Friday, November 20, 2009

Twilight (2008)


Title: Twilight (2008)

Director: Catherine Hardwicke


Starring: Christen Stuart, Robert Pattinson, Peter Facinelli

Review:

So yeah, I’m one of those people who were always reluctant to watch Twilight. Why? Well, you know the usual macho reasons. The movies target audience is young girls, so I’m predetermined, at a genetic level, to not want to watch this film. It’s not that I’m a chauvinist asshole. That’s just the way it is. It’s the same thing with girls. They would never in a million years purposely go see Commando (yeah, thats the most macho movie I could think of!) to the movie theater unless you drag them with you. Right? Same thing with Twilight, but on reverse. I call it the Sex and the City effect. Tell me, what guy purposely went to the theater to see Sex and the City, raise your hands? See what I mean? You were either dragged by your girlfriend or quietly saw it one day, without anyone’s knowledge, just to see what the big deals all about. So yeah, I didn’t see Twilight in theaters. I didn’t buy the DVD or rent it. Heck, I haven’t read the book. A die hard fan lend me the movie, she’s always talking about how good it is, so I took it, thinking why the hell not. Lets see what the big deal is all about. My analysis of this film comes from the point of view of a regular dude, not of a die hard Twilight fan. So was watching this movie worth it?


Story is about this teenage girl called Isabella (Bella for short) who’s just moved in with her father, who lives on his own in the perpetually rainy, windy and and cloud covered town of Forks, Washington. When she arrives, the typical thing happens; she’s weird and stands out. But she quickly befriends a couple of people and learns the ins and outs of surviving in her new high school. There’s this weird vampire family who attend the high school. No one knows they are all vampires, but they peacefully live amongst the humans. They always stick together, and all dress in white and have expensive cars. Bella falls for one of them, the mysterious and ominous Edward Cullen. Slowly but surely, Isabella begins to introduce herself into the world of vampirism. Will having a relationship with a vampire work out? Or is she biting more then she can chew?


So here’s the thing, I’m a die hard horror fan. I’ve seen all the different incarnations of a vampire film, from the silent yet frightening Count Orlock in Nosferatu, to Bela Lugosis’s iconic Dracula, to Christopher Lees feral yet polite Count, to The Lost Boys, to Fright Night, to Anne Rice’s ultra dramatic vampires in Interview with a Vampire….and now we get the Cullen vampire clan. Every generation does their own vampire films, and they all have their unique elements to them. This generation’s vampire film is directed towards the emo-gothic generation of movie goers. The book was written with them in mind, there’s no doubt in my mind. And the movie followed suit. This film is tailor made for these guys and gals. It’s one of the many reasons why this film is making so much dough. The other reason is because it’s also directed at teenage girls, who are going in droves to hear Edward whisper sweet nothings into Bella’s ears.

I was talking with my girlfriend about the phenomenon of Twilight as we watched the film. We agreed, Edward is the kind of character that says everything a girl wants to hear. “I can’t live without you”, “I don’t have the strength to stay away from you” “You are my life now” and my own personal favorite “You are my own personal brand of heroin”. That last bit of dialog is from the actual film by the way! Edward is mysterious, has an awesome house, a great car (and he’s a hell of a driver too!) and he’s got vampire powers! He can fly! Hop! And scale trees just like Spider Man can! But without the spandex! Isabella is constantly protected by Edward. In one particular sequence Edward stops a car that’s about to hit Bella with his bare hand! In another scene Edward saves the girl from being raped by a bunch of hoodlums! Of course millions of teenage girls are gonna fall in love with this guy! He is constantly saving the damsel in distress. It’s not just his good looks, he was written to capture girls hopes and dreams! Don’t know how females feel about the depiction of women on this film, but in it, the girls are in distress, clumsy, needing to be protected from the evils of the world by their man.

But hey, at heart this film is really a romance and we all know romance has always been a part of vampire movies. Dracula movies are always about Dracula looking for his long lost love. Francis Ford Coppolla’s Bram Stoker's Dracula was as romantic a vampire movie as any, but to its benefit, I will say that Coppollas film never forgot that it was a horror film as well! Twilight is all about that time when you are a teenager and you have that first encounter with someone special, the first words, the awkwardness, the getting to know each other, the first time your heart skips. That sort of thing. And it’s all about accepting that new person for who they are. Mistakes and past history included. Edward’s vampire side, thirsting for Bella’s blood but holding back is a metaphor for sexual desire, and the restraint one must have during the first stages of a relationship. Should we or shouldn’t we ‘do it’? And it’s all about watching each other breath as they sleep, cuddling together, you know the drill. Movie also plays in many ways like Romeo and Juliet. Instead of the lovers being from different families who hate each other, one is a vampire, the other isn’t. So they have to reach a certain middle ground.

See what I mean by squeaky clean?

