dir: Catherine Hardwick
[img_assist|nid=165|title=Love is stronger than Death, stronger even than mental retardation|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=469|height=339]
Oh good gods is it terrible! Make it stop!
Stop the night terrors, the images of atrocious acting that march through my nightmares each night since subjecting myself to this awful, awful movie. I know I’m prone to exaggeration, but this truly is a flick so atrocious that it almost seems like a parody of itself, a parody of teen vampire romances, and a parody of filmmaking in general. This film uniquely captures, the way dogcatchers uniquely capture stray and rabid dogs, a collection of actors giving performances so terrible that if they were racehorses, you would surround the cast and crew with screens, load up the shotguns, and put them all out of our misery.
I’ve seen this director direct decent films before, with young casts, so it’s not like she’s out of touch with the young ‘uns and completely unable to elicit decent performances from them. She seemed to do okay with Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown, the former dealing with young girls, the latter with young boys. Here, well, it’s as if she either a) didn’t care how terrible the performances were, using takes of scenes with obviously unintended mistakes and woeful line readings instead of redoing them, b) thought wooden, unconvincing performances would be more inline with the terrible prose of Stephanie Meyer’s truly awful books, or c) she was so angry at studio interference that she deliberately set out to sabotage the production with substandard everythings on every level.
It must have backfired, because the otherwise slavish adaptation of the bestselling novel was one of the biggest box office successes of 2008. And doubtless will sell millions of DVDs, more copies of the book, and a plethora of pencil cases, calendars and diaries with images of Edward and Bella on the cover.
In truth there could never have been a decent film arising from this book, because the book is flatout fucking terrible. Yes, I have read it. I read it in the spirit that I read selected books over the course of a year that aren’t the usual kind of thing I would read, just so I can read something that is current, popular and all-pervasive. It’s one of the few times that I might be reading the same book as someone else on the train.
And invariably, when I perform this form of penance by enduring the equivalents of Da Vinci Codes, Twilights and Memory Keeper’s Daughters, they are usually chick lit books written by and for chicks. Twilight is, without doubt, an extremely popular book because, apart from its vampire teen romance with absolutely no sex and pretty much no violence, it also seems like it was written by a somewhat retarded 14-year-old girl for the enjoyment of other retarded 14-year-old girls and their mothers, who may or may not be retarded.
These books by Stephanie Meyer, an avowed Mormon and terrible (and terribly successful) writer, are the perfect storm of forces which ensures their overwhelming success with their twofold market. Despite or maybe because of the horrible prose, the robotic 2 dimensional characters (whether human or otherwise) and the idiotic plots, the main attraction for girls is that, just like most of them, the protagonist is a total fucking non-entity, with practically no feature or quality worthy of note except for the fact that she completely abases herself for a 100-year-old vampire who luckily looks like a retarded but pale 17-year-old boy.
And their mothers are happy for their daughters to read these books, because, seeing as they’re a completely intellectually juvenile, sanitised and bloodless version of the standard vampire tale, they don’t have to worry about their daughters masturbating to inappropriate material. Especially since the main theme of these wretched books seems to be abstinence.
I’m not kidding.
Bella Swan (played excruciatingly by Kristen Stewart, although she seems just as awkward and pathetic as the character in the book, so maybe it’s actually great acting) does nothing but pine for a boy in her new school in the backwater Pacific North West town of Forks, Washington, who acts like he hates her?
But then, like, it comes out that he totally likes her?
And then it’s revealed that he’s actually a vampire?
And is like really strong and fast and instead of anything icky like bursting into flames during the day, instead he goes all shiny like my rhinestone tiara in the presence of sunlight? And, even though he totally, like, loves Bella, he’s like totally a gentleman, and like doesn’t take advantage of the fact that he could, you know, do naughty things to her, because he’s like, really old and she’s just a child?
You know, which is the age equivalent of Rupert Murdoch macking on Jon Benet Ramsay?
Wow, that’s so hot. Luckily, the awful actor portraying the tween wet dream character of Edward Cullen is in no way capable of conveying the age of the creature he’s meant to be playing, and instead comes across as being about as menacing as a pony with daisies in its mane and a pink saddle.
Look, I’m not totally dense, I know that it’s a romance, meaning to be somewhat Byronic and all Heathcliff and Kathy from Wuthering Heights, without the, you know, death and passion and all, but truth be told nothing is even remotely engaging or convincing, or believable about any part of this ridiculous story, and the only emotion I felt at any stage watching this dire fiasco was derision.
