Special Release – Twilight

This week we get a special delivery for Saturday.  Normally movies come out to rent (and buy) on Tuesdays, but this week is a little different.  A title is coming out on the weekend, most likely to capitalize on it’s younger audience what would normally be in school during the week.  This movie, of course, is Twilight.

About a month ago I was spending a Saturday night with my pal Nick.  It had been a rough few days, so we decided to go out and have some silly fun.  We found Twilight playing at the dollar theater and figured we could have a blast shouting out like madmen and laughing in the empty theater.  What we didn’t realize, though, is that the dollar theater is the most popular place to be on a Saturday evening.  Who’dda thunk?  I mean, the place was completely packed, with lines outside of the theater.  So, we didn’t get to see it until last week when I was able to rent the DVD, but rest assured – it was far from disappointing ;-).

This is a special review, so it’s quite lengthy (and hilarious), but if you’re wondering if Twilight is one to avoid?  Definitely.  Unless, of course, you’re in the mood for a bad movie with a good friend.

Ok, first thing’s first…

EDWARD!!!!!!!!!!!!

OMG!  He is so dreamy!!  Ok, now that I have that out of my system, let’s get going.  In fact, there is so much to say, I’m not even sure where to start.  Wait, of course I do.  Twilight is bad.  That’s it.  It’s just really, really bad.  Why is it bad?  The script is an absolute mess of horrible plotting, jumps in logic, and poor exposition.  The movie is filled with inane camerawork, awkward moments up the wazoo, a cast that obviously lost interest very soon into production, mind-numbingly poor editing, and a complete sense of incompetence by the director.  Geeze, why be so harsh on such a simple little movie?  It’s obviously aimed at 13-year-old girls (and those with similar tastes), so why the need to crush the poor thing?  It’s simple: Twilight could have been a good movie.

It’s completely shocking, I know, but this could have been a good little picture.  While the pacing and dialogue of the script were weak beyond reason, the story behind it was great.  I rented it as a joke, something to have fun watching with a friend, and though it was laughably bad, I was surprised by its potential.  The core concept of a vampire falling in love with a girl and having to restrain himself could have been a lovely tale.  Instead, though, we were treated to a movie that pandered completely to its target audience – the aforementioned 13-year-old girls.  Some may get hung up on some of the classic vampire lore, but if this movie had treated its own mythology and logic with any respect, I would have happily bought sparkling vampires that can go out in sunlight.  The movie doesn’t respect itself or the audience, though, so these potentially interesting concepts become laughable.

After the movie was over, I was curious whether or not the book was as poorly done as the movie had been, so today I got a copy and started to read.  The ironic thing is that the book is bad, too – but for very different reasons.  There were a couple of elements I came across while reading that would have served well in the movie: our lead, Bella, hails from Phoenix, but she is the antithesis of a tan, blonde sun lover… and she is self-conscious about that.  It set up her vampire similarities, and it would have been a fun little touch.  In fact, in the book she remains very much an outsider, while in the movie she gains true friends fairly quickly.  The movie is so very different from the movie, at first I thought it might be another case of a screenwriter destroying good source material, haha, but as I continued to read the book I realized that, no… the book is just as juvenile and weak.  Stephen King was right to berate it ;-).  This isn’t a book review, so I don’t need to get into that, though.  The important matter here is that the movie was bad, and I’m here to tell you why…

I’ll start with the script, because every movie starts there.  A solid script can set up a movie’s potential, even if the director then proceeds to ruin it.  Twilight did not have that script.  It is sometimes hard to find the original script’s intentions when a bad director’s vision getting in the way (don’t worry.. I’ll get to her later), but here there is nowhere to hide.  So often the characters have knowledge of something that is never explained elsewhere that I thought I had been blacking out during the movie.  Some things are just left extremely ambiguous, while others aren’t explained at all.  Case in point, when Bella meets the dreamy vampire Edward for the first time.  She walks in front of a fan and her “scent” causes the guy to go into an apparently orgasmic horror of shock.

Twilight Edward OMG

As time goes on, they mention “scent” but I was continually confused whether they were talking about an animal-like ability to smell people, or if it was the blood that somehow drew them in?  To add to the confusion, while explaining himself to Bella, Edward mentions blood and her scent in two neighboring sentences.  So he smells her blood?  However, later on, a vampire swipes Bella’s jacket onto a tree to distract an enemy vampire from tracking her scent.  So, it couldn’t be the blood, right?  That’s what I mean, throughout the entire movie are moments and ideas that are left ambiguous, not on purpose, but by lack of talent on the writer’s part.  I feel bad for the actors that had to try to make sense of it all.  In fact, the actors are the one thing I DON’T blame here.

