Sunday, November 23, 2008

Twilight. . . the Experience.

Okay, I admit it: I saw Twilight on the first night it was out. But in my defense, I see most movies on their first night. I was very curious about the phenomenon that spawned the movie and how the movie might live up to the hype surrounding this bestselling series. I am sad to report, I was not impressed or engaged.

Not much about this movie drew me in. . . not the characters, not the plot (which by ordinary movie standards was abysmally predictable), nor the special effects. But the experience of viewing was probably made worse by the reaction of my fellow movie-goers. . . many of whom were young girls and had obviously read the books. They laughed wildly at places in the movie that were not especially funny, making me wonder what I'd missed. It was clear that their reaction was an alchemy of the reader's experience AND the movie-viewer's experience. Judging from their reaction, they generally loved it.

Not to be a party pooper, but I think this film had the same problems all romances brought to the screen have. It's hard to appreciate a very "emotional" story without access to the inner workings of the characters. It's hard to provide that access adequately on film; directors who can do it are amazing and very rare. The rest substitute long "meaningful" silences and moody stares and angst-filled expressions for feelings that could/should be better portrayed.

Just because it's seen as a "young adult" story doesn't mean it shouldn't be treated seriously-- which is very different from trying to make it "serious." The director here seems to have confused the two. Adults by the hundreds of thousands had read and enjoyed these books, but I doubt they'll enjoy the movie the same way. Comparisons to the Harry Potter series and movies are natural; audiences found the HP movies dead on and fascinating in their faithfulness to the descriptions and the characterizations. Why couldn't this movie have been as good?
Add to this, the very strange hairdo's and ultra-serious expressions of those who are undead and the inexplicable (largely unexplained) reaction of Edward toward Bella. . . the nose holding, scowling, and avoidance. . . and you have unintentionally comic elements that undercut the story. It plays out more like a high school play with inside jokes than a real drama.

It would have made a lot more sense to me if there was an explanation for Edward's overwhelming reaction to Bella, like: vampires can have one and only one mate and recognize them by their smell, or there is a bonding rage at a certain age, or even that Bella smells familiar to him-- like someone he loved in his human days and lost. As it is, we're stuck with an fantastically potent attraction that is somewhat mystifying. Is he crazy about her just because she smells TASTY? Ewwww. Not having read the books, this was the only conclusion I could draw.

What did you think of the movie? What about the characters in the books made them so compelling for people? I can't help thinking now it's just nostalgia for teenage angst. And wouldn't nearly 100 years of teenage angst have matured Edward past that?
Wouldn't the moviemakers have been smarter to focus on the larger ideas that are at the center of human life-- the search for truth, for honor, for belonging-- truly heroic stuff that may have been present in the books, but somehow didn't make it into the movie.

Will somebody who's read the books and seen the movie respond with a critique, too? Enlighten us!

12 comments:

Nonny said...

I tried to read the books, but I couldn't get more than 150 or so pages in because Edward was such a jerk to Bella. It struck me as a YA version of the abusive brooding alpha male in Romanceland. Given that I have heard a lot of complaints about similar from other adults who've read the books, I think I'm glad I didn't waste my time.

I'll probably see the movie out of morbid curiosity, but once the crowds die down some.

Liza said...

I've read the entire series and really loved the books. I plan on seeing the movie this week with my nieces over Thanksgiving. I'm pretty excited to see the movie.

Michele Hauf said...

Haven't read the book, though certainly it's sitting right here beside me--has been for over a year now. I think I'm going with a friend to see the movie next week. Not because I'm really excited about the movie. Something about Robert Pattinson has worn about my resistance to this flick. The initial promo shots of him were awful, so much makeup! But the more I look at the dude, the more his intriguing facial structure, well...intrigues me. I think I'm in the mood to just go a drool over him a while. Is that so wrong? :-)

Debra Moore said...

I did read all the books, and I liked them a lot. I didn’t read anything deep into them—just thought they were plain old fun to read.

I got back from the movie like 10 minutes ago! I thought the movie makers did a fine job of adapting the book, which is perhaps more than usually full of internal angst by the main character—traditionally difficult to “show” in a movie. They made a few “leaps” in terms of turning the contents of the novel into more action, but I thought they were pretty good choices.

Kirsten Stewart, the girl playing Bella (the main character), was just wonderful. She’s a heck of an actress, and I think I liked her portrayal of the character even better than the actual Bella from the novels. She made the character a little more real to me and not quite so “teenage angsty”. I’ve seen her in other movies...she’s good. I enjoyed her performance.

