01 January 2009

Movies: Twilight

Now, I have to confess: I haven't read the books. My daughter loves them. Several of my students have been engrossed -- I can tell because they're still reading when class starts. I have dipped in and sampled bits of the first chapter and think I *could* read these books. But I have others on my pile, a lot of others on my pile, that I want to read first.

I've also read a very negative review of the books/film that looks at the subtext of the novel and says it's a terrible message to send our children -- that women should be meek and submissive, and, after all, Bella doesn't get herself out of trouble: she has to be saved. In most great stories, the hero or heroine saves themselves through use of their own wiles (if not strength or courage or talent) -- an essential part of the hero's journey. Go read Joseph Campbell and see what he says about it.

The casting was interesting -- Edward, who was supposed to be more beautiful than any human had a right to be (from what I've heard) didn't strike me as beautiful at all. Sorry, but he just didn't do it for me. He looked nothing more than anaemic, perhaps not unexpectedly so for a vampire, and -- well, just not human. And I don't mean that in a good way. I mean his contact lenses, or something about his eyes, just made him look freaky in a bad way -- in an unbelievable-as-an-Ewok kind of way. Who gave them buttons for eyes, anyway? (All right, as far as Edward goes, that's an exaggeration, but that's all it is. He is cast of the same mould -- just a more-dilute version of the unbelievability-factor for me.) They made me doubt him as a character. I couldn't relate to him because his eyes didn't look real. I couldn't see any soul in them -- again, maybe this is meant to be. Orlando Bloom managed to carry off the contacts as Legolas, but then I prefer his real eyes. I could imagine a younger Orli carrying off Edward -- to me, he is "beautiful" in an ethereal kind of way.

I did like Bella. She had a humanness and vulnerability I could warm to, and I totally bought her character.

The whole subtext-thing is a conundrum -- does this mean we can only write characters who are feisty? I keep coming back to Anne Elliott in Persuasion, who strikes me as a character who has not taken charge of her own destiny. Instead of getting out there and living, she has sat back and pined and moped because Frederick Wentworth is out of her life. And then when he's back, she sits back and doesn't tell him how she's feeling. And he's no better. He does the same thing. But then neither of them are modern characters -- not modern, but still great characters.

It's all right to argue that Bella should have been cast more in the Buffy mode, but then wouldn't we be criticising the writer for ripping off "Buffy"? Especially as she also has vampire connections. 

Most modern women characters are go-getters, but is it right to say they're sending bad messages if they're not written this way? Aren't we then in danger of making a new stereotype?A new cliche? We are not all hewn from sterner stuff, much as we might like to imagine ourselves as so. I know I'm not.

So, did I enjoy this movie? The truth is that I liked it, but I didn't love it. It's not one I'd have to see more than once, though I can't get that song "Supermassive black hole" out of my head. I felt the same ambivalence about the first Harry Potter movie, but I thought they improved as they went on (and got darker). Maybe the same will happen here. We shall see.


Anonymous said...

The Harry Potter books were well-written. The Twilight books pracically drip adjectives when you pick one up. Reading Twilight is like wading through treacle. Meyers' editors did her no favors, and yet her books are a wild success. So I fear for American's sense of English. OTOH, I enjoyed the movie, despite the heavy-handed buildup to "sequel" presented in the tribal lycanthropy subplot.

Tracey said...

Thanks for your comments. I did find Harry Potter a bit heavy on the adjectives and adverbs too, and thought the books could have been improved with tightening, but Rowling is so brilliant at characterisation and plotting that after a while I ceased noticing. And I do mean "brilliant". I wish I could do both together so well!