My notes on the Twilight film series.
‘This is like the best day of my life,’ said one of the thirteen-year-old girls sitting in the row in front of me in the audience for the preview of the film version of the first novel in Stephanie Meyer’s best-selling YAPR (young adult paranormal romance – yes, it’s a recognised publishing category). As someone well outside the demographic, I was struck that the tweenage, totally female crowd were as dizzyingly excited as similar audiences might have been before a concert by any boy band. In contrast to the girls’ rising excitement, I wondered why Twilight drew a bigger opening weekend than Quantum of Solace while the similar Blood and Chocolate slunk out unpreviewed, unnoticed and unloved last year. Maybe vampires are just naturally sexier than werewolves – though the specific appeal of Meyer’s undead hero Edward Cullen (he’s been seventeen ‘for a while’) is that he’s a devoted, romantic swain who desperately wants to drink the heroine’s blood (ie: have sex with her) but keeps a respectful distance, holding back because he is mindful of the consequences (not pregnancy or VD but death or turning into a vampire) even as she’s absolutely begging him to bite her. When they’ve flown/raced/piggybacked through the forest in a very Peter-and-Wendy sort of way, they lie down in an enchanted glade and talk about their feelings – and he isn’t even holding her hand! Later, he bites her wrist – but only to draw out the venom left by a snakelike bad vampire boy.
Vampirism has served any number of allegorical purposes before, from bloodsucking capitalists to undead drug addicts, and vampire romances have become their own sub-category in the decades since Anne Rice began her saga. They have even sub-divided into niche appeal sub-sub-genres: Twilight is human girl/vampire boy, following Buffy the Vampire Slayer (also the Anita Blake, Sookie Stackhouse and Blood Ties series); you could also get human guy/vampire girl (I own up – this is a theme in my Anno Dracula novels), same-sex bloodsucking (as in arguably the first vampire romances, Coleridge’s Christabel and LeFanu’s Carmilla, not to mention about a thousand lesbian vampire flicks) and various permutations of differing degrees of pornographic (or slushy) detail or sophistication (I recommend Suzy McKee Charnas’ The Vampire Tapestry for a grown-up proper woman/male vampire romance). Twilight is the first vampire saga (there are four novels) to sell something like courtly love (and teen abstinence) along with the excitement and tragedy of immortality, blood-addiction (‘you’re like my personal heroin’) and vampire-related super-powers (noticing all the strange things about Edward, the girl first thinks of ‘radiocative spider-bites and kryptonite’).
The set-up is that Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a sensible if introspective teen, has to move from Arizona to the overcast small town of Forks, Washington, when her hippie-ish Mom (Sarah Clarke) goes on the road with her baseball-playing new husband. Bella settles in with her Sheriff Dad (Billy Burke) and goes to a new school – where she attracts the interest and friendship of an ethnically-balanced selection of nice, ordinary kids (no Mean Girls in Forks, apparently) and spies the striking Edward (Robert Pattinson) across the cafeteria before being sat next to him in biology class. Edward and his foster siblings, all adopted by the local doctor (Peter Facinelli), are pale, beautiful, hold themselves apart from the rest of the class, don’t eat, stay away from school on sunny days and have little moments of super-power. After Edward has saved her life a couple of times (from a car accident and some louts), the smitten Bella gets him to admit what he is and that he has been trying to stay away from her because of his urges. The Cullens are all ‘vegetarians’, feeding only on animals and trying to live among normal folks rather than preying on them, but struggle with their own needs – but a trio of stereotype bad vamps with a Lost Boys vibe are new in the region, committing a couple of theoretically-gruesome, actually-tame murders. The film’s actual plot is a long time coming, as it spends its first hour introducing everyone and setting romance a-ticking before the villains stride into a clearing where the Cullens are playing baseball during a thunderstorm (the only time they can play, because of the sonic booms they make when they hit the ball). The evil ‘tracker’ James (Cam Gigandet) gets a whiff of Bella and becomes as determined to have her as Edward is to hold back – he is the film’s ‘big bad’, tactfully dismembered and burned offscreen by the Cullens, but redheaded, fur-wearing Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre) is loitering outside the prom in the finale to indicate more trouble down the line. Sub-plots about the other vampire Cullens don’t progress: the most fun member of the gang is Alice (Ashley Greene), a pixie-ish vamp with limited powers of precognition and a balletic pitcher’s stance (a nice touch is the 1919 vintage baseball uniforms), and there’s nice a sit-com moment as the vampire family try to be nice to their human guest by preparing a meal in the state-of-the-art kitchen they’ve never used in their house. There’s legendary backstory about a truce between the vampires and a native American tribe is signposted to be a big thing next time out (skipping ahead, the Indians turn out to be werewolves).
