Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Ghoul Versus The Twilight Saga: Twilight (Part 1)

"Uh-oh, you knew this one was coming..."

The Twilight Saga! What more can you say? Critically reviled... porn for teenage girls... the death of cinema... pretty much every negative label you think of to put on a film, these movies have worn it. But they've also grossed over a THREE BILLION DOLLARS worldwide, so obviously a FEW people must like them.

Author Stephenie Meyer finished writing the first Twilight novel in 2003, and it was immediately the subject of a bidding war between numerous publishing companies. Everyone involved could sense the story was special, and had the potential to compete with the juggernaut that was Harry Potter (the fifth novel of that series had come out a few months prior) to become the Next Big Thing.

A little known fact is that during the book's journey to getting published, its film rights were bought by MTV in 2004. MTV being, well MTV, planned to radically change the movie to the point where Bella was doing to be a flashy track star who loved rap. Which actually sounds just about right given the quality of their products... COUGH COUGH Teen Wolf COUGH COUGH.

The novel was published in 2005, and within a month was already on the best seller list. Over the months it kept getting bigger, as its focus of a forbidden love over its supernatural elements were hitting the right chords with the HIGHLY COVETED young female demographic. By the time the third novel Eclipse came out in 2007, Twilight was easily the second biggest ongoing franchise behind Harry Potter and Hollywood got their ass in gear getting a film into production.

By now film rights had fallen to Summit Entertainment, who vowed to make their version of the movie more loyal to the books. Summit believed in the film's potential but just in case things went awry and they couldn't transition the book audience to a movie audience they kept its budget at a low $37 million. That's downright miniscule when compared to another film released the same month, Four Christmases, which had a budget of EIGHTY MILLION and was about a couple visiting their relatives for the holidays. Damn you Hollywood, EIGHTY MILLION for that?!

They brought in director Catherine Hardwicke, most famous for her critically acclaimed 2003 film Thirteen (which starred Nikki Reed, who would go on to play Rosalie Cullen in the Twilight Saga), to do the filming honours and writer Melissa Rosenberg to adapt the book for the silver screen. Rosenberg was a veteran of many television shows, including writing for the first four years of Dexter when it was still an awesome show. And then Season Five happened...

The film was a MASSIVE hit, going on to make nearly $400 million dollars worldwide and igniting the Twilight Phenomenon that we all got to enjoy for the next four years. But was the film actually any good? Find a ray of light so you can get to a-sparklin' and get ready for A Ghoul Versus The Twilight Saga: Twilight!

Our film opens with a deer in the woods being chased by the demon vision camera from The Evil Dead until it's grabbed by a denim wearing man we only get glimpses of. We transition to the star of the franchise Bella Swan, played by the internet's punching bag Kristen Stewart. She lives in Phoenix with her beloved “harebrained” mother and her not-so-beloved stepfather, but is moving to Forks, Washington to be with her real dad Charlie.

Charlie is the chief of police in the tiny town, and like all movie dads really has no idea how to deal with his teenage daughter. He gets her set up in her new room as his friend Billy Black comes to visit, bringing his son Jacob along. Bella and Jacob used to be friends when they were little, and it's made obvious pretty quickly Jacob is quite impressed with how Bella has grown up.  And out, ZING!  Bella heads off to her “dreaded first day of school” where EVERYONE gapes at her because this kind of movie. But she quickly and inexplicably makes some friends, including a girl named Jessica whom is played by Anna Kendrick, who has gone off to carve a very respectable post-Twilight film career for herself.

She sits down with her new friends for lunch, where she spots a group of five immaculately dressed kids who LOVE to walk in slow motion. They are the Cullens: Rosalie, Emmett, Alice, Jasper, and Edward, all foster children of the town doctor Carlisle. Jessica gives Bella a brief rundown of each one as they walk by, particularly taken with the handsome Edward. She informs Bella that apparently no one in the school is good enough for Edward as the camera briefly cuts to Edward smirking at her words, despite being across the room when she said them.

Jessica tells Bella to not waste her time going after Edward and Bella agrees, but then proceeds to flat out stare at him all quiver-lipped. Edward looks back at her with a look I wouldn't exactly call endearing.  Edward is played by Robert Pattinson, who at the time was most famous for playing Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter movies. He is AWESOME, and HAAAAAAATES Twilight more than you do. I think the entire Twilight franchise is 110% justified by the numerous interviews he's given where he hates on Twilight, talking about what a psychopathic loser Edward is and how ridiculously bad the stories are. He even gives the movies the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment on the Director's Commentary tracks!  He gets away with all of it too, because what were the film makers going to do?  Fire the pretty boy who was making them billions!  HA!

