Sunday 14 December 2008

Twilight (2008)

Yet another teen fantasy film based on a book series.

Living, as we do, far away from the glare of American pop culture, we can only get a filtered understanding of which movie is In and which movie's just a movie. For instance, we didn't realize Twilight had such a ravenous fanbase until we read this very funny article cataloging all the YouTubed fan reactions to the Twilight trailer. Oh, gosh.

We can't really say whether Twilight lives up to the hype - but that's because we don't know how big the hype is. We can, however, offer our purely virginal (drumroll-crash! yes, thank you, we'll be here all night) opinion of this Victorian Era hangover of repressed desires and smothered emotions. Overall, it's a fair-to-OK romp through the standard tropes of sensitive vampires and teen angst that we've all seen in other B-movie cult classics of the same genre. It's neither particularly exciting nor particularly enlightening, but it's not a bad way to spend a couple hours either. At least, Robert Pattinson is so... PRETTY. (He even glitters in the sun! We want a boy who glitters!)

Our heroine is the super-pale and emotionally inhibited Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), the new kid in town. The town in question is Forks, Washington, a tiny hamlet full of flannel-bedecked good ol' boys and rolling pines and, yes, also sexy vampires. On Bella's first day at the new school, she is quickly absorbed into the standard clique of likable doofuses; not quite popular, not quite nerdy. Her gee-golly friends point out the most titillatingly elite group in school: the Cullens gang. This brood of ephemereal, ashen-faced glamour models glide in and out of the school cafeteria, going about their mysterious, cool people business. When Bella catches the eye of the brooding (and rosy-lipped, we just had to mention) Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, he of the interesting nose and pretty eyelashes too), there are some minor fireworks.

Alas, Bella is cursed (blessed?) with a scent which sends all those ravenous "vegetarian" vampires into a, ahem, frenzy. As Edward notes in a moment of particularly peppy dialogue, "It's like you're my own private brand of heroin." Bella is equally beguiled by this studly, ghostly Victorian hero - especially after he saves her from careening cars and drunken would-be rapists with his super strength and super glowering. They embark on a tame relationship, filled with lots of lying in a bed of flowers, holding hands and burning, smothered desire.

We read the New York Times review before going, where the long history of virgin/vampire aesthetic is mentioned, and, because of that, we went into the film already with that idea in our heads. And the more we saw it, the more it felt Victorian! From the glorification of ultra-pale, ivory skin, to the emotional inhibitions and Edward's half-repulsed, half-excited description of all the "horrible things" those bad men would have done to Bella - and even the names, I mean, who'se named Bella and Edward Cullen nowadays?! - it all felt very 19th century. There were even some explicit visual references, such as when Bella realizes Edward is a vampire (after a very plodding process of discovery) and she imagines an old silent film reel of a 19th century Edward descending onto her to suck her blood. It was all very Puritanical. Indeed, the book series' creator apparently said the books are about "love, not lust" - hmm, in other words, sex is bad. Just replace "mortality" with "virginity" and Bella's post-prom decision becomes much more loaded.

This "oh, Mr. Cullen!" vibe is wrapped in your standard teen movie package, complete with some appealing indie/alt songs in the background, perfectly sculpted hair and the prom. (In the end, we're even treated to an unexpected music video of 15 Steps by Radiohead. We love that song!) The final evil vampires vs. good vampires showdown feels a little tacked on, since most of the film was busy with the smothered romance and vampire revelation. But that's okay - even if we got a little tired of everyone's stammered hesitations and inability to express anything other than sardonic wit (or have we been spoiled by the highly expressive Hindi dil?!), and we were a little put-off my Bella's constant damsel-in-distress act - it was generally inoffensive and somewhat entertaining. Not really recommended, but if your friends ask you to go, meh, why not? And least you can go ogle Robert Pattinson as he fights against his passions.


Anonymous said...

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Not you too! I was going to write this post about how EVERYBODY is writing about Twilight but then noticed none of the movie bloggers I frequent were doing so (unless they were industry affiliated types, that is) and now even that wall has come down. Curse you, Stephenie Meyer!

It was a rotten book, it's a horrible movie and Robert Pattinson and his greasy hair make me sick. So there.

PS - I did laugh. A lot. Inappropriately. That is all.

PPS - May I recommend HBO's True Blood? SO much better and SO much more trashy and SO much more attractive.

Rum said...