Director Catherine Hardwicke has a strange track record which makes her weirdly apt for this – having examined the film’s demographic in Thirteen (whose writer/star Nikki Reed gets a plum role as the one Cullen who doesn’t like Bella on sight) and skateboard sub-culture in Lords of Dogtown, she goes mainstream in a film which might be commercially huge but otherwise feels small-scale (no ‘name’ stars, surprisingly few big-scale effects, little in the way of action) and Goosebumps-ish. The quandary, of course, is that the film has to stick to the text to satisfy the built-in franchise audience – even when the lines sound clunky and characters are frustratingly vague. Bella is the identification figure for Twilight fans, but is something of a blank: were it not for Stewart’s innate appeal would come across as intensely annoying – though she loses her head over Edward, she’s innately more sensible than everyone else in the film including her parents and yet is content to be as passive as a mediaeval damsel (no Buffy-style ass-kicking here). If anyone on the screen (or in the pages) resembles the fangirls, it’s Bella’s ‘normal’ friends, played likeably by Anna Kendrick (the chirrupy megabitch of Rocket Science) and Christian Serratos, both of whom she fixes up with nice if regular guys whose invites to be their date at the prom she turns down. Meanwhile, Edward keeps being the ideal non-threatening, non-embarrassing boyfriend – when Bella delves into his music collection, she finds Debussy and he breathes sexily on her to ‘Clair de Lune’; as a near casualty of the 1919 influenza epidemic, the kid could as easily have had 1910s schlock musical tastes (‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’) and a pin-up of Theda Bara. Part of the game of vampire fiction is devising an individual take on the established myth – and Meyer comes up with at least one new wrinkle, in that these undead don’t go out in sunlight not because it’ll kill them but because their skin sparkles as if they were flecked with diamond or ice (their eye-colour changes too). It’s a weird, magical touch – but less fun than vampire baseball – though many of the other tricks are overfamiliar, especially that stalking-on-points hissing display that accompanies vampire-on-vampire violence. There are hints of deeper, darker material – could the vampire ability to incarnate every maiden’s heart’s desire just be another evolutionary attribute of the ultimate predator? – but the exact pitching to the 12A audience means we’re not going there for a while. Me, I miss the emotional complexity, black humour and frozen horror of Let the Right One In (human boy/vampire child) … but Twilight wasn’t made for me.
New Moon (2009)
Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight could stand as a textbook example of how to adapt a terrible, but zeitgeist-catching novel into a solid picture which didn’t alienate fans of the books while almost invisibly sorting out problems inherent with the material. So, naturally, the producers have dispensed with Hardwicke’s services and brought in Chris Weitz, fresh from scuppering Philip Pullman’s chances as a big-screen name with The Golden Compass, a picture that stifled the His Dark Materials film franchise in the crib. The general clumsiness of New Moon highlights the clever little things Hardwicke did last time – indeed, by comparison, her achievement now sparkles like Stephanie Meyer’s vampires on a sunny day.
Almost all the problems with the film are inherent in the material, but Weitz’s treatment exacerbates them. The big problem is that this is the extra book shoved in to make a trilogy into a quartet, and consists of two big narrative feints – the possibility that heroine Bella (Kristen Stewart) will get together with Native American teenage werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) while her vampire truelurve Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) is off somewhere else (Rio de Janiero, as it happens) brooding, and then the possibility (set up by talk about Romeo and Juliet) that Edward will convince vampire mucky-muck Aro (Michael Sheen) to twist off his head when he mistakenly assumes his mortal girlfriend has been killed. Plainly, neither of these things is going to happen, what with two more books/films to come, so all the time spent on the plot threads is a waste. Meyer also plots like a self-published amateur: Edward only has to hear an anonymous voice over the phone saying Bella’s father is arranging a funeral (true enough – an old Indian character who has barely registered has just died) to jump to the conclusion that his girlfriend is dead and hop on a plane from Brazil to Italy to ask for vampire-assisted suicide; if he really cares about Bella rather than his own moping, shouldn’t he try to confirm that she’s actually dead? Or, since she’s been hunted by a vampire enemy of his, wouldn’t he want revenge or justice before topping himself? Actually, the last act of Romeo and Juliet has been pretty much unplayable for centuries because of contrivances like this – and Meyer/Weitz don’t have Shakespeare’s poetry to fall back on, except when they quote it at length.
