Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Twilight (2008)

When Twilight came out about three years ago I was assured by a friend that I would “fall in love with one if not both” of the main characters. This same friend demanded that I watch the film as soon as I could as it would undoubtedly change my life. However, Twilight, like Dirty Dancing, was going to be one of those films I never lowered myself to watch. It clearly wasn’t aimed at someone like me and, I must admit, in terms of the series of novels I’m clueless. I do have it on good authority that the books are better than their big screen counterparts and, after finally watching the first film, I honestly can’t imagine how they can’t be even slightly better than the self-indulgent and pathetic drivel I’ve just witnessed. Twilight is everything I was ever led to believe it to be; essentially it’s vampire-centric, family-friendly porn. It is the stuff of every hyperbolic teenage girl’s fantasies. The handsome and mysterious stranger without the underlying issue of sexual desire. It is a safe but bland love story.

Whilst it is perhaps rather redundant to comment on the plot of any film based on a novel, the story of Twilight is beyond pointless. We see Bella move to a new town to live with her estranged father. She finds herself surrounded by a pleasant and accommodating community but only finds herself drawn to the mysterious Cullen clan, specifically the pale and, I’m told, handsome Edward. What takes place is a drawn-out process that sees them move together and attempt to overcome the small problem of Ed’s vampirism and desire to taste her blood. Twilight is neither a great romance or a terrifying Vampire film. Instead it is 122 minutes of self-centred teenagers moaning about their insignificant problems and idealising their ‘great love’.

Twilight is a film that places a great deal of pressure upon its two lead actors and, unfortunately, it is a challenge that neither of them are up to. Robert Pattinson, every Twi-hard fan’s pin-up, simply flounders on screen. Thankfully his input is small but the audience must still be forced to watch him pout his way through the story. Edward Cullen, the vampire with a conscience, is the mysterious figure of Bella's, and many a fan girl’s, dreams. There is no real hint within Pattinson’s performance that any  potential threat exists. Lord Ruthven or Dracula he most certainly is not. Thanks to some dodgy special effects, Edward becomes a harmless superhero who removes Bella from some slightly unnerving situations. It is only towards the films end that the potential danger of their relationship comes to light but that is rushed over in a blurry mess of moaning and shaky-cam close up. Edward Cullen is not a Byronic hero; a complicated and dangerous figure who cuts himself off from society. He is a soppy teenager who enjoys his meat on the rare side.

Whilst she excels as an actor next to Pattinson, Kristen Stewart doesn’t fair much better. Bella is meant to carry the entire film but her relentless and completely redundant voice-over only adds to her self-absorption. After walking the audience through her discovery of Edward’s true identity, including a confession from the man himself, Bella feels the need to tell us she “was now convinced Edward was a vampire”. Well I’m glad that was finally cleared up. In Stewart’s defence, she is faced with the task of playing a deplorable and insipid teenager in dire need of a slap in the face. Bella never seems fully developed as a character. All of her relationships are turbulent apparently just because she’s a teenager. Rather than delving into her motivations, her cold attitude to the kind people around her is excused because she is a stereotypical teen. I can only speculate that trying to portray such a horrific person would be difficult. 

For a story about love, admittedly a scary, obsessive, Disney-love, Twilight’s lead actors lack on-screen chemistry. Whilst I can't admit to being terribly knowledgeable about acting techniques, I’m not sure the Twilight 'mouth open, heavy breathing, stare' approach is one to look out for. Whilst we are supposed to believe, as we are told on many occasions, that their love is the most spectacular love ever, we are never given evidence to back up the claim. Their romance suddenly just happens and is described by the pair rather than lived. It may just be an age thing but I could not understand why this coupling was something to fight for. Their romance is nothing to rival the great literary pairings even though they work hard to convince us otherwise. In all areas, Twilight tries incredibly hard to be something it isn’t. It comes across as something that looks distinctly like a film student’s end of year project, so desperate to show their knowledge they throw everything they can into the mix. All in all the film looks lacklustre and shoddily thrown together.

However, as I pointed out, this is not a film for someone like me. Twilight is harmless and adequate tale that would keep any teenage girl satisfied. It may wish to be a great example of cinema but at the very least it delivers for its target audience.

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