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Twilight (2008)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Sarah Clarke

Written By: Melissa Rosenberg, Stephanie Meyer (novel) Directed By: Catherine Hardwicke

The Short Version

A book that sold well becomes a movie that sold well.

Real vampires don’t sparkle!

Not only isn’t Twilight a vampire flick by any stretch, it’s also really awful as a romance.

Or as any kind of film, really... unless you’re the target audience.  Then it rocks.

If you are not or do not have the self image of an insecure teenage girl, avoid Twilight.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


That babybel(la) cheese that is often found in schoolgirls’ lunches.  Why, what else did you think I meant?

Pairs Well With...


The cheap red swill of choice for many more insecure teenage girls (and insecure teenage girls at heart) than will ever care to admit it.

“What did you expect?  Coffins and dungeons and moats?”

Alas, no.  But even though I knew better, part of me was hoping anyway.  Instead, I got lots and lots of this:

“Bella!  Guess who just asked me to Prom!  I totally thought Mike was gonna ask you, actually.  Um, it's not gonna be weird though, right?”

“No, no.  Zero weirdness.  You guys are great together.”

“I know, right?”

You remember that girl in high school who wrote all of that really shitty poetry?  No, not the one who wrote the good poetry that she read at competitions; the other one.  Yeah, her.  Well, she’s all over this movie.  She wrote it, she directed it, she plays the lead, and I’m pretty sure that she did the special effects, too.  What she didn’t do was bother to figure out what the hell a vampire is first.  Or a movie.  Or possibly even a date.

There’s a signpost up ahead that’s plastered with emo band promos and Hello Kitty stickers.  You are now entering… the Twilight zone.

It’s the story of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart, Snow White and the Huntsman), an expressionless mannequ- er, a girl who ends up moving in with her estranged father so that the script can pretend she’s essentially emancipated until it’s conven- er, because she doesn’t want to move somewhere else for the benefit of her mother’s new husband.  She ends up meeting this boy at school, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, Cosmopolis), who totally freaks out around her and then ends up saving her life later on, which she thinks is kind of hot.  But it turns out that Edward’s got a secret, and that he’s been keeping it for a very, very long time…

Like it or not, folks, Twilight has become the definitive romance story for the generation coming of age in the first decade-ish of the 21st Century.  Either as a book or as a film, it is a work with no honest middle ground.  People either love it or hate it, with an additional cadre of boyfriends who lie through their teeth about loving it because they’d really like to get past first base.  For those who love it, no one will ever be able to say an unkind word about Twilight that isn’t immediately tuned out, and to them I say: I understand where you’re coming from; enjoy yourselves. 

As for the rest of us…

What horrendous drivel.

This may surprise you, but I actually went into Twilight with an open mind.  I have always been interested in vampires, and hey, when a new set got this popular, it seemed to me to be worth checking out, at least.  Sure, they were coming from left field, but that hasn’t stopped me from liking anything before.  Because hey: vampires!  Right?

Um, no.  There are no vampires in Twilight.  No matter what they might be called, they’re not vampires.  They’re My Little Pony meets The Gap meets The Stepford Wives with special musical guests Evanescence. 

Almost everything essentially vampiric about these alleged vampires has been, well, drained away.  Vapid fashion store clerks have shown up in place of the undead.  The closest they’ve been to the Carpathians is when they watched Anthony Bourdain go to Romania on the Travel Channel.  And it’s been said before by about a billion other people, but I’m going to say it again: vampires do not fucking sparkle!

Though I suppose in a way, that’s just a means of coming full circle.  In Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” novel, vampires were perfectly capable of walking around during the day and in sunlight.  It just made them weak.  It was only when F.W. Murnau made Nosferatu that sunlight became deadly, and pop culture has run with that interpretation ever since.  Now in Stephanie Meyer’s universe, her creatures are once again perfectly capable of walking around during the day and in sunlight.  It just makes them weak.  Very.  Damn.  Weak.  And sparkly.  Like that phony champagne they give to kids at New Year’s.

Not coincidentally, this is one of the easiest places to watch her story – for the screenplay of Twilight is reverential to its source – fall apart.  The circle jerk of bad logic that is this story’s explanation of how the Stepford Vampires (which is the only way I can think of the Cullens) live in the modern world is so contrived that it makes my head hurt.  But it doesn’t stop there.  They also don’t drink from people anymore; not even just to nibble.  The Stepford Vampires love to play baseball, but they can only do it during a thunderstorm… because they hit the ball so hard that they need the thunder to disguise the sound.  (Remind me again: are these vampires or Norse gods?)  Alas, the disguise isn’t good enough, because the Lost Boys Wannabes – the bad vampire clan – passing through the area recognize the sound of vampires playing baseball, and stop by to have a look.  Wait a minute… what?

