Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Twilight vs. Twilight

Twilight the book’s finally behind me, and I hope everyone enjoyed me making a jackass of myself reading it from start to finish. I thought about doing an indepth review of the movie it spawned in the style of my cartoon reviews, but as I pointed out before Jet kind of beat me to it. Besides, as we know they didn’t use the original script and for that reason the resulting movie isn’t vastly different from the book, which I already described in detail. So that seemed kind of pointless.

Still, I paid to watch actual sparkling vampires and don’t quite feel I’ve got my money’s worth from the DVD by watching it with Rifftrax. So here’s how I thought Twilight the movie was better (and of course worse) than Twilight the book.

The Good

Robert Pattinson
. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to hear someone so central to the project talk about his absolute disgust with the source material and the person responsible for it. In case you haven’t heard, he loathes his character and plays Edward as a self-hating manic-depressive because that’s how the character came across to him (an interpretation I can’t dispute). He also thinks Meyer’s “mad” because of how in love she is with the characters she made up. He doesn’t manage to redeem the character, but I don’t think that’s what he was trying to do. It’s not something that can be achieved by human effort, anyway. He’s got my condolences for spending the rest of his career being thought of as the sparkly vampire kid.

James and his buddies
. The movie actually thought to set them up before the vast majority of the story was over via “animal attacks” on various people Charlie had to look into. This gave them some real menace. They’re still pretty low on the cinematic villain totem pole, but at least they weren’t shoehorned it at the last minute. While we’re on the subject…

An actual payoff. We wait the whole book for something to happen, and the narrator’s pummeled unconscious until after it’s all over. In the movie we actually see the Cullens come in and duel with the villain. I can understand how action sequences can be hard to make cool with only words at your disposal--the things I write call for them a lot more often than a dopey romance does--but at least try! Oh, and the movie actually let a girl do something useful as Alice was the one who ripped James’s head off while her brothers held him.

No “Tyler’s taking you to prom.”
Someone please explain to me the point of that subplot.

The compressed runtime. Meyer was dating herself when she wrote the book (or rather, vicariously dating Edward). It didn’t need to be five hundred pages, and the movie could’ve easily been three and a half hours long. Most of the stuff about how vampires work comes all at once in the movie, but that means they didn’t think that aspect needed to be dribbled out over half the runtime. We paid to read a story. Give us one.

The cinematography. There are some truly beautiful set pieces in this movie that show up when they’re not trying to make everything look dull and gray.

The Cullens might have, but the movie didn’t forget they didn’t deal with Victoria.

At least, I assume that's her.

The Bad

Kristen Stewart as Bella. She turned in a nearly flawless performance for the character. That is, a whiny, stupid teenager who’s bored and annoyed by everyone and everything around her except what’s-his-name. Seriously, Bella makes the Emo Rangers look well-adjusted, and their show’s a parody.

Can't you just see it, though? "Codependence Emo Power!"

Seeing a real person act like she does in the book, the dude magnet aspect of her “character” gets even more unbelievable. Especially since her “friends” are actually shown to have personalities in the movie because we’re not relying on her to relay all the information we receive.

There’s a little bit of a plus to this aspect, though, because it almost seems like even the crew knew what a joke Bella’s sex appeal was. When she has her first meeting with Edward, her hair’s being blown in the wind like in, well, a stupid romance movie (and before anybody says anything no, being a romance doesn't automatically make a movie stupid). The thing is, they actually show the fan doing it. Maybe that was a coincidence and I'm making things up, but for the sake of my own amusement I like to pretend otherwise.

And does it say anything about me that I find this Bella more attractive?

Speaking of things looking even stupider when performed by actual people, there’s the baseball game. No amount of movie magic can hide how it’s nothing but a moronic way to kill time until the evil vampires show up and decide to kill Bella.

Mighty Sokka at the bat.

The love story. As with Bella's character, the romance is even less believable watching real people act it out. Seriously, it’s like this:

Bella: “I don’t care that you’re a vampire.”
Edward: “No? Guess that means we’re in love.”

The whole “About three things I was absolutely positive” stuff comes AFTER Edward reveals himself and they declare they’re in love. Yes, thank you. We were there forty-five seconds ago to hear the “and so the lion fell in love with the lamb” garbage.

Bella’s lowered IQ. She’s a little dumber in the movie than in the book, which as you might have noticed, is saying something. After the second “animal attack” Charlie tries to get her to carry pepper spray and initially she resists. Mind you, this is right after she gets back from Port Angeles, meaning she's turning down a weapon scant hours after almost being raped. Also building on the “animal attack” addition, she knows Edward’s a vampire but spares little if any thought to the possibility it might be thanks to him.

“This is the skin of a killer, Bella!”
Full stop.

The author cameo. The waitress even calls her by name, and she’s at a laptop like she’s working on the next book. Somehow accounts of her hubris are multiplied by actually seeing her in the movie based on the book she wrote. I’m not saying Alfred Hitchcock or Stan Lee are hubristic by that same token, but then they don’t have reputations as hacks or being full of themselves.

Onto the Next Thing

That’s a wrap on the first book in Stephenie Meyer’s magnum opus. Will I tackle New Moon next? The answer is yes…if that’s what people want to see.

Spectrum of Madness gets a fair number of visits, but the people that come here are a quiet bunch. I don’t know if people are enjoying the Twilight reviews or think I’m a moron talking about something he doesn’t grasp.

I’ve read the other books, and even started making notes in my copy of New Moon, but a lot of the hate for the Twilight series has died off. If I’d had a blog in 2008, I probably would've done more reviews regardless, but it’s 2011. I'd be happy closing the book, as it were, with this side-by-side review. Before I commit to another series of reviews for an even longer book, maybe even three of them, I want to know if anyone’s actually going to read them.

So I’m putting this in your hands. Yeah you, the kid holding the controller. If you want to see more savaging of sparkly vampires, say so. Leave a comment. Send me an email. Start an online petition to continue the reviews. I promise I’ll look at it and take it seriously if someone actually goes that far. I don’t have a magic number of supporters in my head that needs to be hit before I'll do the next book or a deadline by which I'll have made up my mind (so if I've done another review or twelve by the time you read this, still feel free to ask for more), but if I don’t hear anything, I won’t be doing anything. If you want to see more, speak up. I'll listen.

If nothing else, I hope you enjoyed my suffering through Twilight and will enjoy the reviews to come.


  1. I'd like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the series on "Twilight" and hope you continue with "New Moon" and further. This series has to be the most interesting (and fun to read) analysis of the book and it's unfortunate implications that I've ever come across.

    So keep up the good work.

  2. Thank you James, but I'm just afraid if I decide to do the rest of the books I'll be repeating the things I already talked about to death (Bella's a doormat, Edward's a controlling dick, and they're confusing infatuation for true love). With maybe a little "Bella strings Jacob along because she needs a hot guy bending over backwards to please her to validate her existence, oh now Bella does this stupid thing that almost ends her life to hallucinate Edward's talking to her. Isn't that sweet?"

  3. Honestly I wouldn't mind seeing the whole series deconstructed. You're doing a great job--and a great service. Seriously. How better to teach writing than by dissecting bad writing?

    It sounds as though the writers who adapted Twilight for the screen were more capable than Meyer and cleaned up at least some of her mistakes. I'd be interested in seeing what they could do on their own with the settings and characters. That said, there's only so much you can do with something that's crap to begin with.

  4. Well, see if you're not bored when you finish my reviews of book 3.