Monday, November 24, 2008

Is This the Twilight of My Life?

Before going to see a movie, I like to read other people’s reviews on it. Otherwise, if it’s something I’m really looking forward to, my expectations go through the roof and are bound to be dashed on the rocks of despair because nothing can be as good as how I’m imagining it (I also don’t like forming my own opinion if I can help it). As I was somewhat interested in seeing Twilight, though not as psyched as the Twihards, I’m sure, I thought I’d better make sure I wasn’t too hopeful about the outcome. Actually, my main objective was to see if the movie would be better than the book. Several reviewers expressed great disappointment with the film, preferring the book, though there were several who loved it (and not all of these were of the teenage persuasion).

I, myself, was somewhere in between…

I’d just read the book about a month ago, so the story was fresh in my mind. Like other reviewers, I found that the movie was reasonably true to the book, though there are a few things that I felt it did better. In my opinion (which I know I’m not alone in), the book could have used a bit more oomph in places, especially in the descriptive and action department. That was not a problem with the movie. The visuals, at least the backdrop of the story, were lovely - dark and dreary and mysterious. The action was better in the movie, as well. The book tended to lead you up to the action, then drop you off before anything really happened (I’m mainly referring to the fight scene), leaving you to fill in the gaping hole. It is a tension tease!

Contrary to some other reviewers, I also thought the actors did a decent job, and some were even quite good. A few predicted that being in this movie is going to kill certain of the actor’s careers, which I think is ridiculous. Sure, some of the scenes were a bit overblown…Bella being all frustrated and confused, for one, and the last hospital scene for another, but I thought Robert Pattinson as Edward and Kristen Stewart as Bella played their roles how they were meant to be played. The book does not provide a lot of insight into who they are or why they are the way they are, so I think they did the best they could with what they had.

My first impression of casting was that someone got it all wrong. Each time I’d see a new character, I had to do a mental race to figure out who they were meant to be. Especially the first time I saw Carlisle. Well, I knew right away who he was meant to be, but he looked terrible in his pancake-white makeup, like Casper all grown up. As the movie developed, however, I was happy to see less and less of the pancake. It was like the director realized the mistake and made changes as shooting went along, but didn’t feel like re-shooting those initial scenes. Also as the movie progressed, I was happy to find that the actors had developed their characters to a point that I was able to recognize them, and maybe even like them more than I did in the book. Case in point, I thought Anna Kendrick as Jessica, the friend, was great. In fact, I thought she even spiced up the character and made her more likeable. I also felt that Peter Facinelli worked well as Carlisle - I would have liked to have seen more of him (once the pancake faded).

There were a few scenes throughout the movie that especially caught my attention, either visually, or through the compelling factor. The one scene where Edward shows up in his car to rescue Bella - that was very Bond-like and quite cool. I also felt that the scene where Bella walked past Edward in the school parking lot and he turned to follow her up the hill and into the woods was very well done. Another scene I enjoyed was the tree scene, where they were perched high as an eagle in that enormous pine overlooking miles of breathtaking hills and trees and lakes, then later, becoming completely involved in the scenery of each other.

I think the main appeal of the Twilight series is not that the story revolves around vampires, it’s the unusual relationship between Bella and Edward. Anyone who has an ounce of romance in them must have felt some allure there. Who doesn’t want to be singled out - chosen - by someone with the power and mystique of Edward (and who hasn’t found anyone else good enough in almost a hundred years)? Who doesn’t wish to have someone who will protect you, take care of you, who cannot be harmed themselves? Edward is the quintessential mate. He has good morals, yet underneath possesses a secret, a burden he must struggle with - he is the lost soul that our hearts go out to. He is beautiful and alluring to all those around him, yet he chooses you just because of who you are. He has power and strength. He cannot die. Edward has it all. Sometimes I think we are all searching for someone like Edward - someone who is so darn amazing, yet finds us so darn amazing that they’re willing to sacrifice or suffer terribly just to be with us. Wow. It’s like he’s God personified (or vampirified).

Bella, on the other hand, is meant to be like the rest of us schmucks. She was obviously written to be very human, glaring flaws and all. She also feels undeserving of any kind of love or attention. Day to day, we look for acceptance, kindness, even a little interest shown in us. We want to seem special, to be more than just another number heading toward inevitable death without anyone noticing. We want to be that ugly duckling we feel ourselves to be, suddenly burgeoning into a swan. This must have happened to Bella (the name means beautiful, of course) and that’s why we can relate to her (well, more that we just want to be her). Having gone so long unnoticed, she is uncomfortable with the transformation, which gets a little old after a while. I wish she would accept herself so that she can actually relax a little. But that's just me.

In the end, the book and the movie are fantasies and that’s what I took them for. If you aren’t falling for certain things (some people hated the glittery skin idea), I recommend just letting it go. Fantasies have the power to do whatever they want, no matter how unrealistic. That’s why they’re called fantasies! Admittedly, I would have liked to see more of this and that in both the book and the movie (why is Bella so down on herself? What does she see in Edward beyond his beauty?), but I can’t deny the allure of them both. Stephenie Meyer happens to have caught that appeal. Her story gets at the heart of a basic human desire, and that is, we all want unconditional love.

Though I ask you (and Bella), what good is unconditional love if you don’t feel that you deserve it? Come on, Bella! You ARE good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnit, people like you! So just take it and enjoy your vampire love.


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