Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Boyfriend, The Vampire I

Twilight directed by Catherine Hardwicke. 122 minutes.

  There's an old wisecrack, goes like this:

She: Let's share our fantasies
He: Let's not. Your fantasies would bore me; mine would shock you.

   I'm not a he, but novelist Stephenie Meyer's fantasy still bores me. Thankfully, director Catherine Hardwicke gives Twilight enough visual style and bang to cover up what's not there.

   Lovers Bella and Edward enter Twilight isolated from most of their world. Bella, because she’s recently moved in with a father she barely knows and Edward because, well, he’s just not like everyone else. He’s a vampire, one of a new breed that manages to co-exist with humans by instead killing Bambi.

   Edward explains at one point he’s attracted to Bella because the smell of her blood drives him crazy; it's never stated, but safe to guess Bella is attracted to Edward because Edward automatically senses when Bella’s in danger and rushes in for the rescue whereas the best thing her father, the town police chief, can (is allowed to?) manage is handing Bella a can of pepper spray as she's on her way out the door.

   The tradition of vampire myth as metaphor for sex in times of repression** hits blunt: Can Edward control his urge to feed? When the opportunity presents itself to get a few licks, will Edward (like True Blood's vampire "Bill") be able to pull out in time? Talking fangs, of course.

   Although there’s at least some subtext, there’s little in the way of subplot. There’s little in the way of plot, period - the bulk of the movie is taken up by the teen romance, which many more mature viewers will recognize not as a teen romance but non-threatening teen fantasy. It doesn’t take long at all for Edward to be exposed as a vampire, there’s pretty much nil drama there. Will the bad vampires, the “non-vegans” as Edward’s adopted family would call them, get to Bella and do what non-vegan vampires do?

   Visually Twilight is striking, with a color palette heavy on washed out blues. It's filled with gorgeous Oregon and Washington State scenery and action that takes advantage of it. The actors are adequate and effective; I thought the supporting teens came across as normal, a little nerdy, and their easy-going nature both framed and contrasted with the two main players. Both Robert Pattinson's Edward and Kristen Stewart's Bella remain uncomfortable and jittery throughout the movie; Stewart crosses into twitchiness at times and it seems, in retrospect, to be as much a stylistic choice as an acting decision. I suppose all the twitching is intended to depict sexual tension, but really it just looks like they need more fiber in their diets.

   I haven't read any of the novels in the Twilight series, have no idea how much time is going to move, but can only assume the novels will allow Bella to graduate high school. Pattinson ("Cedric" from the Harry Potter movies) is obviously past his teens and at 18, Stewart is pushing her credibility as a Junior classman. Hopefully, like Pattinson's the other teen monster series, Twilight will improve with age and experience.

Bottom lines:

What's good: visual style, cinematography, Pacific northwest location shots, the supporting teen players, pretty people.

What's not: teen fantasy wish fulfillment. This is the stuff your creative writing instructor spends 3-12 months telling you to avoid like the plague.

Why it doesn’t matter: the teen female demo has been so neglected, for so long, that anything of semi-decent quality that appeals to girls is going to be a smash. There are four other installments in the series - get used to it.

**now that we have YouPorn, is it any wonder vampires are so much friendlier than they used to be?

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