Part 1 of the new Geek Actually multi part opinion piece about the films of “The Twilight Saga”
Polishing the turd that is the Twilight Saga Part 1
2008 was a bumper year for poo! The first Twilight film was released! And the “Mythbusters” team empirically proved that given sufficient motivation, pressure, time and effort, it is indeed possible to polish a turd. Source material is relatively important as is some way to quantify that gloss has been achieved. A device called a ‘Gloss Meter’ can measure accurately relative shininess and units above 70 equals high gloss. At the time of writing, the “Twilight Saga” books and films have earned in excess of 1.7 billion dollars. I think that will qualify as relative ‘shininess’.
And so, gentle reader, the lovely David has tasked me with reviewing these films, and thus I have decided, in an effort to be just and fair, to use the techniques used to make the turd shine, as the architecture for my reviews. There will be some spoilers so read this at your peril… well, as perilous as viewing the film is.
So to approach this experience with as much authenticity as I can muster. I have shed the weight of the Crone that I am and I am snuggling back into the mindset of the maiden, where new emotions, so tender and raw, are straining to burst forth into the light. And I really want to care!! And YOU BETTER MAKE ME YEARN, DAMMIT…. OK!!!!!!!
So, hot on the heels of the success of the books, Hollywood is highly motivated and under a significant amount of pressure to expand the mighty, mighty “Twilight” empire. And they really need to get it right in terms of casting and creating the Universe. Luckily for them it exists in the real world of Forks, Washington (yes Ms. Myers didn’t have to dream that place up), no imagination required there or sets for that matter ($$$ saved already, hope they spend it on special effects and a great screenplay). They really don’t have a lot of time though because they MUST get the product out there while it is still hot. So three of our four factors for getting this film right are under the gun.
We open with a voice-over from Bella, extolling the virtues of a noble death in her bored monotone – nice scenery and the musical score is impressing me so far! We are effectively starting at the climax of the movie. Interesting trope to garner our attention. Let’s see if it works, shall we?
Bella (‘It’s Complicated’) Swann manages to attract everyone’s attention except mine; why do people bother to even talk to her. She has the happy knack of making the person attempting to engage her feel like they have trodden in verbal poop and are attempting to smear it on her. Oh Bella, it really isn’t that complicated, you know, Pet!!! You just look at people when you talk to them and try to… you know… finish… a sentence… and don’t look away and for goodness sake; smile goddammit!! (Pasty-faced piece that you are…)
Yet, tragically, having read the first book, I seem to recall it is pretty close to what was written, which concerns me no end about the mind of Stephenie Myers. Sorry… sorry… I know I mentioned the allegorical poo source material. And I know I am trying to keep it separate, but in the words of the poet William Butler Yeats, “How can we know the dancer from the dance?”
Bella repels everyone’s advances at normal human interaction. Her self–absorption, alienation, ennui, passivity, estrangement and masochism are on such a monumental scale I don’t know why there hasn’t been a psychiatric intervention already. She has a death-wish a mile wide, and already looks like she’s dead. Perhaps a vampire make-over may improve her no end!! And what’s with the klutziness anyway! Is it supposed to emphasise her… what! Vulnerability? Fragility? Further uselessness? Needs protecting… apparently. (yawn).
However, in the interest of research, I have questioned a number of young girls (11-13 age groups) to glean their feelings about the actors playing these characters and I have discovered a disturbing trend. Yes, there is polarisation in the Team Edward/Jacob camps, however Bella herself and indeed Kristen Stewart seems to have the young girls unswerving loyalty and devotion. Could this indeed signal that Ms. Myers has managed to capture that nebulous Zeitgeist that typifies the alienated teen girl? Perish the thought but it seems to be true.
Alright, what else do I like. The styling… is… brilliant. The clothes, the cars, the hair, the house, the make-up. How do the Cullen’s pay for all this? Do they have long term investments and annual stipends? How do they hedge against inflation? Does Alice’s future scrying peep into Market Trends?
So now to Edward. Rob Pattinson, pretty, pretty boy. In real life a bit of a giggler, his face is quite beautiful when he smiles… but when he tries to channel the angst-ridden teen, oh deary gracious I… I keep thinking ‘constipation?’ (Why, oh why, do we keep returning to faecal matters). My twelve year old son, who is ably assisting me on this review, has conjectured about his acting style. He can’t fathom how various squints and grimaces are supposed to convey deep emotion and passion. That said, whoever composed the above screen shot was inspired to say the least…
What is good about young/old Edward? The contact lenses, even the diamond skin special effect. I quite like that. I like sparkly things, you see. To apply the old ADHD quote, ‘I could have ruled the world if I hadn’t been distracted by something shiny!!’ But the shininess here isn’t sufficient to distract me in this case from the rest of this…, this… (insert word not related to poo, Robyn).
The whole Edward character is fraught with issues, creepy stalker, anger, the messages are so wrong in so many ways. Such as ‘Only moody boys are interesting’. The relationship ‘come here, go away’ thing is so sadistic and misogynistic as to be scary. Also, his wishes are paramount and hers are not really worthwhile.
And the prime reason Bella seems to be attractive to him is because she is not only an enigma to him, his mind-reading superpower doesn’t work (methinks there is nothing to read), she is also such a ‘nummy treat’ she needs protecting; essentially from him and the Family.
