Sunday, November 23, 2008

Twilight - hip or hype? Get ready to hate the critic...

Halloween is over but there are still vampires in the air. What gives? I just took Ellie and friends to see the much hyped Twilight movie, based on Stephenie Meyer's book by the same title. Because I cannot see a movie based on a book until I've read the book - I spent 3 days reading the book.....(well, I came to within 36 pages of the end before it was time to leave).

The book was okie dokie. It is basically a love story between a 17-year-old girl, Bella, and a (duh) 17-year-old vampire, named Edward Cullen. The book is the first of a series. It is the only one I've read thus far, and it was fairly entertaining, but didn't draw me in; I probably won't be reading the rest of the series. Twilight is very tame compared to some other teen romance books I've read; just a couple of kisses. However, I hear that the 4th one steams up a bit. People who have been letting their 3rd and 4th-graders read the series have been shocked by the 4th book - but, hey, this is a young adult series, not a series for children. It is not categorized under juvenile fiction. And truly, there are so many literary masterpieces in children's books - literally too many to read in one childhood. So what's the rush in getting the training bra crowd hooked on romance novels?

OK. Back to the book. The one thing that bothered me about the relationship between Bella and Edward was the intensity of the love based on basically, well, uh, nothing. You don't really get to know Edward or Bella that well, as a reader, and as characters they seem to know each other even less. Yet BOOM. In love. However, I guess that characterizes a lot of teen romances. And I'm not dogging teen romances; I met my husband of 23 years when I was 14 and he was 16. But yeah, in the book I'm bothered by a general lack of substance in the relationship. Having not read the rest of the series, I can't really say whether this relationship deepens - going by the popularity of the books - I'm guessing it does.

Let's see....let me analyze Bella as a role model for teen girls. In some ways, I'm really happy with how her character is portrayed. She isn't made out to be exceptionally beautiful. She is smart and practical - takes care of herself and seems to have been cast in the role of "adult" in her relationship with her parents. She is a loner and isn't bothered by it. She is nervous and self-conscious (which girls will greatly identify with) but not to the point that she changes anything about herself in order to fit in. She is clumsy and is horrible in gym class. So I think that a lot of girls who read the books will see at least some of themselves in Bella. Of course, this somewhat plain and clumsy girl ends up with sexy vampire-boy. I know, I know. How likely is that? Well, THERE ARE NO SUCH THINGS AS VAMPIRES, so let's just suspend the "likely" business, right here. And most of us don't read books in order to get a good dose of reality, anyway. But I do feel compelled to say that I don't like the fact that Edward is so over-protective and downright bossy in his efforts to keep Bella safe. He isn't even always nice. And unfortunately, there is no shortage of young teenage girls in relationships with over-protective, bossy, not-always-nice teenage boys. For that reason, I would like to see Bella not so taken in, and Edward a little less macho. Actually - I think I am understating myself, here. I was downright uncomfortable with how feeble Bella appeared.

As for my teenage daughter? She said the books were "okay". And then she told me that basically she was bothered by the exact same things that I was bothered by. She didn't like the way Edward treated Bella, and she thought Bella needed some major doses of backbone. Some of her friends really loved the books, but these are all kids who read tons and tons of books and this series is by no means the defining literary "moment" for them. Ellie's friend who is a huge Twilight fan, is currently reading Sylvia Plath's journal. So, yeah, she's just in it for the vampires and fantasy, I think. Am I right, Kiddo? I know you're reading.....Kind of like me and my Anita Blake vampire series. I criticize the books all the time for their lack of this and that...but there is something very relaxing about just reading a story that doesn't make you think - that just strictly entertains you with fantasy. And there is nothing better for that than vampires. Sigh. I don't know why.