NAHIIIIIIIIIIIII!!! I'm with Amrita, not the Ppcc! this was one of most horrid movies ever, and it was sooooooo puritan and chaste in the book that i felt like i was in a Manoj Kumar movies --> No Hug/Kiss/Touch!
I went to see it with my friends and laughed gloriously loud when things got somehow lovey-dovey!

a ppcc representative said...

Oh my goodness, double NOOOOs!

Amrita - Is everybody talking about it?! I've only learned about the whole hype in these last few days. And oh dear, I can see that if you don't like Robert Pattinson, you're not going to stand the movie. He was the main draw for me.

Rum - Haha, so much hate! I've gotta say, I thought it was really fascinating in a zoo specimen sort of way because of that Puritan stuff. But I don't think I'd have chosen to watch this if friends hadn't invited me as, yes, it was pretty tiresome in parts. Back to Mr. Indiaaaaaa we go!

ajnabi said...

I liked the books but I have little interest in the movie. Well, I haven't read the last in the series but the first three were good--I imagine I'll get Breaking Dawn for Christmas. I didn't lurve them, but then again perhaps I'd have to be half my age to lurve them.

And, I think it's worth pointing out that there are some teen girls who don't feel ready for sex but feel like they "should be" ready and would really like a guy who wouldn't say yes to them in order to protect them. Plus, who doesn't enjoy the idea that she's so captivating that, despite her utter normality, she could capture the attention and devotion of an immortal being simply by showing up and being herself?

It's been a long time since I was a teen girl (like, a sad long time--12 years) but I remember that much about the experience. If it didn't resonate with lots of girls then it wouldn't be such a hit. One of my friends who's a junior in high school has literally never ever read for fun till she discovered the Twilight series this year. Now she won't pull her nose out of the books.

I can't believe I just defended those books and their hold on popular culture. God. Somebody give me a classic, STAT, before the blogosphere realizes what a shallow putz I am.

Temple said...

Nahhiiiiin from me too ! I read these books and I hate them. Hate. It's interesting that the RNBDJ movie provoked such a strong reaction from people because of what they saw as the inequality in Taani and Suri's relationship and yet so may positive reviews across the board for this manipulative misogynist rubbish (my opinion is based on the books - I will drill a hole in own head before I see the movie). Bella's happiness all depends on her giving up her identity and values for someone who would be classified as a deranged stalker psycho if he were not a vampire (which apparently makes it all OK). Over the span of the narrative, she has a breakdown signified by blank pages in the book because her life is empty without Edward, she lies to and becomes isolated from her friends and family, and so much else but am limiting spoilers...It is all just wrong wrong wrong...
Ok I feel better now I have had my rant. But Twilight is nasty, toxic and may as well be called "How to be a passive victim in all aspects of your life because that's what boys like"..Damn I am starting to rant again. Will go and make a cup of tea and calm down.

a ppcc representative said...

Aieee! Yet more strong feelings! Just more proof that this is a lot bigger than I thought - so many strong opinions.

Ajnabi - I think you make a very good point re: the pressure to have sex, and, indeed, a more relaxed attitude towards sex might easily be misconstrued by young women who feel in a vulnerable position. I did think it was interesting that, when Bella's mother calls when Bella and Ed are in the bedroom, she asks, "Are you being safe?" without any rancor or judgment. That was a nice touch of "it's OK if you do it, it's OK if you don't". But that said, I haven't read these books, so can't really weigh in any more than that!(And gosh, you're not a putz - a love of pop is very much in keeping with the PPCC ethos.) Which segues nicely into...

Temple - Oh, Temple, you're talking about books I haven't read and I'm talking about a movie you haven't seen. Based on the movie, I didn't get a particularly intense regressive vibe - though I did note that Bella basically does nothing but get saved by her studly vamp boyfriend, and that was mildly bothersome. I guess it didn't seem so bad since the dominant/submissive stuff also felt very immortal superhero/normal person rather than just male/female empowerment. Ranting highly acceptable at the PPCC - especially since I know very little about this series, so I need to be educated!

Temple said...

Sorry for ranting PPCC - It isn't your fault SMeyer got a gig writing doorstopper books. And you deserve thanks for sitting through so many movies and saving your readers the time..I have decided to watch Junglee again just to regain a more rose-tinted view of the world and see cranky stitched up Shammi morph into lovable loon Shammi...Yahoo!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I feel so plugged in. ; )

Anonymous said...

I thought you might like cleolinda's take on the books/movie, which is pretty insightful: