The Twilight Saga
Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Dakota Fanning, Rachelle Lefevre
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, Chris Weitz, and Bill Condon
Toronto offers many things for its citizens and consumers to do. For example, I could have watched a documentary about AIDS that will probably never screen in this city again. Rihanna was playing in an intimate music hall ten minutes away from my apartment. Instead, Nadia Sue Sandhu and I chose, deliberately, to watch The Twilight Saga, a movie series based of Stephanie Meyer’s atrocious vampire books, to celebrate the release of the last one. And we are hoping that the last one IS the last one.
In order to understand the relief that the series will finally come to an end, we have to explain and revisit the pain of watching the first one. I’m a Catherine Hardwicke fan, or someone who roots for her despite not having made a good movie since Thirteen. And I understand her aesthetic of harsh colours but why did she have to choose just one to depict all of the locations covered in this movie? Both Arizona, the provenance of Bella Swan (Stewart) and Forks, Washington State, where she moves, has a turquoise lens filter. The movie just made me want to punch anything turquoise for the rest of my life.
On the negative side, the Twilight Saga teaches us how to be submissive to the first guy who pays the least attention to us in high school. I’ve been swayed away from the books and the movies by my feminist friends who sees Bella’s object of affections, Edward Cullen (Pattinson), as a manipulative stalker. The faintest silver lining in this wet blanket of a romance is the soundtrack that goes with it. Tracks from the soundtrack were apparently crated by Stewart, exposing the Saga’s virginal audience to bands like The Black Ghosts and Metric. If you listen closely, the end credits of the third movie is the sound of Emily Haines wanting to buy a condo. And I shouldn’t say anything bad about Haines because I’m apparently connected to Haines by three degrees, just like everyone in Toronto.
Nadia and I tried to keep an open mind to the film series and I’m trying to keep to that spirit despite that we were both yelling at the screen for eight hours. I already talked about what I like about the first one so here are the few positive things I can say about the rest of the series.
New Moon is my favourite of the bunch because as much as I still lament the firing of Harwicke or any female director, Weitz (American Pie, etc.) seems to have no respect for the series at all. Edward’s line, reminding Bella that he’s 109 years old, echoes Pattinson’s interviews, where he basically bites the hand that feeds him. Why would a century old vampire go back to high school many times to eventually pay attention to female Quasimodo?
Also, how is Edward the hottest member of a family that also includes well-meaning troglodyte who is Kellan Lutz, who plays Emmett. Anyway, a central plot point to New Moon also takes Edward out of Forks, and Meyer has no idea how much it benefits her story. With Edward gone, Bella throws her affections to her childhood friend Jacob Black (Lautner). While her relationship with Edward is built on this non-climatic tension that he’s the unattainable hot one, her relationship with Jacob is more organic. There’s no pressure for her to impress Jacob, the latter of whom develops into this inappropriately muscular and manly figure that Bella is equally attracted to. And if Meyer and Bella aren’t aware of this, Weitz and Stewart are at least aware that a young woman like Bella can fall in love with two young men, no matter how imperfect either one could be. Another plot point in New Moon also introduces the Volturi, whose members include Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning, both of whom slither against the amateur-like actors surrounding them.
New Moon’s irreverence also means that Weitz and the screenwriter he works with have fun with the teenage pop culture that Bella and Jacob are aware of. Bella, Jacob and a mutual friend watch a movie called Face Punch, a movie I would have rather seen in rather than the whole series.
The first two movies of the series also benefits from Lefevre, who plays Victoria, a baddie whose predatory motives are a foil to the Cullens’ Mormon-like restraint. During the third movie, called Eclipse, she gets replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard, who, despite being more beautiful, doesn’t exude the feral air that Lefevre does. Despite of that, Howard is a part of a movie that pits her and her new vampire recruits, turning the movie into a white version of Riki-Oh. Here, are so many severed limbs in the movie that caters to the sadist in all of us. Not even the PG-13 rating can make it shy away from its gratuitous violence.
And speaking of violence, the series has also been frank about body horrors. It also benefits from Stewart, who is further from Meyer’s original vision of Bella Swan. Meyer’s original casting choice for Bella was Emily Browning, who can look like a doll-like, willowy Suicide Girl whose can be both simultaneously graceful and awkward. Stewart on the other hand, brings bad posture and lumpiness to Bella. She’s also surrounded by annoying female stereotypes like Ashley Greene and Anna Kendrick, making her Bella seem less offensive. In Breaking Dawn Part One, she suffers because her unborn child is killing her internally. Esquire Magazine, among other publications, have compared the series as an inadvertent advocate against marriage and pregnancy, and Bella’s monstrous baby will probably make young women stay away from having babies for as long as they can.
