Part 2 of the new Geek Actually multi part opinion piece about the films of “The Twilight Saga”
Twilight: New Moon – The Puppy People Strike Back
Welcome back, Gentle Reader, to the second instalment of my reviews of The Twilight Saga. To recap, David has requested that I review these film (a journey he calls it). And here there be spoilers, but how can you spoil rotten eggs!
Now I wish to state at the outset I actually like this film more than the first. I think the ratio of polish to poo is thicker (sort of like a Smartie or Jaffa only instead of chocolate you have… oh, well… you get the idea).
But Gentle Reader, please bear with me a moment, I really need to speak privately with David…
I think HAL the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey pretty well covered it with… “Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave? I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do”.
I thought this would be an easy task. I threw my head back and laughed a throaty and cruel laugh. I thought I could sit and mock, stand and mock, mock from a chair, a stair or even via a sock. But I confess this whole exercise is starting to frustrate and confound me. Because review and mock as I will/can and shall, my analysis is empirically proving that Stephenie Meyer isn’t playing properly, Dave! She isn’t following the writing ‘Rules of Engagement’. There is no ‘Heroes Journey’, a couple of vague archetypes perhaps, the slimmest whiff of basic patterns of plot, theme, character, and genre. Where are the theories of story, etc? Not a through-line to be seen!!
If it could be said that these conventions are required to form the ‘Nutritional Panel’ of the minimum R.D.I. (Recommended Daily Intake) for a decent story, then this means that The Twilight Saga is effectively the literary equivalent of an ‘Elvis Presley Deep Fried Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich!’
And what’s all this pretentious ‘Saga’ stuff? Technically a ‘Saga’ is supposed to be ‘a narrative telling the adventures of a hero or a family; originally (12th to 14th centuries) a story of the families that settled Iceland and their descendants.’ That’s as may be, but there are no discernible heroes, connected blood-family and nary a Viking to be seen (even True Blood has a Viking)!!
So tell me, if Stephenie Meyer isn’t following the rules, Dave, why is she winning all the money, success and movie deals? It isn’t fair, Dave. I feel like Alice and Dorothy all rolled up in one. I’ve eaten the cake and drunk the drink and I’m just not in Kansas anymore…
Sorry Gentle Reader, I just had a moment. In fact, since I started reviewing these films, I’ve been having quite a few of them, I find myself holding my face in my hands and muttering, “oh dear!!!”
So we open with a voice-over from Bella, extolling the virtues of a noble death in her bored monotone. Hang on a minute… déjà vu??? No wait! It’s okay because this quote is from Shakespeare, you know, like, Romeo and Juliet. Once again Ms. Meyer doesn’t have to think of words because she can use someone else’s. They featured classical music in the first film (Debussy’s Clair De Lune) and now confirmation that Bella and Edward are ‘intellectuals’ because they just so get this stuff, you know. God, I’m relieved, and here I was, thinking it was total tosh.
I suspect Alice (just the BVFF’s (Bestest Vampire Friends Forever), and I really mean forever) sums up both Bella and this film with the following quote; ’I have never met anyone more prone to life-threatening idiocy’.
But let’s look on the upside, we have nice bright red costumes and we are in sunny Italy – Twilight has gone global, folks – a better budget means the success is being translated into better quality locations and special effects. I’m really… really… hopeful!! But there is self-derivation aplenty because we are again starting at the action climax of the movie. This better be worth the trip to Tuscany.
So, climax scene set (Italy, in case you missed it). We have the school room scene with actual warmth and humour in it; teachers and students being emotionally invested in Romeo and Juliet (you know, from Italy), but then we are supposed to be impressed by Edward’s being able to recite that passage off by heart, because he’s graduated 25 times, for goodness sake… sorry, he’s an Intellectual. Oh, then the ‘how vampires can suicide’ chat TELEGRAPHING THE WHOLE BLOODY STORY!