The film of Twilight tactfully got away from the book’s first-person POV and set up a useful suspense angle: in the novel, the baddies just turn up half-way through, but the film seeds their presence early so we know there’s a threat to the lovers’ idyll. Here, we’re back to one-damn-thing-after-another and barely-established characters turning out to be important and then not again – evil vampire Victoria (Charlie Lefevre), who is the nearest thing this has to a villain, says nothing and appears only as a plot motor in one (pretty well-staged action sequence) and the elder vampires (the Volturi) are just sitting around a palace looking pretty and waiting for the story to come to them before they get involved. Stewart suffers worst, because the film doesn’t seem to respect her character: an early showoff shot which circles her being miserable in her bedroom after Edward has run off seems to suggest it takes three months for her to write an email to a dead address, and as she rebounds from a romance with a broody hot guy who turned out to be a vampire by getting together with a broody hot guy who turns out to be a werewolf suggests that she’s some sort of horror hag and is going through the Famous Monsters pantheon, with plans to date the Frankenstein Monster or a mummy next. Bella is actually insufferable here, and a promising sub-plot about her becoming an adrenalin junkie (going for bike rides with bad boys) after being dumped is rendered ridiculous by the weird phantasmal visions she has of her lost love (presumably illusions since it’s hammered home that vampire telepathy doesn’t work on her) which keep Pattinson a presence in the film while the character is off on holiday.
Meyer, like all writers of vampire series, has worked out her own set of rules for the undead: since role-playing game manuals became popular, writers have spent a lot more time on this – none of that Bram Stokerish muddle whereby a supernatural being is so alien and inconsistent even Van Helsing can’t figure him out. One thing Weitz does well is show specific vampire or werewolf attributes in action – though he lifts a few tricks from Bryan Singer’s X-Men playbook. Given that the main monsters here have been set up as tame, it’s a shock early on when a paper-cut at a birthday party turns a nice guy vampire into a ravening fiend who has to be flung across the room – and the vampire-on-vampire or werewolf-pack-on-vampire fights bring the film to life even if the characters haven’t been introduced properly. It’s a clever notion that Edward is all the more of a hero because Meyer’s monsters have a greater urge to kill, rend and devour than other authors’: his self-control is stronger, because we see all the other creatures lose it spectacularly. Alice (Ashley Greene), the most interesting vampire character in the first film, is downgraded to plot-hustling best friend here, and none of the new players really do much: Sheen, survivor of one low-grade vampire/werewolf series (Underworld), sits on a throne and chirrups airily, and Dakota Fanning shows a flash of menacing potential as a waif who can seriously hurt people by whispering the word ‘pain’ at them.
Weitz’s direction of the soap-romance stuff verges on camp: Lautner’s buff dude taking off his shirt to mop a blood-stain which seems painted on Stewart’s head, a reverie of sparkly wandering in flowery glades, a slo-mo run through a fountain at a religious procession to stop the silly hero from suiciding the way careworn Varney the Vampire did by tossing himself into Vesuvius. CGI werewolves have improved since An American Werewolf in Paris: the Hulk-sized quadruped lycanthropes move well and even manage to register different expressions on furry faces – but it’s still hard to tell which wolf is supposed to be which Indian. An odd aside: during a visit to the movies (to see a caricature action move called Face Punch), all the posters visible are for made-up movies except one for the indie arty zombie picture Pontypool.
By now, this series is so well-established it doesn’t need much in the way of catch-up: fans will know who all the factions are and remember who was killed back in the first film (Twilight) to motivate the ongoing plot, and only the briefest script nudges are needed to keep it on track.