Paolo Kaogan and I did an all night Twilight marathon and lived to tell the tale. Along the way we laughed, we shouted at the screen and we lost a fellow traveller who could not make it through New Moon (Holla James Spurling!) This despite the presence of libations.
I had been working on a theory that rom coms so often veer into tragic stupidity and lack emotional maturity because the majority are written and directed by men… but hats off to the trio of screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, author Stephanie Meyer and director Catherine Hardwicke for a truly unredeemable piece of tripe. The only memorable moment in the original Twilight film is when Edward tells Bella that he is “a sad masochistic lion.” Say what?!
If curiosity has simply got the better of you, or you secretly want a new guilty pleasure and think Twilight could be it, please do yourself a favour and skip the first one. In fact, I would skip New Moon as well, but that happens to be the film where it becomes painfully obvious how contrived this supposed “love triangle” is, what with the character development and chemistry between Jacob (Tyler Lautner) and, gasp! Bella (Kristen Stewart). Sorry Robsten fans, they may be a legit romance in real life but it most certainly is not apparent on the screen.
So, starting with Eclipse, you get a nicer colour palette, less grey pancake make up slapped haphazardly on the vampires, and continued evidence that Bella is a suicidal depressive who has no chemistry or objective reason to be with Edward other than she wants to take the easy way out and die.
As Paolo touches on, Breaking Dawn Part 1 veers nicely into body/medical horror, truly shocking from the man who brought us Fossey on the big screen (Chicago) but Bill Condon actually delivers a right proper film even down to making the deliberately drawn out pacing seem intentional! Kudos Bill. Kudos. Kirsten Stewart definitely looks better in colour.
SPOILER: Breaking Dawn part 1 can totally be seen without the other three because nothing actually happens in any of these movies aside from Edward loves Bella and so does Jacob.
Ah yes. Edward. Let’s talk about our brooding vampire. The problem here is not necessarily Robert Pattinson, who has a bizarrely flat profile that actually works for the other worldly nature of his character. The problem my friends is that this has been done much, much better. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Angelus. brooding, tortured Vampire with a soul destined to love a Vampire Slayer at probably around the time Meyer was writing her questionable tome. Want to do an instant comparison? How about Stefan Salvatore, brooding, tortured Vampire who is destined to love sad, fragile high school girl Elena in the Vampire Diaries (FYI the young adult books on which the television series is based came out well before Meyer ever picked up a pen). I mean brooding, tortured Luis in Interview With the Vampire (Hello Brad Pitt!) is more inspirational than Edward is. Why you so sad Eddy?
We are told Edward loves Bella. That’s the sum of the epic romance. Apparently he can’t read her mind, ergo love. Four movies and he only smiles at her in the fourth one… this guy spends his honeymoon withholding sex for goodness sake. What is there to love except the repeated promise he will kill Bella so she doesn’t have to, you know, live in the world.
I think Paolo and I both agree on this point. Edward clearly represents escape for a socially awkward, depressed teenage girl who is afraid to live and is therefore running away from a guy who is hyper alive (werewolf Jacob). If Edward loves her why does he want her to die so they can be together? How does he know he will even like Vampire Bella? Does this not strike anyone else as a typical scenario: guy likes a challenge, obstacles only make him want the girl more, but eventually a shiny new object will come along?
Meanwhile, Jacob is every social misfit’s dream- a buff guy who likes her for being a socially awkward, gawky misfit! If that don’t pull the girl out of the old teenage hormone doldrums, then I’m sure a prescription anti-depressant will.
Now on to The Talk. Paolo and I discussed the theory floating out there that Twilight is a story in the Victorian tradition, meant to signify repressed sexual longing or some such… but if this is the exquisite build up to intercourse, I would rather be a virgin until I die.
Now excuse us while Paolo and I complete our journey with Breaking Dawn Part 2 which devoured the US Thanksgiving Box Office this weekend. We are both still traumatized by the pedo-wolf development and I for one am curious to see how Jacob can possibly be redeemed.