Twilight (2008), or A Treatise On Young, Dumb Love

29 12 2008
Come on, baby. A ninety year age difference aint nothin but a thang...

"Come on, baby. A ninety year age difference ain't nothin' but a thang..."

What is it about the idea of star-crossed lovers that gets everyone in a frenzy? Perhaps it’s the sweeping romance of youth’s passion that intoxicates them. Perhaps it’s the impossibility of their love that plucks the strings of so many hearts. Whatever the reason, young, doomed lovers have been a hit in popular Western culture since Tristan and Iseult exchanged bodily fluids in the 12’th century. Countless variations of the “We’re too different to be in love, but we are” scenario have peppered the tapestry of Western art for hundreds of years; some good, some bad, some mind-numbingly awful. Today, the talk of the proverbial town is the latest take on this ancient tradition of fucking with the destinies of fictional youths, the vampire-romance Twilight. And while it is not versed in the ways of ultimate lameness as some macho, macho men out there would have you believe, it is by no means a good movie.

In this permutation, we have Bella Swan, a teenage girl in high school who has just moved to Washington state to live with her father, and Edward Cullen (spoilers ahead for everyone who has been living off of the planet for the past 365 days), who is a 100 year-old vampire also living in Washington who just happens to look like an underage and undead model for a Sears catalog. Bella is socially awkward. By that, I mean she is attractive, dresses to the fashion, and has a number of friends who she quite casually picks up within hours of coming to town. And Edward Cullen is the mysterious man about campus that everyone wonders about. He and his super-pale brothers and sisters walk around the high school in slow-motion together every day between classes trying really hard to look like vampires, which is convenient because they do, and they are. Together these two make a maelstrom of angst that would flood the earth with teenage ennui if they existed in the real world.

The movie involves their subsequent meeting, courtship, vow of eternal love, and the consequences of said vow. It is all very dramatic, and taken with the most dire seriousness. This is eternal love, after all. Eternal love! They’re both (supposed to be) 17, damn it, and they know what eternal love is all about! We’re not, as viewers, supposed to even question the fact that perhaps these decisions are brought about by teenage hormones and sexual frustration instead of the serious considerations of two intelligent adults on an entire life spent with another person. Would it be inconceivable that this is all a bit rash? True love is something that cultivates, something that takes time and blossoms from a growing fondness to a deep attachment to a tremendous love to a lifetime spent together in every sense of the word. It’s getting to know somebody inside and out. Begin a tally during this movie on your hand of all the conversations Bella and Edward have together that don’t involve setting exposition, situation, or plot, but just involve getting to know each other. How many fingers are you holding up? How many hands?

There are other problems. Edward and his ghost-like sibling posse are so obviously vampires to the audience. The advertising campaign ingrained you with hundreds of commercials and posters and radio spots that all relay to you that Edward is a vampire. Vampires are part of our social consciousness nowadays. So why, oh why, do we spend 45 minutes(!) of the movie’s run time figuring out with Bella that Edward is a vampire? Let her figure it out on her own time! I already read the memo, guys. Thanks, anyway. Also, the characters are so unbelievably hip that it pisses me off to watch them perform the most basic motor skills. If you feel that trendiness isn’t a problem in a film, just wait until Bella starts eating. Vegetarianism is obviously name-dropped at least 3 times! People are extremely fashionable in this movie in an incredibly pandering attempt to identify with today’s teenager. I’m sure that to a large extent it worked, too. “Wow, that guy wears skinny tapered jeans, too. He’s just like me!” But it doesn’t change the fact that it is a hollow gesture to give to people they obviously believe to be just as hollow.

It’s not all bad, despite my tone. Washington is gorgeous. It might come off as a jab, but I’m serious. Every deep green leaf on every tree the characters walk past is a reminder of the wonder of nature, and every forest scene (produced by the mixed-bag cinematographer Elliot Davis. Good job, Elliot!) is an aide memoire that life is beautiful, and so is love. And there is one relationship that really stands out in the movie, which is between Bella and her father, Charlie. They are very estranged from one another, which makes living together difficult at times. But they love each other very much, and it is at times gut-wrenching to watch as they try to talk to each other. I hope to see more of this relationship in the next three movies.

So, what do I think all together? The fans of the series clamor, “You don’t get it! If you’re not a fan, you won’t like it as much!” They are correct: I am not a fan. I have not read the books or delved to deeply into the characters or read the raunchy slash fiction on the internet (yet). But that to me is almost besides the point. A movie does not go down in history as a great companion to a book or some other media (look at Battlefield Earth). A movie must stand alone. And if we are judging by that philosophy, Twilight does not stand at all. It simply plummets to the ground, plain and simple. And yet after the fall, within the rubble left behind, there are still some worthwhile trinkets and baubles to be found: pieces of this movie that I would like to see in the rest of the series. In my incredibly scientific movie-critiquing scale, I give Twilight 3 sets of skinny tapered jeans out of 10.

Thanks for reading! See you January 1’st for my first round of reviews!

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5 responses

31 12 2008
Bren

Ha! Skinny tapered jeans. Douche. Great review…

16 01 2009
coffee

seems likely that they will come out with a Twilight sequel pretty soon, there’s a crazy lot of ticket sales at stake

16 01 2009
cinematronica

Oh, yeah! They already have a street date for the new movie! It hasn’t even started production yet!!! WTF, guys? It’s a film, not a fucking tennis shoe! Hard to believe. huh? That’s Hollywood for ya.

14 09 2009
Jenni David

I watched the movie and THEN read the books and became the most disgusting sort of stalker fan you can imagine…all that aside:

I HATE the cinematography!!

and although I get what you are saying about the moving standing out, just sos you know…the stupidly obvious way that the vampires look is actually in the book…they are supposed to look very unnatural.

14 09 2009
cinematronica

Yeah, I got that they were supposed to be different, but it just seemed like it’s more than a little counter-intuitive that they’re supposed to be blending in to the environment, but seemingly doing everything they can to look like eccentrics and Milan prostitutes during Fashion Week. And I REALLY liked the cinematography! It played more like a Travelogue at some points, I’ll give you that (Washington is for lovers…), but I just felt Forks was beautiful enough that it could sustain an aesthetic style like that.

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