I found myself chuckling and rolling my eyes at plenty of stuff throughout, but none of it was intentional on the part of the filmmakers or author: they couldn’t have been. And my serious thoughts about what an awful message these books and this film send to its key demographic are not thoughts the makers or actors in this abortion would find edifying in the slightest.
Bella Swan is a weak, lifeless ineffectual girl who stumbles, stutters and sighs her way through life. Sure, you could argue this is just outward appearances, but her internal life, as represented in the book through the fact that it is written in the first person and almost entirely written in terms of “I did this, I did that, I felt bad because Edward looked at me funny”, represents that the girl actually has no internal life worth documenting.
The fact that they replicate lines from the book in the form of a voiceover make the writing, the character and the film look even worse. And the scene where they actually go to the trouble of replicating the cover of the fucking book is pretty much the last anaemic straw.
As usual in these kinds of stories, to help the readers, teen readers in this case, identify, the main character starts off as totally mundane (just like the readers) to give them the illusion that this, too, could happen to them. Doesn’t matter whether it’s Star Wars, Harry Potter or this fucking Twilight series, it’s the fundamental hero’s journey dating back to the dawn of Joseph Campbell.
The difference between the worthwhile versions of this trope and the worthless ones is not what royal lineage or magical McGuffin transforms them from a zero to a hero, it’s what choices they make and what hard decisions they make to show us, the viewers/readers the quality of their character. Bella makes almost no choices at all, except to endure abuse and self-denial, because, hey, what else could a girl like her expect?
Her only other romantic choices, because that’s all she should be living for in life, are characters even flatter and worse acted than Edward and herself, being the gay Asian character, the African American jock, the whitebread jock and the local Amerindian guy Jacob (Taylor Lautner), who’s probably going to be revealed to be a werewolf or something equally cliché and preposterous in subsequent books.
Wait, you mean he is, actually, a werewolf? Fucking hell, this Stephanie Meyer and her legions of gooey juvenile girlish fans are a new level of lame.
Bella essentially exists to tell teenage girls that they really only exist when boys are around, and that their only worth in life will come from sacrificing themselves to cold abusers with whom there can never be parity or equality. Yeah, that shit’s been working for women for the last few thousand years, hasn’t it? There are so many allegorical allusions to the whole “walking into doors” excuse for covering up domestic abuse that it’s just staggering. It’s almost hilarious. It would be more hilarious if it wasn’t so discomforting that women in their millions are lapping this poisonous dribble up like mother’s milk.
About the only thing I liked at all about the movie, and I mean the only thing I liked was the incredible shots of Oregon’s coast, which looked utterly amazing. Of course when the actors walk into frame the moments are completely destroyed, and when they start speaking it’s even worse.
If the preceding two hours hadn’t been bad enough, stretching my disbelief even further is a scene at the end of the film where Edward (did I emphasise what a crap actor he is?) tells Bella he should stay away from her for her own safety.
In a piece of dialogue even Hugh Grant would have had issues with, Bella says, and this is a verbatim quote:
“N-n-n-n-n-n-no. You c-a-a-a-, n-o-o-o-o-, um, nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh no-nonononono”.
If that didn’t make you laugh, then you’ve got no heart. If it made you cry, then you have no brain. These themes and these elements, down to all the vampire loving a human crap have been done dozens of times before, and much better, even in trashier forms. This banal juvenilia should be the object of scorn and ridicule, not rapturous gusset moistening.
This is a terrible film on almost every level that exists with which to judge movies. The thing is, I have to give it at least a passing grade, because it is a faithful adaptation that loses none of its twee artificiality or unbelievably vapid and wooden theatrics on the transition to the big screen. It gives the fans exactly the fix they wanted, and encapsulates just how childish the author’s approach to the world and to relationships truly is. That more of these books are going to come out and be made into movies is a given, because this shit has replaced My Little Pony and Jackie Collins novels in the hearts and panties of the western world’s females, and there’s plenty more money to be made drilling deeper, ever deeper into their insecure, celeb magazine buying, weight and surgery obsessed psyches.
5 times I am starting to reconsider this whole “watching flicks you know you’re going to hate in order to review them” caper out of 10
“Bella! Guess who just asked me to prom. I totally thought Mike was gonna ask you, actually. Um, it's not gonna be weird though, right?”
- “No, no. Zero weirdness. You guys are great together.”
“I know, right?” – vampiric children are our future, Twilight.