Problem for me is that this isn’t really a horror film. On this film, vampire life is glamorized, it’s squeaky clean. Edward is undead, he feeds on animals to survive, and he has killed humans before. To which Bella says “non of that matters”. She doesn’t seem to care that she is falling in love with a person who has committed manslaughter! But I guess that’s how love goes. It blinds ya. Of course we are never shown ANY of these evil deeds that Edward’s done, because that would make Edward seem evil. Nope, we are only shown the cool side of being a vampire. You know the flying and the super strength. We never see Edward brutally feeding on animals. These vampires are so nice, they’ve decided to only feed on animals, not on humans. These vampires don’t get burned by sunlight, when sunlight hits them, they shine like diamonds! Yet another element to make these vampires seem nice. So if you like the idea of watching a movie about nice romantic vampires, then dive into this one. If you’re looking for a horror movie, you are better off renting Near Dark.

These heavily photoshopped individuals are the films villains.

One of the things I absolutely HATED about this movie were the visual effects. Whats up with that extremely amateurish blurring effect whenever the vampires move super fast? I havent seen that cheesy effect since the god awful Queen of the Damned. Come on guys, that effect sucks and gives the film a cheap feel. To top things off, whenever a vampire flies on this film it just looks so freaking fake! My god! I mean you can tell these guys are hanging from some sort of harness. I mean the actors are just hanging from them, not even trying to look like the are gracefully flying! They had better flying effects on the original Superman film for christ sakes! And that film is from the seventies!

The film does have some interesting and even original moments in it, and I can’t really blame the film for wanting to set its own rules. Vampires who shine like diamonds when the sun hits them? That’s a first right there, that’s pretty original. And we need to remember, every film bends the vampire rules for their own purposes. On this one, they needed vampires to shine like diamonds to glamorize the creatures, cause really, what’s more glam and rock and roll then freaking shinning diamonds? Speaking of rock and roll, the film plays most of the tunes they want you to hear so you’ll want to buy that soundtrack! Going back to the films originality, I never thought Id see vampires playing baseball. By far this was the part of the film I liked the most! I mean, they play baseball during a freaking thunderstorm so nobody can hear how hard they hit the ball! Pretty cool scene. It was kind of like a baseball game with superheroes playing it. And really, I started enjoying the film a bit more after that baseball scene, where suddenly it turns into a chase between a hunter vampire who wants Bella’s blood, which apparently is sweeter then any blood they’ve ever smelled on anyone. Bella’s blood is kind of like vampire crack. I guess that’s something they will dive into in upcoming sequels because its never really explained why her blood attracts them so much.

I have to admit I got a bit impatient with this one in the beginning because we have to go through the whole process of discovering who they are and all the explanations and the set up. It’s like watching that first film in a superhero franchise, where the filmmakers want to set the rules with which future films will play with. Speaking of future films, this week New Moon gets released, the sequel to this film. Once again, same as with this one, I will be staying home and catching it on DVD when ever it’s released on DVD. Expect my review then. Then again, maybe my girlfriend will drag me to go see it?

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

15 comments:

Carl (ILHM) said...

I had to see this one just so that I could justify why Im not interested in it. It wasnt a bad film, the technical work was decent, but it was just an average WB BUFFYesque whiny teen-edgy whaa whaa kinda-Horror movie that doesnt deliver. I agree on all major points, and though Im willing to watch the sequel, FUCK if I would be caught dead in the theater

Bob Ignizio said...

I wasn't thrilled with this one, either. I think the main thing that killed it for me was Kristen Stewart's performance. I know she's supposed to be uncomfortable in a new setting and all, but I thought she overplayed that aspect.

It's not a horror movie, and I can accept that and watch it for what it is. But as a romance, it's got some kind of disturbing undertones. Edward is over 100 years old, and Bella is 17. He constantly watches over her and tries to tell her what she can and can't do. Considering author Stephanie Meyer's Mormon background, it's hard not to think of fringe Mormon sects like the one Warren Jeff's headed up when watching this.

The other problem is one you brought up. This movie is all about establishing the rules, the characters, the whole mythos, the all too typical romance, etc. So much time is spent on that stuff, it takes a while to get into a compelling story.

I just saw 'New Moon' at an advance screening this week, and it's a definite improvement on all fronts. It's still targeted more at the teenage and pre-teenage girls, but it has a broader appeal. More action, better story, and so on. And it was worth seeing in a theater just to experience an audience so into what they were watching. Every time Edward or Jacob (the werewolf who vies for Bella's love in this one) came on screen, there were screams of delight. It was almost like a Beatles concert. The sexual creepiness is still there (and added to, thanks to a subtext about werewolves all being potential spousal abusers), but I enjoyed it for what it was.

Manuel said...

Just two words...Fuck Twilight!!

Dom Coccaro said...

I think everyone feels an obligation to see Twilight to justify hating it, but fuck it...I don't need a justification. I'm sure it's decent, but I have zero interest in this saga. The intellect in me wants to give it a fair chance. The cool kid in me doesn't give a shit. I'm giving into the cool kid.

Anonymous said...

"They would never in a million years purposely go see Commando"

Hey! Ease up! I own that gay, er, macho movie. :D

Tagia

The Film Connoisseur said...