Kristen Stewart can act well (see this coming Tuesday’s Behind The Counter for a good movie she’s in), and most everyone in the movie seems to be doing what they can with what they’re given.  First, let’s talk about Ms. Stewart.  The climactic fight scene in the movie was actually the first scene filmed, and you can tell – she is selling it all really well.  The emotion and pain she goes through in that part is great; in fact, it’s probably the best in the movie.  Even Robert Pattinson, who plays our dreamy Edward, is seen trying his best.  Of course, both of these performances are stunted by awkward moments and weird choices, but again… I’ll get to the director later ;-).  The dad reminded me of Tom Skerritt, and I love Tom Skerritt, so he already was good with me.  I was really surprised to see a young actress named Anna Kendrick in this movie as your classic, bubbly, high school girl.  I’d previously seen her in a movie called Rocket Science, where she played a hard-nosed, uptight gal, and I wasn’t aware she had this kind of range.  Of course, the real highlight with all of the actors was how gosh darn GREAT some of them were to look at.  I am, of course, talking about the ladies… but I’ll have a separate post about them :-).

Now, let me talk about how freaking AWKWARD this movie was.  Again, our lovely director is at fault, but we can’t ignore the angle choices or editing.  Anytime something “exciting” is supposed to be happening, we go right into dutch angles.  Why?  I don’t know.  Vampires apparently cause so much mystery and intrigue that the entire world needs to appear tilted every time they’re around.  I can’t point that out, though, because the entire movie is style over substance, anyways.  Here, let me show you what I mean:  The vampires decide to go out and play baseball (don’t ask).  Here you will see the pitcher throw four times, all cut together in an animated gif.  I’ll admit, I could watch her throw that ball all day long and be perfectly content with life because she’s adorable as heck (Ashley Greene – one of the reasons to watch the movie), but WHY do we need to see her throw it four times, and why do we need the special camerawork?

Twilight Ashley Green throwing baseball

That leads us into editing.  I knew the pacing was bad, and the camera effects were lame, but I didn’t realize how bad the editing REALLY was until I started putting these little clips together.  There are actually extra frames in the movie.  It’s hilarious.  I don’t know how or why, but going frame by frame showed me quite a few where I can see an extra stutter of a shot that doesn’t belong before or after a cut.  That one I can only explain with the editor wanting to get the heck out of this job as fast as possible.  I can’t blame ’em.  Why would they want to take pride in a movie like this, when it’s obvious that the director couldn’t care any less.

So, here we are.  The problem with this movie above all else?  Her name is Catherine Hardwicke and she’s the director.  After I saw the movie I was not surprised in the least that she had been fired from directing the next movie in the saga.  The reason this movie is as awkward as it is, is mainly because of her choices.  In the book, Bella describes the way Edwards first looks at her in the way that a dreamy high school girl would.  The book is like a trashy romance novel – Junior edition.  Catherine Hardwicke, though, apparently has no idea how these looks could logically transpire on film, so I’m sure her direction to Pattinson as Edward was simple:

“Stare at her.  Ok, good.  Now, make a crazy face.  Ok, wonderful.  You’re amazing.  Now stare at her for a minute – I’ll count.  Ok, that was good.  Now get wild eyes and look like you’ve been kicked in the crotch!  Amazing!!”

Don’t believe me?  Here is a compilation of moments of Edward staring at Bella and making crazy faces during the first half of the movie.

Twilight Edward staring and making faces

Did you watch that??  Haha, he looks insane!  Again, I can’t blame the poor guy, because as an actor you have to trust the director to guide you in the performance – and apparently Hardwicke was REALLY trying to tell the story of a madman who stalked a girl.  In fact… if someone else hasn’t already humorously re-cut this movie into a trailer for a movie about a sadistic stalker, I’m tempted to myself.  Don’t let the cooing girls fool you, either.  Those girls are deluded.  His stares are NOT dreamy.  If a guy looks at a girl too often, in that same way, she doesn’t fall in love – she calls the cops.  Trust me, I know.  Again, the director completely failed her actors, and you can see it on their faces.  Like I mentioned earlier, Kristen Stewart did amazing during her first scene, really putting everything she had into it.  That was obviously before she spent an entire production under the guidance of a director who had no idea what she was doing.  Also, if you’re grabbing this movie for a laugh, or have a teenage sister who buys it, give the audio commentary a listen.  This is where you’ll really understand the director’s inability to comprehend the scene.  Throughout the entire commentary she is talking about things like a producer would; about how interesting the actor’s hair looked or really beautiful shots.  At quite a few points, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, who were on the commentary with her, point out things that hint at their dissatisfaction with her lack of direction.  Pattinson at one point even flat-out asks why something was happening in the story, and the director didn’t even pay attention – Stewart had to try to answer.

So, in the end, does it really matter that Twilight is such a mess of a movie?  Yes.  I am not a crushed fan of the books, or some starry-eyed teenager who doesn’t think Kristen Stewart deserves my beautiful Edward… I am a fan of movies who is sad that another opportunity was lost.  In fact, watching this movie inspired me to write a blog on that very subject later this week.  So there you have it, folks.  Definitely skip Twilight unless you’re in the mood to have fun with a bad movie.  Regardless, though, remember….

Edward is always watching.

Twilight Edward's Frightening Stare

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About Mark Mushakian

Just a man who loves God, women, kids, dogs, movies, and every other lovely thing in life :)
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