Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Review – Twilight

January 12, 2010

Twilight - U.S., 2008

Just how should a romantic character show his love for a woman in a film? I suppose he could take the material route and shower the woman he adores with flowers and expensive presents, but those acts would only be followed by the stereotypical “I love you for you” speech. He could also find a way to demonstrate his uncanny understanding of her, as Jack Nicholson does in Something's Gotta Give. However, in movies, men who say they understand women completely are usually either gravely mistaken – which a later event will prove - or simply lying. There’s always the notion of sacrificing for the one you love, for example, telling a woman to get on a plane and fly away with another man when your heart is begging for her to stay. Such a moment creates great emotion, and in the right film, the woman inevitably realizes her true feelings and leaps into your arms. Perhaps the only other option left for a man in love is for him to do something brave, perhaps to save her life. However, for this “selfless” act to truly be heroic, the hero must be putting his own life in danger, thereby establishing for the audience the hero’s belief that her life is more important than his. And it is this last requirement that unfortunately makes it extremely difficult for Edward Cullen, the protagonist in the 2008 blockbuster Twilight, to be considered a romantic hero.

This is not to say that Edward does not do heroic things. Quite the opposite. In one scene, he jumps in front of an out-of-control van and prevents it from smashing into his science lab partner, Bella. Later, he appears suddenly out of nowhere just in time to save Bella from being attacked by a group of drunken men with rather horrible intentions. Therefore, Edward is a hero in the normal sense of the word. However, in each of these instances, Edward himself is never actually in danger, for he has the power to stop the truck, as well as the ability to lay waste to the horde of men if he so chooses. Therefore, his apparent act of bravery is in actuality an act of morality. Basically, he does what every person with great power should do – help those in danger.

Now, somewhere someone is screaming that I’ve missed something, that I haven’t taken into consideration Edward’s suppression of his true instincts. Surely that is the act of a romantic figure, someone may say. Normally I would agree. However, by the time Bella meets Edward, he has already made the decision to accept a diet different from that of other vampires. It’s not as if he was out hunting ordinary people and only stopped because he fell in love with Bella. And it’s not as if there is some penalty for revealing his true nature to Bella. In fact, his family of vampires takes the news that their secret has been revealed quite well. They even attempt to cook Italian food for her despite the fact that none of them eat. It’s only during “vampire baseball” (I can’t believe I just wrote that) that Bella’s life becomes endangered, and being the person that he is, Edward protects her from a pair of truly evil vampires that would like nothing better than to feast on her at that very moment. So is he heroic at that moment? Not really. I saw his act of chivalry as being responsible. Bella was his guest after all.

Twilight is not a traditional vampire film. I have no doubt that some will find this refreshing. No one turns into a bat or lifts out of coffins in the form of mist. In fact, Edward and his “family” seem much more likeable than most of the town’s residents. As for Bella’s classmates, it’s hard to see anyone among them that Bella can be friends with, the majority of them being somewhat eccentric, and not in a very good way. Instead of hatching some plot to get to Bella, which Count Dracula would probably do, Edward plays the role of the concerned friend who just happens to be a vampire, telling Bella, “Distract me so I’ll think of something else (other than drinking your blood).” Moreover, for the majority of the film, there is no danger, just two lonely teenagers who find love under the oddest of conditions.

Kirsten Steward and Robert Pattinson do the best they can with some rather clunky dialogue. They have good chemistry on screen, even if not enough screen time is devoted to explaining the depths of their feelings for each other. Director Catherine Hardwicke does an adequate job with the source material. However, the editing and the tone of several of the scenes are slightly off, in particular, the scenes in which Bella and Edward are in the forest or on top of some rather tall trees. There’s also a scene in the film that reminded me too much of a scene from 1993’s Untamed Hearts with Christian Slater and a closing scene that has Belle declare her desire to become like Edward. Scenes like this have unfortunately become commonplace in vampire films. However, in Twilight, the scene is particularly unwise, for voicing that wish completely negates all of Edward’s attempts to keep that very thing from happening. Luckily, she changes her mind. There’s a moral in there somewhere, I’m sure. (on DVD)

2 and a half stars

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