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Friday, November 21, 2008


Here's a few things Twilight teaches us about vampires...

-There are two kinds of vampires walking amongst us - Those that feed on people, and those who call themselves "vegetarians", due to the fact that they exist peacefully with humans and only feed on animals.

-Vampires can exist in our society without anyone raising an eyebrow, despite the fact that many of them have pale skin, look like they're wearing bright red lipstick, can zoom around at speeds that rival Speedy Gonzalez, and possess inhuman strength. Even when they display these abilities to others, no one seems all that shaken or curious.

-Most stunning fact that this movie teaches us? They love to play baseball. However, they can only play baseball during a thunderstorm, because their inhuman abilities cause them to whack that ball so hard, they need the crack of thunder to cover the booming sound, so the people around them don't become suspicious. Now think about this for a second. Think how hard it would be to time the swing of a bat to the precise moment thunder would roar. Watching this scene of a vampire family playing baseball together sent my head spinning with a possible spin off - An inspirational sports story about a vampiric baseball team beating the odds and making the championships. I had a mental image of the opposing human team carrying small wooden stakes hidden under their helmets. Someone in Hollywood must greenlight this idea.

Unfortunately, Twilight doesn't follow these intriguing ideas through. Instead, we get a traditional love story about two people from different walks of life falling for each other. The twist here is that the girl is a human, and the guy she falls for is a vampire who would kill her in an instant, if he didn't fall under that "vegetarian" category. The girl is Isabella "Bella" Swan (Kristen Stewart), who was recently sent from Arizona to live with her dad in a small, dreary-looking town in Washington State where the sky is almost always overcast. On her first day at her new school, she meets Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), the vampire in question. They're assigned to be lab partners in science class, and Edward has to muster all the strength he has within him not to pounce upon her and kill her when she sits down next to him. (Makes me wonder if he goes through a lot of lab partners...) Regardless, the two develop a shy friendship, and Bella starts to notice a few things about him.

His eyes change color every time she sees him, and he seems to follow her wherever she goes. He's even seemingly able to come flying out of nowhere and save her life, such as when she's almost hit by a truck that is sliding on the ice, and he suddenly appears next to her and is able to stop the truck with his bare hands (leaving a large dent on the truck). Bella is intrigued, and Edward isn't keen on giving any answers. After a few Google searches, Bella is able to deduce that Edward's "not from around here", and that he's a vampire. This isn't enough to scare her away, and he welcomes her into his world which probably isn't the best of ideas. He invites her to his family's house, where they do a poor job of pretending they're normal people. The movie misses a keen moment of satire here, as I would have loved to have seen a family of vampires trying to pass themselves off as a normal household. (Can you imagine the family around the dinner table?) But Twilight is unwavering in its devotion to focusing on Bella and Edward's relationship. So much so that nothing else seems to matter. The fact that another group of vampires (those that feed on humans) is going on a murder spree across the town doesn't matter much in this movie, and is treated as an undeveloped subplot that plays no part in the story until the two lovers get involved.

The story of Bella and Edward's romance is nothing new to young girls the world over, as the series of books that have inspired this film are the biggest things to hit the world of youth books since Harry Potter. Whatever has captivated readers across the four books that make the series has not carried over to Twilight the movie. This is a lethargic and labored story about people we don't care anything about saying dialogue that makes the two lead characters sound like they learned English by reading grocery store romance novels. It's also a story about obsessive love, and a girl who is too young to understand, which adds a highly disturbing level to the proceedings. What else are we supposed to think when Edward tells Bella that she is like a drug to him, that she is "his heroin". Yes, Bella swoons when he compares her to an illegal addictive substance that can normally kill a person. He even goes so far as to sneak into her bedroom at night to watch her sleep, which oddly does not unnerve her in the slightest. Edward never seems to have Bella's best interest in mind, but he's attractive and has big red pouty lips, so I guess we're supposed to forgive him.

Director Catherine Hardwicke (The Nativity Story) and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (Step Up) never quite capture the mood they're looking for. The romance is stilted, and filled with dumb dialogue, while the suspense and horror elements never take off. The story teases us with the approaching arrival of the evil vampire clan, killing various random people as they make their way closer to town, but their entry into the actual plot is haphazard and almost seems like an accident. They never build into a real part of the story, and seem inserted at the last minute to put Bella's life in some sort of danger. Until then, we get a lot of scenes of Bella and Edward making longing glances at each other, blended with scenes of Bella hanging out with her friends at school, whom also don't have anything to do with the plot, and disappear halfway with little consequence. The movie just kind of sits there, almost as if it was asking the same question I was - Why are we supposed to care about these two people? Okay, I get it, they come from different worlds and he could kill her if he ever lost control and obeyed his basic instinct. The movie never goes deeper than this, and never lets the two develop into real characters. They're an idea, nothing more.

They're not even allowed to be fleshed out ideas. Maybe the sequels develop them further, but the problem is, nothing in this movie made me want to learn more about Bella and Edward. At least they're portrayed well by the actors. Kristen Stewart is a young actress I've admired since she played Jodie Foster's daughter in 2002's Panic Room. And rising British actor Robert Pattinson (whose claim to fame so far has been a small role in the Harry Potter films) hides his accent well playing an American teenage vampire, and manages to recite some of his corny dialogue with a straight face and a game performance. The thing is, the characters they're playing don't allow them to truly stand out. They're being held back by their underwritten roles, and the fact that the movie can't think of anything interesting to do with them together. Here's a story that climaxes with a girl taking a vampire to the school prom, and all it gives us is them sharing a dance together. The way the scene played out in my mind was much more interesting.

My problem with Twilight isn't that it's an unwatchable movie, just that it's an extremely dull one where nothing happens. I walked in intrigued to find out what all the hype was about, and walked out feeling like I had been promised the moon and given very little. My screening was attended by a mob of young girls, many of whom were skipping school for this motion picture event. Walking out of the theater, I heard the girl in front of me complaining about how much of the book they had cut out. I'm sure this is the case. Too bad the movie bored me so much, I don't really care to find out what I missed.

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