Do I care yet?? Yes but not for the reasons I really want to…
I need take a moment here to discuss the other characters; Bella’s parents do a reasonable job, as hamstrung as they are. I think they have as much depth as the material’s micron-thick level of character development allows them. As does the Quileute tribe members that we are introduced to, but once again, Ms. Myers didn’t have to stretch as they are exist, except for the werewolf bit. I think. I hope.
The other students only serve as exposition tools and have no discernible personalities aside from clichés and stereotypes.
I am perturbed to see that the adults and normal teenagers in her world are portrayed as buffoons and normal teenage activities and life are somehow inferior and to be looked down upon. Only the emotionally marginalised characters are authentic and supposedly worthy of our interest.
Oh God, Stephanie, you had such wonderful role models to draw from, Joss Whedon and Charlaine Harris just to name a couple! How could you go so wrong??
Because, you see, I likes a bad vampire, all that sex and death and stuff. So what happens if you have chaste vampires? Nothing!! That’s what!! Just a bloody lot of… well… blood, I guess. And if you take that away for a PG rating, you don’t have much left of anything really.
I noted that Charlie and the Grandfather have some sense of fun and buoyancy. Not Bella, not the Cullens. I believe, according to the Whedon vampire cannon, Giles once stated that he wasn’t feeling so good because ‘since Angel lost his soul, he’s regained his sense of whimsy.’ What are the fun and frolics of this happy soul-less vampire family? Camping out in sunny weather, baseball in thunderstorms, healthy and bonding I guess, but where are the chuckles?
The dialogue itself is woeful, whoever did the screenplay needs to slapped on the back of the legs and sent to their room to think long and hard about what they have done.
So, I have a couple questions; why do they keep going to high school and graduating (all the hats?)? Wouldn’t they get bored with the same syllabus over and over again? And since when do vampires have venom?
At least the story starts to become more engaging with the introduction of the non-vegetarian vampires at the baseball game. At last… Alas, no, that little bit of something happening then falls off the twig with pointless running about and some exposition and risible special effects.
We finally come full circle and meet up with our introductory monologue climax at the dance studio. Worth it? Mmmmm; I think not. However the stylised bon-fire in the dance studio sequence was pretty and we had a nice little bit of violence to despatch actually-evil vampire James. And then happy skipping and dancing in a primal manner to indicate that even with non-evil vegetarian vampires you only have to ‘scratch the surface and you still have the ‘true killer vampire’ thing, right there, ready to leap forth at a moment’s notice to do all the really bad vampire stuff that we are gagging for all along’.
Then ‘Edward’ (the actual Rob Pattinson himself), is having a bit of a deep, bluesy style sing in the background while that fire and dancing and venom sucking sequence was going in slow-motion (which was a rather nice effect) and a quite arty and effective ‘Bella montage’ is whipping through to symbolise ‘life flashing before your eyes as you die’. Well I surmise, that is, I could have it all wrong. But I quite liked that bit. Young Robert has musical talent apparently and really, truly played the pianoforte for ‘Bella’s Lullaby’. Good on you, Rob (he sounds like a sort of a cross between Joe Cocker and Jeff Buckley, I think).
And then, suddenly, it was all over, and a pat explanation from Bella’s mum as to the nature of her injuries and how they were acquired at the hospital bed, and we are all home in time for tea and proms.
But then Bella has her ‘you can never talk about leaving me’ outburst to Edward, oh dear… Bunny boiler alert! Really Edward, I know you are the vampires and titular monsters of this opus, but Eddie boy, as they said in “Pirates of the Caribbean”, take heed, take warning, ‘You’re off the edge of the map, mate. Here there be monsters.’ But that would be spoilers right there, eh.
In summation, I actually believe that Edward and Bella are indeed a match made in heaven (or wherever). All that, ‘Edward says ‘I’m no good’ and Bella says ‘I’m not worthy’’, well guess what!! They’re right!! They are a charmless and gormless couple with virtually no redeeming features. They actually deserve each other and quite frankly, I wanted to care for them but I just don’t. I did not have that maiden yearn for love. EPIC FAIL, MOVIE-PEOPLE!!
And isn’t that the point of a romance, to yearn and care? The only thing I am yearning for at this time is Stephanie Myer’s money, the Cullen’s house and cars and I really liked that rotunda with the fairy lights at the end of the Prom. That was really pretty and sparkly and… oh sorry… I was distracted.
That said, the score and the soundtrack effectively captured all the teen tragedy, yearnings and angst in a jolly kind of way and the scenery and cinematography was fabulous.
Regrettably, I feel that the “Twilight Saga” needs to be studied and endured from a Cultural Anthropological perspective and so I will persevere. Better luck in the next instalment, The Twilight Saga: New Moon”. Tell your friends…
And so we return to our original contention, although you may be able to polish a turd, it essentially remains, a piece of shit!
Thank you, gentle reader, for spending this time with me. I hope to have your company again as we journey through the polished poos that have been strung together to form the necklace that is ‘The Twilight Saga.’
Robyn is currently writing part 2 all about her experiences with “The Twilight Saga: New Moon”. If you enjoyed her column make sure you leave her a comment below.
Read Part 2 – Twilight: New Moon – The Puppy People Strike Back