So my weekly DVD recommendation segment is receiving a bit of a dreary makeover for this week in honor of tomorrow’s DVD and Blu-Ray release of last fall’s unstoppable beast known as Twilight. Not only do I resent the fact that Twilight is supposedly high and mighty enough to get a Saturday street date (when the norm is Tuesday), but Borders sent me an email yesterday morning reminding me of their “midnight release party” to celebrate this travesty stumbling into people’s homes. Not even the Harry Potter movies get this kind of treatment.
If you’ve read anything I’ve ever written on this site, then you probably know that’s it’s no secret how much I hated this film. I’ve said some things in the past. Some things that I can’t quite take back. I know my bitterness and complaining isn’t helping anything and will only serve to make a few people hate me, a few people chuckle, and most people not care, but given the sparse options hitting shelves this week, I felt it necessary to address it, as MovieChopShop didn’t exist when this film hit theaters, so I finally have an opportunity to review it and throw my two cents of fury in.
The movie is the story of 17-year-old (aren’t they always?) Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), whose “HEYLOOKATMEI’MSOLITERARY” name makes me gag. After being more or less abandoned by her mother, she moves to the drab small town of Forks, Washington to live with her father, Charlie (Billy Burke), the town’s police chief. She’s fairly quick to make some nice token oddball friends including Jacob (Taylor Lautner) the nice little Native American boy with the long hair, ominous smiles, and adorable handicapped father. Jacob is one of the many characters/ideas in this film that is introduced for what seems to be no other purpose than to have relevance in the sequels. But we’ll get to this later.
Seated next to Bella in her Biology class is the impossibly mysterious Edward Cullen (Pattinson), one of a large family of bizarre outcast siblings who stalk around the school looking angry and spend a lot of time looking at people and licking their chops. Edward, however, is none too happy about the seating arrangement and looks at her in audience-distressing disgust. Seriously, to see the guy’s face–which already looks like the sole of a shoe sucking on a lemon–contort into an implosive grimace is one of the most difficult things to watch that I’ve seen in a while. So once that bell finally rings, he’s out the door in a flash and isn’t back in class for days, leaving Bella really insulted and the audience thinking that, as unintentionally hilarious as that all was, maybe it was a set up for something interesting. Well, it’s not. I still have no idea what any of that was about.
When Edward eventually saves her from being crushed by a car in a feat of physically impossible strength and speed, she soon becomes quite taken by him and he eventually lets her know his (and his family’s) deepest, darkest secret: they’re vampires! (At least they think they’re vampires. I’ve seen many a vampire movie and these things are no vampires.)
There’s more plot later, after all this useless setup, but it’s all pretty dumb and involves being stalked and chased by three really, really mean vampires whose only motivation is that they just “love the chase.” Along the way, many characters like the aforementioned Jacob, and ideas like one of the Cullen’s ability to see the future are introduced and put to no use whatsoever. It’s basically a state-of-the-art bad movie. Nothing works in it. It’s kinda got ADD of the narrative structure. Every last plot thread is begun and forgotten, begun and forgotten, begun and forgotten until you have a giant movie made up of smaller movies with no endings.
Is this reason for me to hate the movie as passionately as I do? No, of course not. I’ve seen a lot of movies that were just as bad (and worse) structurally and I don’t hate them, I just think they really, really suck. Maybe I should backtrack, though and explain why I even saw this movie to begin with. My dear sweet buddy Quaid sold me on it. He said it was really dumb but a lot of fun and there was one detail in particular.
See, one of the many liberties that Twilight takes with vampire mythology is the notion that vampires just looove to play baseball. But the poor guys can only play when there’s a thunderstorm because they’re so strong and hit the ball so hard that they have to disguise the sound as the roar of thunder. I can’t make this shit up! (Stephanie Meyer can, apparently.) So that sold me. Any movie that has the gall to depict that kind of gleeful absurdity should be worth seeing, right? Right??
WRONG! There’s just no glee. I’m not really one for winking-at-the-camera humor, but that sure would have helped this one out in intense ways. There’s no humor, no charm, no nothing going on in this movie that lets you know that there’s at least someone behind the camera who realizes what a cesspool of creativity this material is. When Edward peels off his clothes to show Bella why vampires really can’t go out in the sun (it exposes their GLITTERY SKIN) and when Bella mounts his back while he frollicks up and down through the trees like a flying stallion-boy, the movie gives you no assurance that this isn’t supposed to be taken seriously. It turns any of the potentially fun-goofiness of it and turns it all into urgent “get-me-out-of-this-theater” awfulness.
If you want to take ludicrious liberties with the vampire genre, then fine. I won’t necessarily like it, but fine. But when you do this–this obnoxious and preposterous crap–that’s when I take issue. Knowing what I was going to get out of the plot and characters and “mythology,” I went into this movie for a good laugh, and I was getting them for a little bit (no one else in the packed theater was laughing except for my girlfriend and me). There came a point, though (right around the vampire baseball point) when it stopped being funny and was just sad, pathetic, and ridiculous.
What offends me about this movie isn’t its terrible structure, bad performances (that Pattinson guy is a complete joke), or even the general stupidity. As I’ve said, that stuff could have been helped by simply having a good time with the material and not taking it too seriously. Or seriously at all. By acting as if it were worth a damn, it’s just a cold hard slap in the face to the concept of real creativity. When the best you’ve got is this and you sell it to me like it’s serious storytelling, then I’m sorry but we have an issue. For bold creativity to actually be interesting and effective, it needs to resonate on a sensible and human level somewhere. At the end of the day, Twilight just feel’s like a film adaptation of a kindergartener’s fingerpaintings. Nothing in this movie makes any sense on any kind of thematic level. It’s whiny teen hackneyed romance crap in the guise of a glittery vampire movie. It’s just dumb.
Maybe I’m a snob and maybe I’m being overly harsh. I’ve certainly gone on a bit of a rant. Maybe some things at the multiplex just aren’t for me. But for me there wasn’t a single interesting plot point, a single moment of (intentional) fun, or any real passion or spirit whatsoever. It’s a dry, bleak movie that thinks its some swooning, epic, generation-defining vampire romance. No one can really face up to the fact that it’s disposable, ridiculous crap. The success of this movie is discouraging to me. My faith in the world continues to slip.