Thursday, December 4, 2008

Movie Review: "Twilight"

A moody, intellectual young woman, Bella is the product of divorced parents who seem to have difficulty handling their own life challenges, much less that of their lonely daughter. Bella leaves her home in sunny Phoenix to begin small town life in her father’s house in gloomy Forks, Washington, since her mother is pursuing a love interest and has no time to wait for her daughter to finish high school. Bella (Kristen Stewart) is instantly surrounded by slavish new friends, but none of them inspire her respect like the one who won’t speak with her, the aloof, eerily handsome Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) who glides into the school cafeteria with his eccentrically beautiful siblings. Legends swirl around the Cullens but Bella’s father, Charlie, the small town sheriff (Billy Burke) dismisses them as unfair. He cites Dr Carlisle’s stellar reputation as a surgeon in the local hospital, who has taken in an odd assortment of foster children, who don’t mix with their peers yet are the talk of the town.
Soon Bella and Edward are thrust into a crisis which forces her to confront Edward about what makes the Cullens so different. Bella discovers that they are vampires, but unlike the murderous types who have been stalking the locals, the Cullens have learned to satisfy their cravings for human blood by hunting and killing wild animals. They are ‘vegetarian vampires’. “It’s like humans living on tofu. You are not hungry but you are never fully satisfied”, Edward explains to Bella. That is why he has been so cold to her, all the while drawing her in with his sultry silence. Soon Bella finds herself recklessly in love with a man who, every moment they are together, has to fight a relentless lust, not as much for her body as for her blood.

Following on the heels of one of the cultishly popular book series, “Twilight” filmmakers had a distinct advantage: millions who have read the series were longing for this film to come out, selling out entire theatres in advance, with many women planning parties to celebrate the film’s premiere, and to go in groups to see this film. This undoubtedly insured the film’s all-important opening box office returns. However, this advantage of a vast built in audience was also fraught with peril. Devotees of a book, particularly a romance can be adamant that certain details ( i.e. the romance) be done right. Director Catherine Hardwicke wisely included author Stephanie Meyers on the movie set to advise her. Most of the big decision makers; casting, production, etc. were women, so one would assume that the magnetic pull of the book would make it to the screen in its purest form. It seems they were wrong. One week after the film’s successful opening, I attended a sparsely populated matinee the day after Thanksgiving. How could the incredible furor this film created have died out so rapidly? Teen fans of the books told me of their bitter disappointment before I saw the film. “They (the romantic characters Edward and Bella) looked like they hated each other.”
Could it be that in their devotion to the perception of the romance, readers of the book overlooked the darker aspects of the story? After all, Edward’s reaction to meeting Bella, the new student in the small town high school did convince Bella that he was sorry she had the seat next to him in science class. His interior struggles to overcome his particularly keen blood lust for her were plainly and chillingly stated in the book. Did fans assume that his unearthly physical attractiveness or the pathos of the tragic vegetarian vampire, trying to overcome his bloodthirsty nature overcome this cold-blooded fact in the reader’s minds? I read many an online discussion of the book when the darkness of the love affair where Edward who is fighting the urge to kill his beloved is defended on both these terms. Did women refuse to face the bald fact that Bella’s abandonment into the hands of Edward and his kind is ultimately going to cause her pain? Or was the danger part of the attraction? I assumed it was. Apparently so did the producers of “Twilight” as they had begun production on the sequel before the release of “Twilight”. Read a review of the book here.
Perhaps the darkness of Edward’s true nature when seen onscreen was too unsettling for even the most loyal fans. Maybe Bella’s blind devotion to Edward pales in the gloomy light of the cinema, and this film dwindles in stature from a modern rendering of the gothic “Wuthering Heights” down to just another unhealthy teenage relationship?

Perhaps a generation of young women who haven’t read such classics are seeking the darkness into light of a true gothic romance, or a strong, strangely chivalrous romantic man (it admit it’s a unique device to make Edward seem noble for saving Bella from himself!) Couldn’t these young women so hungry for masculinity, self-sacrificing love, and romance find a better story than “Twilight”?

The film, with its nightmarish mood, constant undercurrent of sexuality, and jarring score, might just have succeeded too well in conveying the dream of Stephanie Meyers which inspired the series in the first place.
Disturbing violence and overt sexual content.
Not recommended.


Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

This review is very nicely done, amazingly sensitive to the way romance is conveyed and observed. Moms and teachers should all be aware of the content of the films and literature that are currently popular. I would not allow my growing daughters to either read or view this series, and they don't feel like they are missing out on anything.

ashley said...

I hate to break it to you but not allowing your children to read this series is a shame. It is not right to force your values onto your children. Let them make their own choices and develop their own set of values. This series does not come close to encouraging youth to become "blood thirsty". It rather allows them to sympathize with people who are different. It teaches children that they can overcome differences if they set their minds to it. Next time you decide to write a review maybe you should look deeper and actually find the meaning and morals it teaches. I applaud Stephanie Meyers on her creativity and thought in her writing.

Leticia said...

I not only have every right to impose my morality (NOT values, that's too PC) on my girls, but if I don't, Jesus will tie a millstone around my neck and cast me into the sea. Hell for eternity.
My girls are getting the very best; the eternal truths of the Catholic faith. They have free will and when they are on their own, they may reject the Truth; at the peril of their immortal souls.
The problem is that I HAVE looked deeper into Stephenie Meyer's book; and see only darkness.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, instilling morals in children is the most important part of being a parent. You're only a babysitter if you don't. It's a parent's God-given duty to teach their children right from wrong. Allowing them to flounder around in the dark without any moral guidance is perilous to both their souls and the souls of their parents.

Sharon said...

"...Jesus will tie a millstone around my neck and cast me into the sea. Hell for eternity." Is that how you see the teachings of Christ? Last time I checked, Jesus came to free us of that sort of mentality. Is fear what motivates you to follow God? It should be love. It should be forgiveness. How sad that you feel you have the right to judge other people so harshly or that you believe Christ judges you so harshly. Hopefully your children will come to Christ as a loving God that accepts them as the unique beautiful creations that they are, instead of fearing an eternity in hell for not being perfect.

Anonymous said...

seems likely that they will come out with a Twilight sequel pretty soon, there's a crazy lot of ticket sales at stake

Anonymous said...

"but if I don't, Jesus will tie a millstone around my neck and cast me into the sea. Hell for eternity."

Wow. I know Jesus for his great love and compassion. I really hope you discover what it is to love and worship a God who draws us towards himself in Love, not binds us to his rule in fear. Wishing you peace and fulfillment on your journey.

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

Leticia is referring to a scripture found in Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, and Luke 17:2. It is referring to the damnation of those who lead others - either children or those who are young in their faith - to sin. The Matthew scripture reads, "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."

Anonymous said...

You should discourage people from reading this book because Bella is a terrible role model for young women. Also, the writing is pretty awful.

However, I should point out that the Twilight series is overtly pro-life and pro-abstinence.