We open in rainy Seattle with wandering teen Riley (Xavier Samuel, from The Loved Ones – which proves that at least someone involved in this franchise is checking out cutting edge horror) being set upon by an unseen vampire, kicking off this instalment’s actual (if slender) story. Then, we find Edward (Robert Pattinson), romantic glittery vampire, and Bella (Kristin Stewart), teenage human heroine, being lovey-dovey in a field of wild flowers as he proposes marriage but she holds off saying yes until he also promises to turn her into a vampire – it’s mentioned once in a tiny aside that they intend to go to college together in Alaska after graduation. Meanwhile, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the ripped native American werewolf teen dude, also insists he’s in love with Bella, and that she’ll choose him eventually against all the obvious odds of predestined story – plus, since the big issue is whether the girl can have a ‘normal’ life with Edward, he’s also out of the running on the grounds of his lycanthropy. Riley, raised as a vampire by continuing redhead nemesis Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, overqualified to be an invisible replacement for Rachel Lefevre), assembles a pack of ‘new-borns’ (a term which originates in Anno Dracula, I think), super-strong vampire tearaways who rampage through Seattle as a challenge to the Cullens’ territoriality. To protect the girl (and the Victoria-Riley scheme is all about Bella), Edward and Jacob and their respective clans have to form an alliance, and the vampires and werewolves start training for a big battle in that clearing where the Cullens played baseball in the first film. Oh, and the human kids the story is no longer interested in graduate – Anna Kendrick delivers a valedictorian speech, presumably because she signed a run-of-the-show contract and has to keep going back even after Up in the Air.
Bella cheers up her glum Sheriff Dad (Billy Burke) in a wittily-written ‘facts of life’ scene where she shuts him up by admitting she’s a virgin (‘liking Edward a bit more now’) though she then goes on a sleepover and practically begs the vampire to have sex with her – which he won’t because he’d probably kill her with passion. The showdown comes and Victoria’s band get wiped out – a clever PG way of doing vampire deaths with no gore has them turn to marble when killed and shatter like statues – but four goth elder vampires (‘the Volturi’) out of a role-playing game (led by Dakota Fanning’s red-eyed minx) show up to imply that they are the biggest bads after all, though not much comes from this but intimations of developments to come. It’s a problem of failure of the imagination that these ancient immortals of enormous power spend so much time just standing around, and can’t think of anything better than a Sharks vs Jets rumble in the forest as a way of settling grudges. Riley, the big new character, is in and out before we know anything much about him beyond his glowering ability. Jodelle Ferland – the girl from Tideland, Silent Hill and Uwe Boll movies – barely flashes red-eyed talent as an unwitting vampire newborn waif before she gets sacrificed to the plot, exiting like someone whose entire part will surface as ‘deleted scenes’; there’s an extra-textural frisson to her being killed at Dakota Fanning’s whim since they must have been competing for creepy kid roles for the last few years.
Having replaced original director Catherine Hardwicke with midlist hack Chris Weitz for New Moon (a bad idea), this pulls in a new helmsman, David Slade – who has good credentials for the gig, in the teen avenger talkathon Hard Candy and the vampire horror 30 Days of Night. Slade does as well as can be expected within the limits imposed by the material and the franchise: the fast kungfu/CGI vamp-wolf clashes are good, and there’s a bedrock of proper emotion under all the extended twaddle. If the three central characters are, in a certain light, irritating whiners so hung up on their own feelings it’s a wonder anyone else puts up with them, it’s not really the fault of the cast – Pattinson and Stewart are much subtler than the material, and if Lautner can’t match that at least he has great muscle definition (‘do you own a shirt?’ Edward asks) – and, as per Stephenie Meyer’s original, these creatures are still recognisable as teenagers. Annoying comes with the brief. Token flashbacks fill out the backstory: we get foppy pirate vampires versus Indian werewolves in a bled-out beach battle with some 30 Days of Night flair (Slade loves wading vampires – the baddies show up out of a lake like an en masse version of that great scene from Let’s Scare Jessica to Death); Nikki Reed, Hardwicke’s writer-star on Thirteen, finally gets something worthwhile to do recounting how her character Rosalie became a raped bride of vengeance 1930s flashback, and unarmed combat specialist Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) remembers being recruited by a coven of evil chicks fresh out of the Civil War (though claiming that he never lost a fight begs the question of how the North won the War).