Bella attends biology class, which oddly has a fan set up on so we can get a slow motion shot of her hair blowing in the wind. Really movie? We're doing this? Edward sees her from across the room, and his first reaction is to nearly vomit. EPIC LULZ! This is the part where I say I LITERALLY don’t understand the hate Kristen Stewart gets for her looks, I think she's beautiful and doesn't look all fake and artificial like 90% of the rest of the actresses in most movies. The hate for her acting though, TOTES deserves that!

Naturally the only empty seat in the class room is next to Edward, so she sits next to him. As he looks like he's about to throw up his last hundred lunches Bella surreptitiously smells her hair which is probably Kristen's best moment in the entire movie. They look at each other, and again Edward looks less than enticed by her.

Next we get this weird scene where Bella and Charlie eat at the local diner that is mindbogglingly pointless. They sit around quietly eating, then Bella hears some people laughing off camera and the scene ENDS. The hell? Why was that scene left in the film? So we can learn how much Bella loves berry cobbler?  But sadly, because this is a movie and there actually has to be a plot, we get a brief scene of a man at a mill running from his life from two shadowy figures only to run right into the denim-clad man from the beginning. The camera pans out as they start beating him down.

Okay enough story advancement, back to Bella. She walks to her truck when she slips and falls because she's clumsy. In case you didn't get that, they movie will show it to you about a hundred more times. She goes to school and finds Edward is back in biology class, as he was gone for the past week. He still looks like he wants to throw up as she sits next to him.

However this time he actually speaks, making small talk with her. Kristen Stewart's acting method in this film is literally as follows: she stammers through the first few words of a sentence while rapidly blinking her eyes, stops, shakes her head NUMEROUS times, and then trails off. I almost wonder if she thought Bella was supposed to have Parkinson's Disease.  When she's not talking she alternates between either leaving her mouth hanging open or my personal favourite, biting on her lip to the point I'm AMAZED she has a lower lip left. To be fair, she does do a very good job of conveying how hot Bella is for Edward though, mainly through body language.  Although in real life she ended up dating Robert Pattinson, so I'm probably being too generous in giving her credit for doing any kind of good acting.

After school they take turns staring each over as a van zooms in the parking lot at full speed, heading straight for Bella. Edward is instantly in front of her, shielding her from certain death as he pushes the van away with one hand. He exchanges a shocked look with her and then takes off, as it dawns on him if he'd let her die he wouldn't have had to spend the next four years of his life stuck in career hell.  Bella is taken to the hospital despite not having a scratch on her, getting a clean bill of health by Carlisle. In the hallway she overhears him talking with Edward and Rosalie, Rosalie quite upset Edward saved Bella in front of the entire school. Bella talks to Edward privately, the young man trying in vain to convince her that he was standing right next to her and that she imagined him pushing the van away.

The next day Mike, one of the numerous suitors for Bella's affections, asks her to prom but she tells him she's going to Jacksonville that weekend. She's not really paying attention to him as she sees Edward watching her from across the parking lot. Everyone goes to a field trip, where Edward asks Bella what's in Jacksonville.  She won't answer him because he won't answer any of her questions, then somehow turns things into a mini-rant about how he won't even say “hi” to her. I gotta admit, the film definitely has the mind state of your average teenage girl DOWN. He tells her they shouldn't be friends and storms off.  Another ABSOLUTE NOTHING scene of Bella and Charlie follows, where Charlie tries to talk to her while she just kind of stands there zoned out and then leaves. This is kind of a boring movie. I'm pretty sure I could skip half the scenes in this movie and miss out on nothing.

The next day Bella's friends invite her to La Push, a beach near the reservation where Jacob and his family happen to live. As she goes to get some food from the school cafeteria, she drops an apple which Edward catches to recreate the cover of the first novel. Pretty clever, point to the director.  Bella calls him out for being nice to her again, as his mood swings are giving her whiplash. Oh, the irony of that statement when compared to what Bella would become as the series progresses. He clarifies his earlier statement about not being friends, saying he never said he didn't WANT to be but just thought they shouldn't be.

