community and her shrinking violet self is immediately targeted by the most interesting boys in the school, to the detriment of the girls that have been vying for their attention for probably ever. I get the whole "new toy" concept, but all Bella does is send off signals of "please don't realize that I exist". I'm a far stretch away from high school, but I don't remember those being particular turn-ons for the popular crowd. Also, those same girls practically embrace their apparent competition. Again, it's been awhile, but where I grew up, if some new girl instantly started pulling guys away from the herd, the resident girls would label said interloper with welcoming terms like "cold bitch" followed quickly by "freaking weirdo". That much, I do remember.

Vampires GLOW in the sunlight. Are you freaking kidding me? Look, I'm all for reinventing the genre. I think what Laurel K. Hamilton did by creating her whole Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter world around vampires being acknowledge beings who hold legal status was a genius concept and, at first, equally engrossing execution (right up to when Hamilton lost her mind and screwed up the core of Anita beyond salvation. But that's another rant.) But even in Hamilton's world, the vamps still couldn't go into the sunlight. They are creatures of darkness, cursed to forever walk the night, no longer allowed the healing grace of the sun, damned for eternity people! But not in the Twilight-verse. Here, they glow like diamonds. I call, massive, irredeemable, bloody foul. Bram Stoker is doing triple solchows in his grave.

What the hell kind of acting is that? Granted, all I've seen of Robert Pattinson is his brief spell in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but there were enough moments in Twilight where he showed signs of talent and skill to throw a big heaping spotlight on where he was just oh so bad. Much of that is the God-awful dialogue he was stuck prattling off like it had some Legends of the Fall level of angst. And I think the directing had a lot to do with it too. Plus, this sucker was churned out lickity-split to capitalize on Twilight fervor.

But still. Come on! Many of the articles I read when the film was released spouted off about how committed Pattinson was into getting Edward's emotional struggle and conflict, how he wasn't sleeping, how he was as torn as his character in some moments. Whahuh? I'm sorry to say, darling, but it really didn't pay off. Also, why are you making such contortions to your face? Is this your director-guided idea of emotional dilemma? Or are you digesting something poorly? AB negative, perhaps?

And don't get me started on Kristen Stewart. I can give pity points for inexperience, and I'm even willing to allow that this may actually be a job well done where she's created a character that is just so very bland as that's probably how she was originally written. It seems in keeping with the poor characterization I've been told is in the novel. But the pursing lips, open mouth, heaving breaths is straight out of the Keira Knightly school of acting (who I usually like, for the most part) and is not the template young actress should be following these days.

Complete lack of romantic chemistry or entanglement. OK, I remember enough of being a teenager to realize that the anticipation is really what winds girls up. But still, these two have the romantic chemistry of a pair of gnats. Really, it's just annoying. And for all the climbing of trees and the walking through woods we get one kiss and an eventual "no, don't touch!" response from Edward. Too much of their "relationship" is built in montage with romantic music overlaid so that we can't actually hear what they're saying. But it doesn't matter! She's Mary Sue – er – blessed Bella! He's her immortal, undead, tortured lover. Who can't stand the smell of her. Oh-kay.

Bella's voiceover. Lady, you're blandness has already a nonentity as far as I'm concerned. I already have to endure you on the screen to watch pretty, pretty Robert. Why would I want to hear what's rattling around in your head as well?

Jasper is a new "vegetarian" vampire. Which is why it makes perfect sense to send him off with the human to be her protection. Uh huh.

Peter Facinelli is blonde. I suspect this is again dictated by the characterizations in the novel, but it made this prime example of a smoldering man into a pale, blonde, boob. Which leads me to -

The most neutered vampires I have ever seen. I respect the fact that this particular group of the fanged variety is especially dedicated to not feeding off humans. But they are otherworldly creatures; surely there should be some sense of dread or threat beyond a fixed gazed on a bleeding hand. I guess this is because they glow. Again, faulty children, I refer you to Buffy season three, and the palpable fear and menace regularly created by The Mayor without a single drop of blood.