Shall we move on to the movie? Big disappointment. Which surprised me because the reviews were mostly good, I think? So in addition to the critics, I know there are a ton of teenage girls who will disagree with me, but the ones in my midst felt the same way I did when it was all over. And I don't just mean the girls I brought to the cinema with me. As we filed out of the theater I heard bits and pieces of conversations that went like this: "The book was better." "It was dumb." "I almost laughed." "The effects sucked." And this had started out as an enthusiastic crowd. When Edward Cullen first appeared, there were plenty of gasps, sighs, thrills, and a few quick screams. And Robert Pattinson, the 22-year-old actor who played Edward Cullen, was of course, gorgeous. He also didn't look anywhere near 17. And I was bothered by his Elvis hair-do, but I think the girls in my van thought it was cool. Unfortunately, I must agree with all of the criticisms I heard from the other movie-goers. I was expecting more. As a Potter fan, I kind of expected something along the same lines. I expected some excitement and cinematography that made me go, "Wow! How did they do that?" Or even better, sucked me in until I was a total believer and lost in an imaginary world. That definitely did not happen. When the Cullen vampires first walked in to the school cafeteria, they looked almost middle-aged compared to the other actors. And I expected their make-up to be subtle. I mean, after all, this entire town of Forks is supposedly clueless that these folks are vampires. But they looked like they were covered in mime make-up. Edward's white make-up looked downright gross over his very non-seventeenish dark stubble. And in one scene, you could see where his chest was darker than his face! Someone should have caught that, you would think. Dr. Cullen looked downright frightening. He looked like, well, the walking dead. Which he was. But nobody was supposed to know it. And the sparkling vampire skin? Huge disappointment. In the book, when Edward stood in the sun he skin sparkled and dazzled like diamonds. In the movie, he just looked kind of sweaty or something. It was a big build-up to nothing.

Also, the dialogue was, at times, unbearable. And sparse. Many scenes were just Edward and Bella staring at each other in between unenthusiastic bouts of stilted conversation. Okay. So that part is probably pretty realistic. I'm having high school dating flashbacks....

But the biggest disappointment? The special effects. They ended up just looking strange. I mean, I guess it would be rather strange to watch a vampire run up a tree with a girl on his back, but it looked weird-strange. There were more giggles than gasps. And in one scene, a really, really bad and scary vampire makes a menacing growl and it looked like a scene from the Incredible Hulk. Not the movie. The series from the 70's. The kids actually giggled. There was no inspiring or memorable music, and too many scenes were awkward. Like the menacing growl - was it the actor? I bet not. I bet he growled just fine. But it was the whole scene that was awkward.

On a less mature note - the hospital scene. Why didn't someone see that the oxygen thingy up Bella's nose was just gross and didn't make her look even slightly kissable? I was so distracted by the oxygen thingy. She kept talking and crying with the oxygen thingy jiggling around on her upper lip. Did they think that adding the oxygen thingy somehow made the entire movie more "real" and "believable"? Yikes. Bugged Me No End. (When I mentioned this in the van on the way home it was met with silence from the back seat.) So maybe it is just me. (That would be one of many times I have jumped enthusiastically into a conversation with my loud opinion only to be met with quizzical expressions and stunned silence.)

Here is a summary of my ever-so-sought-after-professional-opinion: I think the Twilight books will remain popular. And any book series that makes young people WANT to read, is a good thing. But I don't think it will ever be added to the classics shelf at the library. For a completely different (and thoroughly well written) review of the movie and book, go to Reviews by Me.
What do you think?

Sardine Mama


  1. Ms. Carol! love the post! yes, i do read the Twilight books just because they have vampires AND werewolves in them. i agree with you when you say that sometimes you just need a break from reality; Twilight gives me that. ;) and might i mention that it was Ellie who got me into them? haha anyways, i was terribly disappointed with the movie, but i kinda knew that it was gonna be bad. i just can't believe how much they left out. Edward was horrible (but we already knew that), and i did NOT like his hair. that was Ellie and Annie. :) i've already said this, but the only people that i like who they casted was the girl who played Alice and the dude who played Jasper. the music was bad, too much modern stuff. but i must say that Twilight isn't the kind of book for big special effects. it's not Harry Potter where you have dragons, people flying on brooms and magic potions coming out of wands. although, they could have done a better job with the whole running really fast thing and super powers and all that. and yeah, Edward did look all sweaty in the movie when he was supposed to look beautiful. that was awful. they completely butchered the book, and i'd be embarassed if i were the one who directed it. so for the most part i completely agree with you. and i do know that the Twilight series is not the best series ever, i never thought they were. :)

    oh, and you spelled "dialog" wrong. D-I-A-L-O-G-U-E ;)

  2. I thought the movie was good!

    I too read the book so I could see the movie. And I've been drawn in. It's terrible. I'm on Eclipse (the third book) but I've taken a peek into Breaking Dawn (the fourth) and it gets VERY PG-13. I saw these kids in the movie who looked like they were five. I was a little (ok, more like alot) shocked.