She asks what does that mean (GREAT question!) and he replies that if she were smart she'd stay away from him. Bella replies “Let's say for argument's sake that I'm not smart.”... for argument's sake? What is the other side of this argument?! It couldn't be that you actually ARE smart, so that entire line of dialogue is one of the most nonsensical things ever written.  Bella suggests that Edward is perhaps Superman or Spider-Man, Edward countering with that what if he's really the bad guy? Bella says that he's not- AND GOOD GOD HER HEAD SHAKING. It's one of those things once you notice it, it's ALL you can see to the point it derails everything that's going on. And since there is NOTHING going on here at all, it's a tad bit annoying.

We cut to the beach, where Jacob and a couple of his friends show up to hang out with Bella and her friends. One of his friends makes a cryptic remark that the Cullens don't come to La Push when Jessica mentions Bella invited Edward along, something Bella picks up on. She asks Jacob what was meant by that, learning there's an old myth the Cullens were an enemy tribe to his people that made a treaty to stay off their lands in return for not being exposed for what they really were.

The three shadowy figures kill another guy, although this time we get to see what they look like: rejects from an American Eagle commercial.  SCARY!  Back at home Bella gets to a-Googling what Jacob was talking about, discovering there's a book about Quileute legends in stock at a bookstore in nearby Port Angeles. She heads there with Jessica and her other friend Angela, but finds a dress trying on montage as boring as I do so she goes looking for the bookstore.

Naturally it's in the BAD PART of town, where she immediately attracts the attention of four gang rapists. Before things go south, Edward suddenly pulls up in her car and has her jump in. Damn talk about being between a rock and a hard place: I'm not sure WHO she's worse off with! Edward takes her out for dinner, because almost getting raped really makes you hungry apparently, where she demands to know how he knew where she was. He reveals he can read minds, every mind except for hers. Insert “Bella's so stupid there's nothing TO read” joke here.

This explains how Edward was able to know what Jessica and Mike were talking about earlier in the movie, so I give the film another point for continuity. It does do the very minor details quite well, which is about the ONLY thing it does right. Edward drives Bella back home, Bella touching his hand and finding out it's freezing cold. Later that evening Bella reads her book, finding references to the “Cold Ones” which are, of course, vampires. I never did understand the point of making Edward a telepath, shouldn't being a vampire be enough? But no... Edward is SuperDuperAwesomeSauce, there's NOTHING he can't do!

Bella confronts Edward out in the woods the next day about her discovery, telling him she knows what he is. This leads to the infamous “Say it!” scene where the camera spins all around the couple as Bella says “vampire”. Edward then throws Bella on his back and runs up the mountain with super speed in what is quite possibly the WORST special effect of all time. That $37 million dollars DEFINITELY wasn't spent on the effects, that's for sure. No, most of it went to Edward's hair gel.

He runs her to the top of the mountain where there is sunlight, as he steps into a sunbeam and REVEALS HIS SKIN SPARKLES IN THE LIGHT. 52 minutes in and this movie just fell off the rails as hard as any movie ever has. To this day I will NEVER understand what Meyer was going for here. In the books she talks about how when you become a vampire your features re-arrange to be as perfect as possible, so you'll look irresistible to the opposite sex (or same sex if you're a Twilight fanfiction author) and make them easier prey for you to devour. But the sparkling... I just... it's the kind of shit that just INVITES mockery no matter what else you have going on. Which, again, is nothing.

Bella says he's beautiful, but this just sets him off as he begins a PSYCHOTIC rant about how he's a killer and the world's greatest predator. He illustrates this by showing off his super strength, super speed, and how much the CGI artists hate life.  Bella freaks out and goes into major GTFO mode. Ha hah, just kidding! She's pretty much turned on by all of this and tells him she doesn't care about any of that. Just like any normal woman would be, right? Edward then compares her scent to heroin, which is probably the sweetest thing anyone has ever said about anyone ever. And yes, that is taken from the book. A book marketed for young adults.

Super Genius Girl asks why Edward was so hostile towards her when they first met, learning he hated HER for making HIM want her so badly. Isn't that the defense that every rapist makes in court? And speaking of rape, Edward pins Bella up against a tree and asks what she's thinking. What happens next is possibly my favourite exchange in the entire movie.

“Now I'm afraid.”
“I'm not afraid of YOU. I'm only afraid of losing you. I feel like you're going to disappear.”

Click here for Part 2!