If like me (until yesterday morning) you hadn’t already heard of this Twilight phenomenon, I’ll try and explain. I should also point out that I haven’t read any of the books (though we were given complimentary copies at the cinema), mainly because I read grown up books these days, or badly written books with vast amounts or gore in them.
Before the curtain was raised, someone from E1 films came out to give a little speech (this was half industry screening, half fan-base). He quoted amazing box office figures from America at which all the teenagers in the audience whooped. This movie has performed better than Harry Potter or Quantum of Solace and will no doubt be a huge success over here too – the cult of the ‘Twilighter’ is ready to kick off. It was bizarre, this self celebration – like the kids were cheering the suit’s economic nous rather than any artistic achievement. There were a lot of teenage girls in the room. And a lot of them cheered the figures, then cheered the names of all the actors. This is a serious cult that’s about to go overground.
The film opens like The OC crossed with Lost Boys. In fact, there are so many elements of the latter in the film’s opening few reels that to start comparing would take all day, listing the borrowed ingredients. Apart from that, there’s some interesting stuff concerning native Americans in the opening – the best character being Jacob who explains the background. Apparently a pact was made between the ‘wolf-tribe’ of the indigenous folks and the blood-suckers back in the day causing an uneasy truce between the two.
In practice, at one point this brings up the uneasy sight of the ultra-slick, white-yuppie, all-American vampire being hostile to the far better intentioned native American lad, which looks very awkward onscreen. Was this a comment on settled Americans agreeing to stem their blood-lust to live in harmony with red indian-folk, or was it a just a clunky bit of ill-thought through scripting?
Hard to tell. Maybe in the book these ideas are fleshed out more. As it is, the film is all about love, love love. It’s aimed at teenage girls, so in looking for a low certificate the film-makers go for heart-throb of the day, Robert Pattinson as male lead and half the film is his face filling the frame looking all moody and pale. His character, Edward Cullen has fallen for Bella Swan played by Kristen Stewart. Sadly, she is a human and he is a vampire. All boys are vampires. They only want one thing.
Given the writer, Stephanie Meyer’s Christian background, I think it’s fair to say that the heavy-handed allegory is one of abstinence. He tries his damnedest not to bite huge chunks of her flesh out throughout the film, suggesting this is a story about the dangers of getting too close. It’s not that huge a twist on the usual vampire tale. The fact the female in the equation doesn’t care about the danger and, in fact, urges him on, implies that this is the woman’s fault. Weird.
In fact, the vampire element is pretty much redundant, aside from a silly baseball scene where the players use their supernatural skills to play a beefed up version of the game. In the end, this is just a cautionary tale about virginity and teenage lust dressed up with an edgy, blood-sucking twist. The fact that these vampires can walk around in daylight adds to the misery – apparently they avoid direct sunlight because it makes their skin go all sparkly. Strange – I always thought it was because beams of sunlight made them crumble or melt into a slush of flesh and bone. Silly me.
What bothers most is that teenagers are lapping up the movie and its message because of its emo-lite soundtrack and hunky leading male. It’s such a straightforward story with all stereotypes intact that it doesn’t do anything for the genre and, like superheroes in Smallville and the rich-without-responsibility in Gossip Girl, it sacrifices its best and darkest asset for smoochy, pedestrian relationship tales, almost lowering it to the Mills and Boon-for-kids level of entertainment we’re largely sick of – but not quite. It’s still watchable trash.
To sum up, and without wishing to patronise:
If you enjoy Twilight, download, rent or steal Martin by George Romero. It says a hell of a lot more than this mildly entertaining but ultimately throwaway stuff does. Failing that, The Lost Boys has got a proper cool bit with a vampire, a bath and shitloads of holy water in it. Death by stereo!