Don’t ask Twilight to make sense.  Just don’t.

While I applaud Stephanie Meyer’s marketing savvy in terms of finding a niche audience and hitting it dead on, the fact is that the “vampires” and “werewolves” are window dressing, and nothing more.  Scratch at the gothic makeup just a little, and you find a Hollister ad.  Twilight is a gothic romance for the insecure teenage girls who let their friends drag them into Hot Topic but who are secretly scared as hell of the blue haired chick with the tattoos behind the counter and who can’t wait to get out of there and back to the familiar world of Abercrombie & Fitch. 

So now that we’ve firmly established that Stephanie Meyer and her partners in film adaptation wouldn’t know an actual vampire if it walked up and bit them on the… neck… how does the rest of Twilight play?

I repeat: what horrendous drivel.  Unless…

Unless your personal mindset lives inside an insecure teenage girl’s bedroom decorated with My Chemical Romance posters and cutouts from “Us” and “Teen Style,” Twilight is senseless and boring.  Not only do the alleged vampires make no sense, but neither does the narrative in general.  Despite having no personality whatsoever, Bella is irresistibly delicious to vampires for no apparent reason.  The only way that the attraction/romance angle works here is with the implicit understanding that in the real world, Bella Swan’s name would be Stephanie Meyer, which means that Edward has to be attracted to her, because the author says so.  (This is simply a statement of fact and not a knock; just about every author writes him or herself as the hero/heroine from time to time, especially in a romance.  Or a porno, for that matter.)  But even accepting the contrivances and convolutions that make this thing happen… remember that awful poetry I mentioned earlier?  That’s how Twilight plays out.  It’s both the key to its success and the source of much of the hate it gets.

It is, as suggested earlier, a brilliant act of marketing that targets a demographic underserved outside the world of television: people who live in that metaphorical bedroom described above and whose motto in life is “You just don’t understand!”  It’s the people who wrote the poetry no one else wanted to read, or at least those who wished they could have written that poetry.  If you’re in the Emo Poet’s Society, you’re in, and if not… you just don’t understand.  It’s the insecure emo girls’ revenge on the overserved crowd that rushed in to see The Expendables two years after Twilight came out, made even nastier by pretending to play in a world of gothic monsters, even though they resemble faerie folk more than anything else.  (Don’t read into that, people.  Seriously.  I’m just putting the folklore where it belongs.)  Looking at it from that perspective, how could Twilight not have been a success?  There was a readymade audience looking for a movie, and someone finally made it.  Whether or not the movie was any good was and is immaterial to the target audience, because the movie understands.

And so, while the rest of us wonder if director Catherine Hardwicke actually realizes that drama and tension do not come out of vacant catalog model poses, the choir swoons.  While the rest of us wonder if Kristen Stewart had a staring contest with a cat once upon a time which resulted in her face being frozen into a single expression forever after, the choir says “I so get her!”  While the rest of us think for a few seconds that Robert Pattinson actually could look like a vampire if only he wasn’t made to act like a teenage girl with different plumbing and a lot of hair gel, the choir drools and doodles little hearts on notebooks filled with bad poetry that only the BFF will ever get to read.  While the rest of us look at Taylor Lautner and reach for a barf bag, the choir collectively screams at us “That’s for Pamela Anderson, assholes!”

All right; I suppose they’ve got a point.

But no matter who you are, the awkward dinner scene where Mama Stepford keeps saying “Italiano” to and beyond the point of absurdity is just plain stupid.  That, I’m not going to budge on.

Beyond that scene, though, in the end, it doesn’t matter whether or not Kristen Stewart has the range of a department store mannequin, or whether or not the story is written well, or whether or not the special effects kinda suck, or whether or not anyone involved knows a vampire from a hole in the ground.  If you get it, Twilight is still, like, amazingcakes.  If you don’t, it’s, well, horrendous drivel.

Bottom line, if your personality is that of an insecure teenage girl with an iPod full of emo bands and a Hello Kitty notebook full of bad poetry, then Twilight is the most awesomesauce movie ever made.  For the rest of us, it sucks like an atomic vacuum cleaner, and it should be avoided at all costs. 

Unless, of course, your date happens to be in the “iPod full of emo bands” category, in which case, you may have to swallow your good taste for a couple of hours if you want to have any hope of getting past first base.  You know, like your date does for you every time you want to throw in a Dolph flick.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, June, 2012

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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