Sudden Big Bad comes out of nowhere for a compressed anticlimactic ending. Yeah they were there from the beginning, James, Victoria, and some abominable version of La Croix, picking off those poor, unwary and unworthy ancillary characters. Obviously, any guy who'd give little bottles to the kids when playing Santa deserves to be the prey of blood-sucking fiends? (We're all agreed that those were little liquor bottles, right?) None of our vegetarian vampires are really troubled by this, beyond the concern that these outsiders are trespassing on their territory and might be exposing our resident brood. But suddenly, poor blessed Bella is in danger from some vampiric whelp who's just met her, and it's all hands on deck. And it's not like she holds the key to the universe or will give birth to the ultimate vampire killer, or discovered The Key or whatever. It's only for the sport of it.

James, let me introduce you to Spike, an actually bad ass vampire who scared the piss out of me right up till he got neutered, but that wasn't till around season five, so you've a wealth of material as example. He even sniffs better than you. Hey, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, except when it sucks. Go undo your hair and be a good boy. Oh, wait, you're dead already because being undead doesn't mean that a girl can't break your neck before tearing your body to pieces and throwing those pieces into a fire. Or so we're told.

Not one single flash of fang. What kind of vampires are they? FOUL!!!

Despite this vitriol, there were a few things that I did actually like. Really, I'm as surprised as you are.

The baseball game. I really enjoyed watching the vamps play together like the family the purported to be. It showed their history together and their affection. Why couldn't we have more of that? Also more Elizabeth Reaser!

Edward's alpha strut through the high-school parking lot. Oh yeah, he's the man. He's got the blessed Bella on his arm. And he's having fun.

Robert Pattinson is an exceptionally attractive man, mostly, to my eyes, because his features are so unique and striking. It makes the contortions he utilized to exude emotional strain all the more disturbing, but it also makes him – dare I say it – glow when he's not trying so hard and when he's just having fun.

The apple trick. Nifty. Those English soccer skills pay off, huh Robert?

Sex, money, sex, money, cat. A genuine "Hee" for that, increased by the priceless expression on the cat man's face. Though that, for once, was a little scary in a weird way.

Bella's "friends". The quotes are because they don't really seem to be her friends off campus. Srrsly, no one seems to call her at night to chat, they don't hang out at the diner together, she's only ever on the phone with her mom. Any other woman would get the rap of thinking she's too good for them. But not our blessed Bella. The little group at Forks High School have a good time together and constantly, despite blessed Bella's pathological constant rejection of them, invite her to be a part of their fun-loving, exuberant group. Your loss lady.

The wolves: I am a downright sucker for good foreshadowing. I compulsively have to know what is going on, so any time even the hint of a deeper, continuing story is thrown out there I am compelled to carry on just to find out What Happened. So all those little moments with Jacob and his father, the drive by glare-off, the "I leave you alone for two minutes and the wolves descend" double entendre. I like it. I like the promise it shows and I'm sad for all the dropped opportunity it exhibits. This time, it's our loss.

I think there could be a fine story in here somewhere, but it so covered by the treacle and the failures that I couldn't even tell where to begin. I certainly don't see why it's engendered so much lavish devotion in its fan base.

Or maybe I can. Look, I was nearly in fits over The Outsiders in my day, and spent gobs of money on repeat viewings of Top Gun, Ferris Bueller, Sixteen Candles, Pretty and Pink – you get the idea. So I can relate. Sense rarely intervenes in this kind of devotion and I wouldn't have it any other way. But I do take onus with the quality. This is a feature film. It should call out all the stops, regardless of its source material. And when a good season finale of Buffy
the Vampire Slayer (I'll pull out season three here again because it rocks) can deep-six this entire movie for physical, emotional, and storytelling commitment, I'm totally in the dark as to what generates the fervor that surrounds this franchise.

Even if it glows.

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