What the hell was that I just watched?
Seriously, I know it’s expected to be a huge blockbuster and all, but it’s been quite some time since I’ve seen a would-be blockbuster so resolutely try to sabotage itself. It’s not an unmitigated disaster or anything, but there were clearly a string of very curious decisions made along the path of getting this into theaters. It’s like a pretty straight drama for an hour or so, then vampire stuff happens, and the movie barely cares about that stuff, so it’s rushed through and all major acts of violence happen offscreen. Then after the climax, it takes forever to actually finish while the main characters go to the prom and dance. Spoiler, I guess, but not really — there are three more of these to movies to go.
Catherine Hardwicke, director of THIRTEEN…really the best choice? It feels like she wanted to make a sequel — SEVENTEEN (hell, Nikki Reed’s here too) — but then after six weeks or so of shooting, somebody said, “Hey, put some vampire stuff in!” And she wanted to be gritty and realistic, then someone else reminded her that the book is actually an abstinence parable written by a Mormon, so the only guy who even takes his shirt off is a scary black man with dreadlocks, and a minor character is ultimately rewarded for choosing a prom dress with less cleavage than the one she originally wanted.
Also, Hardwicke spends the whole movie establishing the regular high school kids, so that when a bunch of vampires suddenly show up, we’re all “WTF? Who are all these new characters and why are we suddenly supposed to care about them and not the people we’ve just spent an hour with?” This stuff is probably explained better in the book, but like most Americans, I really don’t read books much, so I have to go on what I saw.
Basically, the movie’s about Bella (Kristen Stewart), who moves to the Pacific Northwest to be with her dad, and while she’s at school she gets lab-partnered up with a metrosexual dork named Edward (Robert Pattinson) who is actually the most unscary vampire since Count Duckula. Like every vampire movie, this flick makes its own rules about what vampires can and can’t do, but TWILIGHT features the dumbest fucking change to the rules I’ve ever heard. Ready? These vampires can’t go out in the sun, because when they do…their skin glistens beautifully like diamonds. Yes, they stay in twilight because the sun just makes them too goddamn sexy (and yet they live in a house with many large windows). Maybe the book explains it better, but Edward here actually complains about how women find him attractive even though he’d rather they stay away. Here’s one tip I have, just off the top of my head: Lose the hairspray, shave yourself a mohawk, burp loudly as much and as frequently as you’re able, and integrate the phrase “fuckin’ bitches” into your vocabulary as much as possible. The ladies won’t like that. But Edward’s nearly 100 years old, and he actively chooses to dress like a whiny-sexy emo-boy. [cue inevitable reader talkback: "omg ur just so jellous bcuz he's waaaaaay hotter than u!"]
The evil vampires dress even worse, like they only go to faux vintage boutiques where denim jackets with rips in them are like $2000. When Romulans in the new Star Trek movie dress better than evil vampires, you know you’re in lameland. The vampires apparently descend from a Native American demon called the Cold One, and when Bella does a Google search for “cold one,” this is the first thing that comes up…only a Mormon who has never had a beer could find that part plausible.
But Bella and Edward fall for each other despite his fashion sense. And Edward’s a pacifist vampire who only eats animals (all off-camera), but he always has to restrain his desires around Bella, lest he go crazy and actually have sex…er, no, wait, I mean eat her. But it’s a metaphor for not having teen sex.
Then the bad vampires show up to play baseball with the good vampires (yes, baseball…I could not make this stuff up if I tried), and one of them who has a blond ponytail decides he wants to eat Bella because she smells nice, and also because it’ll piss Edward off and he figures it’ll be fun to kick Edward’s ass (I agree, I think that would be fun too). So a bunch of sudden convolutions happen, and it turns out Edward’s sister can see the future. Edward, by the way, can read minds, because the vampire powers in this world are just totally arbitrary by this point.
It all leads to a showdown where they break a bunch of mirrors and all the cool stuff happens offscreen again. And after the good vampires came up with this elaborate plan to stop the ponytail guy that involved splitting up, it turns out that they can pretty easily defeat him just by ganging up on him all together. So that seems kinda dumb.
I’ll give the movie credit, though — the two leads are pretty good. Edward’s inherently a dorky character, but Pattinson does a good job with what he has. And the parts where Hardwicke is just directing like it’s a typical high school drama are well-done too — it’s just she can’t seem to handle action or horror.
When the lights went down in my theater, the audience screamed loudly, and they dutifully laughed at every joke. But by the end, they seemed worn out…there was barely any applause, and I overheard one girl saying she fell asleep in it.
I imagine fans of the book will like it, but I’m not sure who else will. The pace is just too slow upfront, and the action at the end too rushed. If they give the sequel to someone other than Hardwicke, there’s potential, especially since there’s a teaser about werewolves. But given what we’ve seen so far, they probably turn into poodles or something.