The big ‘steamy’ scene contrives to get the principles in a tent at the top of a mountain in a blizzard (don’t ask) where Bella needs body heat only shirtless Jacob can give her to get through the night without shivering to death – so stone cold glittery Edward has to sit and glare as his girl gets an all-over cuddling: oddly, no one thinks to mention that Jacob would be ever so much more use as an extra blanket if he turned into a big furry wolf. Bella is annoyingly passive for a contemporary heroine – the only contribution she can make to the fight is to slice open her arm so her blood distracts the attacking vamps. It’s also alarming that her whole future – stretching to a possible eternity – is wrapped up with her boyfriend: she’s going to the college he has chosen (seriously, does this ever work out in real life) and is so intent on becoming a vampire (to be with him) that she doesn’t even consider – say – getting a job. Look at the most vestigial character in the film, Dr Cullen’s wife Esme (Elizabeth Reaser), the mom for ‘the bloodsucking Brady Bunch’ (cf: The Lost Boys) who seems intent on spending forever just standing there, in a kitchen she never uses, like a living prop for her husband (Peter Facinelli), who is at least a doctor, and her brood. Is this really what any girl would want to be when she grows up? And contrast Esme with Bella’s irresponsible run-off-with-a-baseball player Mom (Sarah Chalke), the only character who thinks her daughter should aspire to an independent life – who is coded as a feckless idiot no one listens to.
The announcement of a Harry Potter-like split of the final book into two parts proved divisive: devotees were ecstatic, the rest of us resentful.
Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011)
My Sight & Sound review …
Following the Harry Potter bandwagon, author Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight franchise extends itself in the cinema by splitting the final novel into two parts. This might have a commercial impetus, but at least means this penultimate movie is less cluttered than New Moon and Eclipse. Chris Weitz and David Slade, picking up the reins after Catherine Hardwicke’s unceremonial departure, delivered plodding episodes, less convinced by the romantic triangle which powers the storyline and tending to devolve into camp. Bill Condon, who is handling both the wrap-up movies, trusts romantic melodrama as a form and is comfortable with presenting young men as objects of desire (his previous work includes a Candyman sequel and Gods and Monsters) even if he gets stuck with what feels like a vampire retread of the ‘I’m having my baby, no matter what’ message of Juno rather than an exploration of the pregnant-by-a-vampire theme put forth in a couple of interesting 1970s genre footnotes, Le Saga de los Draculas and Grave of the Vampire.
The other Twilight films work up suspense alongside the developing love story by never forgetting that, though the Cullen clan are provisionally benevolent, bad vampires will sooner or later show up and pose a threat to the idyll of Bella Swan. Here, bad vampires are represented in an early dream sequence in which the happy couple have scarlet blood spattered on their white wedding clothes and stand atop a mountain of corpses, but are then set aside until a scene embedded in the end credits which indicates Michael Sheen’s mulleted Dracula stand-in will be doing Disney villainess service next time round. The omission leaves this half of the story without an active villain: Jacob’s differences with the alpha of his wolfpack are a clash between two good guys over an obscure point of law (as opposed to lore) and no Hollywood film is ever going to argue in favour of abortion so the unborn baby is a paper tiger menace. Bereft of plot, the film consists of: one-third wedding jitters (Edward’s bachelor party takes place off in the woods unseen and Bella seemingly doesn’t get a hen night) and dreamily perfect sylvan ceremony with the edge taken off by funny/embarrassing deadpan speeches (Anna Kendrick and Billy Burke serve as human comedy relief); one-third postcard romantic honeymoon with decorous but dangerous lovemaking; and one-third difficult delivery with unhelpful werewolves outside.
Only in the final act does anything of moment happen. The heroine’s long-delayed morphing into porcelain-skinned, red-eyed vampire is trumped by the more interesting development whereby Jacob shifts his obsessive affections (in wolf terms, ‘imprinting’) from mother to daughter, envisioning the grown-up Renesme (naming the girl is one area where Bella is lampooned as the self-dramatising ditz her nonfans see) in a flash-forward which confirms she won’t be stuck as a blood-drinking baby the way some movie vampires (like the absent Dakota Fanning character) are as pre-adolescents. The sub-genre ofYA vampire romance remains peculiar, more interesting as a cultural phenomenon than for the achievements of inidvidual works; if Breaking Dawn Part 1 is a modest improvement on the earlier sequels – and Meyer’s quite dreadful books – it’s still unlikely to win converts to Team Twilight.
Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012)
So, it’s over? This is the franchise that took everyone by surprise as a book series, and then in its film incarnation. It’s not as if there hadn’t been vampire romances before – the slushy elements of Anne Rice are parodiable (though terribly metrosexual), Buffy fell for Angel and they drew that out for several seasons, Coppola reimagined Dracula as a whiny love story and odd things like Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake books had ventured into paranormal romance before Stephenie Meyer got there. Mea culpa – there’s a strong romance element in the Anno Dracula series (the only hint of an influence I can spot from me to Twilight is the use of the term ‘new-born’ – but, hey, I picked up terminology from lots of authors). Meyer’s vision is, in fact, a lot more peculiar than her obvious predecessors, and requires a radical redefinition of what a vampire is in order to work. There’s been some mockery of aspects of this, including the sparkle effect, but it’s one of the strongest elements of the franchise: Meyer’s vampires really are unlike other authors’, and this instalment underlines the parallel with superheroes raised in the first book/film, as each vampire also has a super-power (precognition, control of elements, pain-giving, telekinesis, etc) which makes the final face-off between the Cullens and their allies (is the name supposed to evoke Dark Shadows’ Collinses?) and the red-and-black-robed vampire baddies feel a lot like the finish of X-Men: The Last Stand. Pop question: who’s in both fights? Daniel Cudmore and Cameron Bright. The latter, playing the death-smoke-spouting vampire, is cast as part of the series’ brief for using growing-up child stars (remember when Bright owned the creepy kid role in Hide and Seek, Godsend and Birth?) though his onetime X-power (negating other abilities) is gifted on series heroine Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and proves key in enabling the outnumbered heroes to prevail.
Based on the second half of the final book, this opens with Bella turned into a vampire – and Stewart enjoying the chance to be credibly mean after so much wimpery, though this is plainly not going in the interesting direction of making Bella become an actual bad monster. Then, there’s a long lull as we keep up with the rapidly-growing half-vampire kid and her bond with edged-out-of-the-loviness Native American werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and tidy up a plot with Bella’s cop Dad (the only significant non-supernatural character left in this film) and reinforce the now-married spooniness of Bella and Edward (Robert Pattinson), which extends to a tastefully-shot 12-A sex scene that doesn’t go where the superpowered shag in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows did though the Cullen siblings make jokes about it as if it did. All this is just waffle, and director Bill Condon gets through it with a slightly snarky attitude that contrasts with Catherine Hardwicke’s sincere, serious approach in the first film: Condon, of Gods and Monsters and Dreamgirls (and the Candyman sequel), takes a camp approach that makes Meyer’s vampires seem gay in the sense of not straight as well as the newer sense of feeble. Michael Sheen, trailing echoes of Tony Blair and his werewolf boss in Underworld, is the campest thing here, as a queenly vampire who can’t hold up the Evil side as well as Ian McKellen’s Magneto: there’s a neat bit of backstory about the Transylvanian tyrants this Machiavellian Italian displaced as vampire kingpins sometime before the Renaissance.
The only plot this has left is an internecine vampire feud over the irksomely-named Renesmée – Bella is ticked off that Jacob wants to call the kid Nessie (‘you nick-named my child after the Loch Ness Monster?’) – with some picking-up sides scenes that bring in a whole new batch of vampires, who are mostly more interesting than the ones we’ve been stuck with (though the Irish rebel vamps are embarrassing) and also generally funnier. Finally, in a sequence that frankly justifies the whole film, there’s an epic vampire super-power battle that is also a spectacular instance of having-your-cake-and-eating it as we get two alternate happy endings, one much more violent than expected and one exactly in Meyer’s weedy paper dragon mode. The film does flare into life as it delivers more head-rippings-off than any other film at its certificate level – though the favoured method of vampire dispatch evokes Highlander, another long-lasting franchise. Seen with a partisan Twilight crowd, there’s a lot of glee to be had in the individual battles – yes, Ashley Greene versus Dakota Fanning! Ednbella vs Sheen! Characters who’ve carried spears for five films and don’t have any lines in this one getting offed in order to add grudge to the grudge match. The stars are now equally digibrushed to icy sparkly vampire perfection and try to convey lasting emotion rather than simply being deep-frozen into a caricature marriage which is doomed to last for centuries.
