Twilight Dimming

As a review or a critique or anything, this is completely unfair, because:

1)      I haven’t read the book(s); and

2)      I’m not going to; and

3)      I haven’t seen the movie all the way through; and

4)      I’m not going to do that either.

There, that’s out of the way.

FX is showing the movie Twilight in continuous loop, obviously a marketing tie-in to the release of most recent Twilight movie, Book Three Part One or Book One Part Three or something. (I shouldn’t make fun. They did that with the last Harry Potter book-to-movie transition and it worked there.)

Because FX is showing it virtually nonstop, any time I surf and click onto FX, I’m at a different part of the movie. This means I have never seen the entire thing, and I’ve never seen it in sequence. My sense is that this random-shuffle version of viewing only improves the film. You would think that watching snips of a movie here and there would limit your ability to follow the story, and my response in this case would be, “What story?”

The story is this: Bella falls in love with a vampire. That’s the story. Hard to mess that one up by watching it out of sequence. Sure, there are some obligatory “bad” vampires who pop up to create fake tension by trying to bite Bella, but that really isn’t the plot. Sure, Bella has to figure out that her enigmatic new friend/crush is a vampire, but that really isn’t a plot either. There really isn’t a plot. It’s just that simple.

The Pacific Northwest never looked better than in this movie. The northwest epitomizes the word “twilight” so it works beautifully here; lush evergreens, snowcapped mountains, verdant meadows and moss-carpeted logs; twining shimmering waterways, twinkling lights on rain darkened pavements. All gorgeous stuff. Kristen Stewart stands out here as an actress who can make this implausible character seem like an authentic teenager (more on this in a bit). I believe that Robert Pattison is probably an excellent actor as well, but he is slathered in white-face makeup and completely imprisoned by this appalling screenplay. “Your blood is like my personal heroin,” he says to Bella, in an intense, smoldering way. (Believe me, I looked for a said-book verb to plug in there and couldn’t find one. “Your blood is like my own personal heroin,” he smoldered. You see?)

“Then say the word!” he commands Bella when they’re standing out in the forest in the fully-clothed, both-standing, no-touching scene that first substitutes for sex in this sexless romance. She is turned away from him, looking all intense and vulnerable. Say the word. Why did Allison Hannigan, from American Pie, shouting, “Say my name, bitch!” leap into my mind? Unintentionally hilarious.

The word, by the way, is “vampire.”

“Hold tight, spider money,” he says later as they leap through the trees a la Tarzan. I would give more examples of his dialogue, but really, this humiliation is unfair. It’s not like he wrote the stuff.

The vampires live in a really cool glass-and-sharp-angles house because the vampires are rich. Vampires sparkle in the sun. Vampires play baseball during thunderstorms. Apparently vampires are not worried about getting struck by lightning which is odd, because burning is the one sure way to kill them. Why, then, do they play baseball during thunderstorms? Because they hit the ball so hard it breaks the sound barrier. Really.

When the bad vampires show up and get a whiff of Bella, literally, the “good vampires” leap down into combat poses, looking exactly like they’re setting up for the jazz-dance number in West Side Story. I was waiting for Edward to start snapping his fingers. (“Got a rocket/in your pocket/ Turn off the juice, boy!”)

Bella is what fan-fiction writers and others call a “Mary Sue.” A Mary Sue is the fantasy-wish-fulfillment character of a beginning writer. She is beautiful, brilliant, clever, beloved by all; in short, perfect. Bella is a biology wizard, can identify any piece of classical music, is friendly with the one Native American kid in her small-town high school, is beautiful, and knows the square root of pi. She does have a fault, she does! She doesn’t dance.

Her other real fault is that she falls in love with a guy who wants to drain her body of blood. I’m sorry, I think that’s a failure of judgment on her part.

The smart girl who knows the square root of pi must behave stupidly at the end of the movie in order for the suspenseful scene to work—because if Bella used her brain for two seconds, she would think (yes, spoiler!) “Since my mother lives in another state right now, it is unlikely that the bad vampire ran there and kidnapped her in the past ten minutes, so I am not going to agree to meet him, alone, at the dance studio.”

The actor who plays Bella’s father does a good job, and their chemistry is good, but one clever bit about pepper spray is so good that it is used twice, with no changes. It’s clear why Edward would like her—hey, free heroin!—but not clear at all what Bella would see in this weird boy. Either she’s an adrenaline junkie (“Every time I’m with him I’m putting my life at genuine and immediate risk! Awesome!”) or worse, she’s a masochist. And from the bits I saw, I think masochism wins.

FX will probably be showing the movie twenty-six more times. If you want to see it, I’m thinking maybe watching it with the sound off would be the best way to go.

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