I regret to report that Bella’s and my relationship has deteriorated to a point where I think we may have to part due to irreconcilable differences. Although Bella is supposed to be 18, I realise that she is in fact written like a 13-15 year old, which is why probably she resonates with that demographic. In fact I am going to question that age range further because I think it might be closer to a toddler that you can’t turn your back on. The whole ‘I can’t stand to be alone’ thing, why can’t she take up that hobby, you know, it starts with a ‘C’! Play Cello? Crochet? Oh bum, she picked cliff diving!
Bella is disloyal, monumentally selfish and a total ‘user’. And don’t start me with her lack of respect for boundaries. Whether she is told to stay in the car, off the Reservation or out of Italy, it’s all the same to Bella. The consequences of her actions are never fully explored. That was one thing I liked about the Joss Whedon canon, his stories dealt with consequences (despite the fact the bastard killed off characters we loved). And speaking of Italy (again), how did she manage to just rack off to Italy without a moment’s notice or a passport?
Austin Powers had ‘Basil Exposition’. This film stars Jessica Exposition, Laurent the Vampire (and his natty dreadlocks) Exposition, even Werewolf Muffins Exposition gets a bit part (non-speaking of course). Her school friends, such as they are, attempt human contact and of course, exposition, and are thus thwarted by Edward’s rock star slow-mo entrance and the first of a significant number of product placements. Why does a vampire need a Volvo anyway?
At ‘Villa Cullen’, Jasper goes off like a frog in a sock when Bella gets her best-ever birthday present, a paper cut. Now Charlaine Harris, of True Blood fame, rather cleverly came up with a whole Health and Safety ‘Safe Work Method Statement’ to deal with these very issues. For example; Vampire Bill would have just bellowed ’Sookeh eiz mahn!!’ in a manly and commanding fashion and all potential diners would just back off! See! We have a Safe Word. But no… no.. no… We have this whole messy, pointless ‘protecting Bella’ thing – which is failing miserably, I might add.
I also need to touch on the whole Faustian bit with ‘souls as currency’ and the loss and gain thing. This business has been going on for eons and is worthy of just a little respect, don’t you think? Bella’s declaration about not caring or believing about souls ‘so don’t worry about it’ is a little specious I think. (Hey, maybe Stephenie has ‘done a deal??!’)
I should mention here one of the greatest references to the point and purpose of the soul ever committed to celluloid. I refer, of course, to Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. Where a businessman from the ‘Very Big Corporation of America’ summarizes his two-part report on the meaning of life: that the human soul must be “brought into existence by a process of guided self-observation”, which rarely happens; and that “people aren’t wearing enough hats.” I note that there is not a lot of hat-wearing in Twilight.
I think it high time for an Edward stock-take; creepy, stalking, controlling, B & E, theft, violent, sadistic, moody, patronising, isolating, misogynistic, and abandoning, this list is just getting better and better…
Cut to the whole break-up thing and he mutters that he’s leaving and looks pained and snotty and ‘she is no good for him’ which she immediately translates that she isn’t good enough for him. Edward’s request to ‘not do anything reckless’ (read ‘don’t kill yourself over me although you already have a death-wish a mile wide and have been wittering on about being made into a vampire for months, you stupid bint’) and then poncing off, is the signal for Bella to start the ‘shrieking and depressed’ phase of this movie.
I want to take a moment here to clarify that depression should never, ever be treated lightly, underestimated or ignored. In the real world, the behaviours Bella was exhibiting such as long-term social withdrawal and self-destructiveness were a warning that SOMETHING SHOULD BE DONE. So in the context of this review please understand that any flippant comments I am making in no way trivialises adolescent or adult depression. But with that disclaimer out of the way, we are no longer in the real world and the gloves are off!
But the shrieking nightmares, OMG!! The montage of broken-hearted adolescent pain; Bella’s voice-over extolling the virtues of the aforementioned pain, as ‘proof to remind me that you were real’. ‘And a huge hole has been punched through my chest’… and our eardrums, dear Bella. Poor Charlie. Poor us.