As for the ideology, the suitability of Bella as a role model, the sexual politics and the degree of seriousness or otherwise with which Hollywood has treated Meyer, there will be theses forever. It’s a saga that has had its highs as well as its lows … and for non-believers, is more interesting than entertaining.
Re: Twilight …
Terry Frost And nobody ever asks the question of why a 90+ year old vampire is seducing a teenaged girl… he probably has more in common with the denizens of nursing homes than some ipod-wearing popsy.
But I suppose if Mormons are going to write vampire novels for young teens you’re going to get a lot of abstinence propaganda and an inability to eschew silly concepts…
Tony Lovell Did it have any atmosphere? Tension? Eeriness?
Those things are enough for me… 🙁
Elizabeth Russell Miller You could say it provided 2 continuous hours of coitus interruptus. Tension indeed!
Sorcha Ní Fhlainn oh lord, after wading through the first two novels, i feel as though this will be a truly painful ‘vampire’ story – here here to Let The Right One In having a proper release, now that’s an interesting, intelligent and cogent vampire novel and film! My particular gripe with Twilight is that ‘vampires’ are now made ‘hot’ again… as though they ever went away?? Plus, it makes women look subservient to dull boy vampire ‘vegetarians’ – another highly irritating and frankly stupid term…
Robert M Fenner oy vey
Richard Harland Smith After the passing of Prop 8, this marks another win for the the LDS. I liked it better when we had those people on the run!
Maitland McDonagh Many though my problems are with the Mormons, I think Stephanie Meyers is coming from somewhere else… someplace less doctrinal and more rooted in some freaky psycho(a) sexual pathology…
Tony Lovell I saw there was a good review in Empire, and one that picked up on the mood and atmosphere of the piece (which – don’t sniff – really matters enormously). Glad someone is!
Re: New Moon
Helen O’Hara I want to see Face Punch. It sounds wicked.
On the other hand, in the book it’s established that Rosalie told Edward Bella had jumped off a cliff, hence the lack of revenge killing and belief that she was indeed dead when that seemed confirmed by the phonecall. Admittedly in the film that isn’t terribly well laid out.
Valerie Laws thanks Kim for this thoughtful review. I’m glad you are so evenhanded about the franchise, while being harshly critical of the film-making and plotting. so many sneer at the premise of these films when they are firmly aimed at pre-teens’ fantasies. it’s so easy and enjoyable to just slag off a film like this..
Kim Newman Ah yes, Rosalie – anyone else think Nikki Reed was keeping her head down because they fired her best friend?
David Cairns Interesting that both films share the same screenwriter. Supports your theory that it’s the director who made the difference, but always nice to see the writer get at least namechecked.
Maura McHugh Watched Twilight the other night. Haven’t read the book, but guessed from the clever direction and decent layout of what is a very plot-poor story that Melissa Rosenberg & Catherine Hardwicke did the best job possible with the material. Hardwicke’s sacking from the franchise was a disgrace after bringing home such a success. Stewart did a fine job in the first film, making me like Bella, despite the odd fact that everyone seems to fall at her feet for no good reason (a perfect element for a girl fantasy film).
Stephen Volk Amongst all the things I hate about it (only from the trailers, you understand) I hate the way it is costumed, designed and lit. 🙂
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Nigel McCrery I was at Cambridge with the director Chris Weitz. He was very bright and if anyone could
Kim Newman The Weitz credit I’m most impressed by is still his acting turn – along with his brother – in the underrated Chuck and Buck.
Nigel McCrery DO you know Kim had no idea he was in that. Thought he told me everything LOL.
Tim Collins Whatever you think of the franchise, it’s rearing a generation of horror fans who will soon move to the harder stuff. Mainstream publishers are now more interested in the genre than they’ve been at any time since the ’80s.
Tristram Cox Although I agree Tim. The floods of appalling ‘dark romance’ filling the shelves means they won’t wean off to something worthwhile for quite some time
Marc Kandel Funny enough, the last time there was this much vampmania I can recall was back in the 90’s at the onset of the release of “Interview With A Vampire”. I was working in a bookstore at the time and then as now, every last vampire book got a spotlight next to Rice’s stuff. The book I can remember most clearly getting its own display near the Rice chronicles? “Anno Dracula”.
Elizabeth Russell Miller But please – without the sparkle!