And our hero, the pale, wild-haired Edward. Yummy. Robert Pattinson, bless his heart, has had some difficulty dealing with all the wild, screaming fans of the books, but he was great in the movie. The delivery of some of those lines had to be tough. You know, the kind of stuff that people making fun of romance novels always want to read aloud. There’s just no good way to say “You are my life now” and make it sound real unless you’re alone with someone...pulling it off on screen is a tough one, I would think. All in all though, he was believable. Heck, if I were 15, I’d be in love with him. :-)

I also heard the contacts really bothered him...honestly? I'm considering getting a set of them for myself--they really did look cool.

So yeah...I liked it. Great escapism fun.

Debra Moore said...

Oh, and I almost forgot...really enjoyed the soundtrack, too.

Playground Monitor said...

Haven't read the book and haven't seen the movie. I'm racing against time to finish my NaNo novel and even ordered my Thanksgiving dinner from Publix today so I'd have more time to write. I did, however, take an afternoon off and go drool over Daniel Craig in the new 007 movie. And if the DH and #2 son want to go see it while he's home from grad school this week, well, I won't argue and will go again. :-)

Marilyn

Betina Krahn said...

Nonny, there seem to be two camps on the books: one loves the rich clean-teen background and tone and the other gets quickly tired of the teen angst. Interesting!

Liza-- by all means go and let us know how you liked it! Take me to school on it, if need be. I'm ready to be educated!!!

Debra, how interesting that you liked it so much after reading and loving the books. I agree, some of the lines would probably be hard to deliver. But I can see how young girls would think him very dishy. He has a very interesting face and neat eyes. Kirsten Stewart was indeed good in the role. . . at the time I like dher better than Edward. And I did like her dad. I could have stood to see more of Jacob and his dad, however, to understand more of the connection.

Michele, I agree Edward has interesting features. . . his mouth particularly. I just wish they had been a little more realistic with his hair!!!

And Marilyn, I really,really liked the new 007 movie. It wasn't as character rich as the first one, but if you consider it sort of the ending of the first one, it's rather good. And I could see the humanity in Bond struggling to reassert itself from time to time. I'd go see it again!

cas2ajs said...

I've read the first two books and I saw the movie yesterday with my 14-year-old daughter. As I commented elsewhere, I normally don't feel a movie based on a book ever really does the book justice. Twilight was an enjoyable movie for me but if I hadn't read the book there would have been some scenes that would have left me slightly mystified. Most of the actors in the movie were fairly similar to how I imagined the characters to be when I read the novel. A movie just does not have time for the same in-depth character development that a book does and I feel that is what draws the emotional response from the reader/viewer. Just my opinion, though.

Cheryl S.

Debra Dixon said...

I loved the first book, TWILIGHT. Interestingly, I was never moved to pick up the next book in the series. That is very odd.

And based on the constant and unrelenting bad reviews (and the previews/behind the scenes footage) for the movie I'm probably going to catch this one on dvd.

Betina Krahn said...

Cheryl, I'm glad to hear my puzzlement might not be just senility creeping in! ::g:: but you did like the movie and felt like the casting was right on for the characters. Good to know. Because when I go back to read the books now, I'll have images in my head of the movie. I don't want them to conflict.

And Deb. . . I occasionally have that reaction. . . a good first book in a series, but nothing so compelling that I have to go out and buy the rest.

Anonymous said...

Clue to the attraction and nose holding thing. Her blood smells irrisistable to him and it is all he can do to not attack her. but he finds her to alluring to hurt her so falls in love with her instead. I havent seen the movie as its not out in Australia for another few weeks but i am guessing from you description of it that yes reading the book before the movie might be a good idea.

Melissa D said...

I've read all the books...
Twilight being my fave!

hehe..the nose holding thing was pretty funny to me in the movie-but I know why he did..he's about to go into a murdering frenzy in his biology class because of what her scent does to him (her blood)...

anyway..I think they did PRETTY good with the movie adaptation...I do believe I really could have been a bit better and I would love to see a different screenwriter with the movie "New Moon" (the 2nd in the series)..

now...for anyone who has not heard, Stephenie Meyers posted the 1st 12 chapters of MIDNIGHT SUN on her website after "they got leaked onto the internet"....these 12 chapters are from Edward's point of view in TWILIGHT...all the same things happening, but his side of the story and his feelings and emotions...you would do well to read this so that you can really get the most you can get from the movie!