    I'm really not into vampires/werewolves or that sort of thing. One of my best friends really is and I really just read it cuz she begged me to so I could see the movie. I was surprised at how mild it was. It wasn't as "vampire-y" as I thought it would be.

    I personally thought most of the characters were very well cast. Except for Emmett. I was soo mad in the movie. Emmett was my favorite character in the book (I know it's weird. But he was funny!) And they totally butchered him! Alice and Esme were perfectly cast in my book. I LOVED Esme and Carlisle in the book and loved them just as much in the movie, only, Carlisle looked a little TOO vampire-y. I'm sorry, wasn't it a BIT obvious?? Edward... ehh. But hey, he was hot. :) Kristen Stewart did a much better job as Bella than I thought she would, which was a pleasant surprise. But, I still think that somehow Stephenie Meyer stalked me and based Bella off of me. It's kind of scary...

    BTW, my friend is obsessed with Jasper. She went from Jacob, to Edward to Jasper. I dunno.

    I've already seen the movie twice, and am itching to see it again. YES, I know that is disturbing. *sigh*

    Anyway, I recommend that you watch some spoofs of the twilight trailer. They're preetyy funny. :)

    ~The Real Katie

  3. Juliana - Once again, I cannot thank you enough for pointing out typos and misspellings. And uh, once again, I think if you check the blog you will see it was all in your head....I haven't a clue as to what you are talking about :).

    And yes, I liked Alice and Jasper, too. I would have liked Jasper even if his name were not Jasper. And you're also right about the lack of opportunity for special effects in comparison to the Potter movies. But still, what little there was, was lame. And I guess when I think about it, it wasn't so much that the music was "bad" as it is that I don't even remember it, ya know? Like there is no vampire theme song that we'll hear and go, "Ooooh, the vampire movie!" Whatever music they played didn't help set the mood or the scenes or create atmosphtere in my (and seemingly your) opinion. Thanks for the massive comment!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Oh Katie! Didn't see your comment until I posted mine. Also - thank you for your massive response!!! And (ahem) for not pointing out the senile small typos of an ailing woman with a stuffed up nose. And *&^, would you believe there is a typo in my comment to Juliana's comment? Sometimes, life is just unfair.

    I am happy you liked the movie! I think sometimes you just get so "in" to a world that your own mind fills in for all the little make it a perfect experience. Juliana doesn't care for Harry Potter (books or movies) and I am a freak for both. And I also love vamps and werewolves! I am reading the Anita Blake series (which you are not to read because they are definitely R-rated...) and it is just a wonderful make-believe world. We joke that our dog Schnitzel is a vampire weiner dog because she won't come in the house unless we invite her :).

    I was disappointed in Emmett, too. His character didn't come across strongly at all. And to me, Rosalie looked too old. But Jasper was adorable as was Alice. And I thought Esme was well cast.

    Well, you and Juliana have me thinking that maybe I should read the other books...

  5. ok, so maybe i did imagine it. ;) haha funny. and i did notice that you had a typo in your comment! wow that made me laugh.

    Emmett was just WRONG! first of all, the buzz cut thing going on was a total turn off. ew! and he didn't seem as funny as he was in the books! but i did like Carlisle, even though when i first saw him i was completely shocked because he looked sooo supremely beautiful and vampire-ish! they could have toned down his makeup though. and even though Esme wasn't given that much screen time, i did like her too. Rosalie was ok. i kinda imagined her with darker hair. but i'm sticking with Jasper and lovely Alice. :)

    haha we should just have our own Twilight conversation right here on your blog comment page, Ms. Carol!

  6. Yes, well, I think we are having a Twilight conversation. You should check out Katie's blog. I added it to the end of the post.

  7. i tagged you for an award on my personal blog, Shakespeare & Showtunes.

    and i may be going to Texas to visit the K's in the summer. So, we can have a nice, indepth convo then. :)

  8. Yes! You are coming and bringing DVDs for Dream, R&J and Macbeth with you!

    But what'll I do while ya'll are talking Twilight??

  9. Katie: Read the books so you can join in. DUH! <3