"What if I'm not the hero? What if I'm the bad guy?"

I’ll begin by saying that I am probably unqualified to evaluate Twilight‘s merits as a teen soap opera. Judging by the amount of noise generated by the mostly teenaged, female crowd at my screening, it appears to fill that niche quite well. In that sense, the movie is truly critic-proof: the girls will squeal over the hot vampires, and that’ll be that. I have no desire to begrudge them their fun. This review is not for them.

I write, rather, for the uninitiated who held out hope that Twilight might be a creepy horror film, an elegant supernatural love story, or an interesting new take on vampire mythology. I report that the movie is a teen soap opera at the expense of these things. Generally, one is supposed to review the movie that has been made rather than the movie one wishes had been made, but since there’s no point in reviewing the movie that has been made, I may as well try it the other way.

Let’s start with what happens to these vampires when they’re exposed to sunlight. A little while after Bella (Kristen Stewart) confesses her love to exceptionally handsome 108-year old (but perpetually 17) vampire Edward Cullen (Harry Potter‘s Robert Pattinson), Edward takes her to a cloud break at the top of a mountain. With a fierce glint in his eye, he growls (I’m paraphrasing), “let me show you what you’ve fallen in love with,” and steps into the sun. Does his skin start burning? Does he scream in pain? No, no. He glitters. His skin sparkles. “It’s beautiful,” swoons Bella. These aren’t vampires. These are fairies.

The point is not that the vampires aren’t vicious enough, or dark enough. The point is that they’re difficult to take seriously. Creatures of the night? Try creatures of Gap commercials. They wear designer clothes and live in an ultramodern mansion. For fun, they take to the fields for a rousing game of baseball. (I’ll note that setting said game to Muse’s “Supermassive Black Hole” was an inspired choice.) When the movie tries to show off their superhuman powers, it often turns downright goofy: when Edward sped off, carrying Bella piggyback, I was surreally reminded of a scene in Rob Schneider’s The Animal.

From where I sit, Twilight offers two things of interest. First is its trio of villainous vampires, led by an appropriately intimidating Cam Gigandet; they like to lurk in the shadows and emerge in slow motion from swirling fog, which is at least good for a moody shot or two. Of course, the film introduces them and then promptly forgets all about them until it comes time for an action climax, the better to focus on Robert Pattinson’s non-stop brooding. Second is the nature of the leads’ budding romance. Edward loves Bella in two senses of the word, you see — he cares for her, and also thinks she’s delicious. Thus the central tragedy: “I can never lose control with you,” he warns. There’s a layer of allegory to this, and it’s dramatically compelling; I liked it.

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown), the movie actually isn’t as much of a stylistic bust as I had feared. Her slowly swooping, tilting camerawork makes for some slick sequences, accentuating the predictably dank, cloudy color palette. But the film alternates awkwardly between these heavily stylized scenes and stretches of barely workmanlike point-and-shoot blandness. It’s not exactly a model of elegance.

I’d like to see an alternate-universe version of Twilight: one that’s more sinister, one that treats the creepy human-vampire romance as something more than a means for making teenage girls melt. I realize that was never the plan for this movie. That’s fine. But here’s the thing. This movie kind of sucks.

-- Eugene Novikov

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Screening Log


Ric Roman Waugh, 2013

Score: C

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh, 2013

Score: C+

10 Years

Jamie Linden, 2012

Score: B-

The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance, 2013

Score: B+

Warm Bodies

Jonathan Levine, 2013

Score: C

Beautiful Creatures

Richard LaGravanese, 2013

Score: B-

The Window

Ted Tetzlaff, 1949

Score: B+

The Chase

Arthur Ripley, 1946

Score: B

Street of Chance

Jack Hively, 1942

Score: C

The Taste of Money

Im Sang-Soo, 2013

Score: C+

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