Vampires are sexy, or so I’m told. Women seem to find the idea of blood sucking and capes pretty erotic. So I was kind of surprised to see how ‘anti-sex’ Christine Hardwicke’s vampire flick Twilight was. Let’s look at the basic storyline – a brooding teenage vampire is so obsessed with the intoxicating scent of a young girl, he’s worried he could lose control and tear her apart. If this film is about anything other than abstinence, I will eat my shoe. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it makes for a cripplingly boring film. The vampires are kindhearted and ultimately toothless. The conflict is limited and easily solvable. The teens don’t need to have sex, they can just talk all night long. Twilight is an impotent failure.
When 17-year-old Bella Swan (Stewart) moves to the small town of Forks, Washington, all she wants to do is stay low and out of anyone’s way. She hates her new school, which is weird, because she’s befriended almost instantly by a really nice group of teenagers. She wishes she could move back to Phoenix, which makes no sense, because her corpse-like complexion would melt in the Arizona sun. Then she falls in love with local boy Edward Cullen (Pattinson), a mysterious, chalk-coloured hunk who can’t stand being around her.
It turns out Edward is a vampire, but Bella loves him anyway. After all, he is really hot. He warns her that he could tear her apart at any minute. He says he could rip her to shreds and drink her blood without breaking a sweat. She doesn’t budge. Like I said, he’s a hottie. So there’s the conflict. Edward is infatuated with Bella, whose scent is the most delicious he’s ever smelt. Bella is madly in love with Edward, because he looks at her like she’s a piece of steak, and in the sunshine his skin is glittery. Maybe it’s a convincing love story if you’ve never actually been in love before. I guess this is why teenage girls are eating this film up.
I assume these characters have more depth in Stephanie Meyer’s wildly successful book on which the film is based. Their relationship in the film is just plain creepy. Edward sneaks into her room and watches her sleep on several occasions, he stalks her without her knowing, and then he tells her to stay away from him, because he fears his compulsion to kill her will become too great. And then Bella says stuff to Edward like “I’d rather die than to stay away from you” and “I dream about being with you forever”. Yikes. This is how domestic abuse starts.
I am desperately racking my brain to think of positive things to say about this film. Hardwicke (whose first film, Thirteen, captured teenagers much more accurately) keeps the action in first gear with her plodding, lifeless direction. She seems to desperately want to minimise the amount of conflict in the film, and keep things squarely on Bella and Edward’s endless love. A subplot involving some rival, murderous vampires feels awkwardly tacked on. The dialogue is ridiculous. The acting, virtually unbearable. Robert Pattinson’s hair is working much harder than Pattinson himself. The special effects, a joke. Speeding up film doesn’t make it look like people are running fast. I learnt that in Year 10 Media.
The success of this film boggles my mind. It has grossed upwards of $150 million in the U.S already, and if last night’s packed cinema was anything to go by, it’s likely to be huge in Australia as well. A quick inquiry of the people around me revealed a lot of young ladies had dragged their boyfriends along (my own dragged-along girlfriend fell asleep about forty minutes in). I overheard a couple girls on the way out talking about wanting to see the film again. That sounds like hell to me.
It’s clear that teenage girls are loving it. Part of me however wants to argue that this film is actually dangerous for young girls to see (it’s the biggest glorification of an abusive relationship I’ve ever seen in cinema). But the rest of me just thinks, “whatever”. There’s nothing quite like seeing your favourite book on the big screen (my own excitement for Watchmen has been well documented) and I don’t want to take that away from Twilight fans. Everyone else, you’ve been warned.