Carl - Yeah, I just watched out of pure curiosity, I might see the sequel, for the same reason.

Bob - Stephanie Myers a Mormon?? No wonder, they have these beliefs about men being the ones in control on the relationship, the men control, women follow whatever they say.

As for the sequel, Id be curious to see how they improved.


Dom - I do not think you would enjoy it at all. Skip it bro!!

Tagia - you are a great lady!

Reina said...

.....

Reina said...

WHAT!? I WILL NOOOOT DRAG YOU TO SEE THE SEQUEL TO THIS MOVIE! AHHAHHA U FUNNY GUY! U WERE THE ONE WHO BROUGHT THE MOVIE TO OUR HOUSE IN THE FIRST PLACE! I DIDNT WANT TO SEE IT, REMEMBER?AJAHAHAHHAHA ANYWAYS! WHAT I HATED THE MOST ABOUT THIS MOVIE WAS THE FUCKING MUSICC! ARGGG! AND THERE WERE SOME PARTS SOO ABSURD, I WAS LAUGHING LIKE IT WAS A COMEDY! STIILLL, I THOUGHT IT WAS GOING TO BE WORSE!

Neil Fulwood said...

By coincidence, I blogged a review of 'Twilight' same day as you posted yours. Mine was basically 1,500 words of cheap sarcasm which is hopefully as acidically entertaining to read as it was to write. I must say, you've given 'Twilight' a fairer hearing than I did.

Bob Ignizio's comment pretty much sums up most of my issues with the film - the chief problem being Kristen Stewarts awful performance. Robert Pattison isn't much better, either - he overdoes the moodiness.

Maybe the sequel - with an expanded role for Jacob, a storyline that extends beyond the Twin Peaks-stylee small town, and the always watchable Michael Sheen in the cast - will be an improvement.

Maybe ...

The Film Connoisseur said...

Neil - I read your review, I thought the sarcasm was hilarious! We posted on the same day about the film, I guess it was because most bloggers are reviewing it because of the release of the second one, and how big of a deal it is in the media. We as responsible bloggers gotta say something about that!

I didnt get why the girl was always tripping and dropping things and slipping on the floor, why was she such a clutz?

To show how she needed Edward to protect her or something?

The Film Connoisseur said...

Reina - You know you will drag me too see the sequel, you were glued to Twilight all the way to the very end, and both you and I know that secretly, you loved it. You are putting up a facade. :)

Neil Fulwood said...

You're right, the Bella-needing-to-be-protected theme is hammered home in so many ways. Every scene with Edward, he's either protecting her from someone or warning her about his dark side.

Also, note how her father's the sheriff - every scene he's in, he's cleaning his shotgun or giving Bella pepper spray or continually asking if she's okay.

Factor in that Edward, although outwardly a teenager, is in fact about 100 years old and we get a scenario where a physically strong, very protective older man replaces the authority figure, very protective father.

I'm almost ready to retract all the sarcasm I heaped on Kirsten Stewart's performance - Bella's such a blank page, the writer and director have given her no character or independence.

The Film Connoisseur said...

Heres the thing. while watching Twilight, I was analizing how they were potraying relationships. In many ways, this is a modern portrayal of what a young relationship is like, in many ways, we can take it as a reflection of how the writer sees love, how Stephanie Myers perceives a relationship should be like?

Theres many visual references on this movie about what a girl wants in a relationship:

1- Edward sweeps Bella off her feet. Literally! He picks her up and flies away with her.

2- She hangs on to him. Literally!

3- They male has to be older, wiser, world savvy. And the guy has to shine, be special.

4- He has to control himself sexually at first. No sex and no kisses for a goddamn long time, get to know each other first before getting intimate. That scene where Edward jumps back when she is practically throwing herself upon him was so unreal. No guy would jump away from a female like that, specially when she is ready to go as Bella was! But I guess thats the message of the film...restraint! Hold that moment until the couple really knows each other.

5- The girl wants to be desired. She has to be the #1 thing in the guys life. "you are my life now" and "my own personal brand of heroin" come to mind.

6- Girls like to feel protected, apart from the scenes where Edward saves Bella from getting raped, from dying in a car crash and from being killed by vampires, theres a couple of scenes of Bella cuddling up in Edwards chest as they sleep, yet another visual representation of wanting to feel protected.

Im sure I can add a couple more if I continue diggin..

HorrO said...

Don't waste your time seeing New Moon as there is no improvement. It is the same non sense except more Jacob this time. Besides hating it because it is just not a movie for guys, both of the movies sucked. The acting isn't great, and the visual effects are terrible. I heard the books were good and I don't doubt that. The problem is they did not translate it to the screen very well.

The Film Connoisseur said...

I dont even think the books are that good horro, I read a snippet from one of the books and the writing on itself isnt great either.

I waited this long to see the first one, which shows you I dont really care much about the whole saga. But they tell me girls screem in theaters whenever the werewolf guy takes of his shirt. This reminds me of when boy bands went big back in the 90s.

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