Speaking of Charlie, I know I have done much whinging thus far and I want to say how much I love Charlie. Billie Burke does a wonderful job of making a character that was written as somewhat remote (read one dimensional), have warmth and depth. This man actually deserves an Academy Award for a yet–to-be-created category, ‘The Silk Purse Out of a Sow’s Ear’ Award. Grahame Green is as wonderful as ever. In fact, pretty well everyone is working their guts out including the cinematography and locations. Yes, inanimate objects are working harder than that polished-poo story again (remember the Muffin Exposition scene?)
The special effects start impressing me from the ‘sitting in the bedroom looking out the window with the seasons passing’. I quite like the use of the special effect to denote the passage of time. Overall the special effects were far and away superior to the first film. They have figured out that slow-motion to capture speed is far more effective (and less silly looking). And the inky, smoke swirly thing for Ghost Edward, really effective. The wire-work was mostly acceptable. And the wolves weren’t too bad either. I also like the death-match scene with at the Volturi Offices; you know the one where Edward was in the smack-down wearing his red WWE dressing gown.
There is good use of the music tracks, although I am not as keen on the ‘Emo’ flavour of this film’s soundtrack as I was in the first. Having said that, Roslyn by Bon Iver and St Vincent is on high rotation at our house right now.
I want to chat about the Jacob and the Puppy people. Actually I like Jacob full stop (does the make me ‘Team Jacob’? Spare me!!). I liked the contrast of the light, life and warmth of the tribe and the wolves to the sterility and coldness of the vampires. Unfortunately, we again stray into questionable moral territory with this whole implied permission for violence towards women; Emily and the scars because Sam ‘lost it’ and she was too close. And the threatening ‘Sam doesn’t like it when you stare at Emily’. Oh dear… I’m holding my face again in that ‘Munch’s Scream’ like manner.
However, on another level, I am so relieved because Jacob has just informed me that I am actually turning into a werewolf. All the clues were there and I never realised. The elevated body temperature, rage spells, sprouting hair in all the wrong places. Oh, I know those doctors are telling me that I have menopause… but they are soooooo wrong… they just better not make me angry!!!!!!!!
We finally come full circle and meet up with our introductory monologue climax at the dance studio… Sorry, I mean sunny Italy. – Hey, if they can ‘cut and paste’, so can I!! – The pivotal ‘Edward Sparkles in Public scene”… What a sinful waste of Tuscany!!!
I rather like the lift entry into the Italian Offices of ‘Volturi, Sheen and Fanning’; however I fail to understand why the elevator muzak was playing a German and not Italian Opera (there’s that intellectualism jumping up and waving again). Mind you, The Girl From Ipanema would never do, no one there is Tanned or Young.
So, Dakota Fanning who is thrilled to be in this movie because apparently she is such a big fan, and is so busy suppressing the urge to go ‘squeeee!!!’ that she quite forgot to act. Mind you she got to ‘cruel-scrunch’ Edward, so she was probably quite content.
Then we have Michael Sheen, now effectively batting for the other team. I think he makes a much better werewolf (Underworld 1 & 3), but then it would appear I am biased towards the puppy people at this point.
But what philosophically appalled me was the Cullen house meeting to ‘vote’ on Bella being made into a vampire i.e. ‘when are you going to kill me and who’s going to do it?’ Rosalie and Edward are the only ones with any moral centre here. And then ‘we’ll do it after graduation so it won’t be too hard on Charlie’… We are talking about a murder here, not going on holiday and who’ll be driving. But apparently everything is okay because Edward proposes marriage, Bella gasps (we choke and gag) and the film cuts to black and credits.
And so we carefully place our polished Poo-dora bead back upon that strand that represents hours of your life that you will never get back.
As HAL would say’ I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it!
– Robyn Smith
Robyn is currently watching “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” and we are starting to fear for for her sanity. If you enjoyed her column make sure you leave her a comment below.
Read Part 1 – Polishing The Turd That Is The Twilight Saga Part 1