Friday, April 2, 2010

Yes, Really with Wilde.Dash #7: The Twilight Saga: New Moon

When I started the Yes, Really feature, I never planned on writing about recent releases.  Yet, today, as I attempted to organize my thoughts on two Under 250 DVD reviews (for New Moon and The Blind Side) I realized that there was no way I could contain my tirades on either film within those 250 words.  Thus, I bring you a pair of very special Yes, Really writings that are less meandering and more flat out criticisms.  And no, I do not agree with the kindnesses and allowances M. previously gifted to our glittering vampire friends.
Let me begin very much the way M. did on that fateful day after very little sleep: I have my Twilight street cred papers filed. I've done the time, read the books, seen the first movie. I'm a pop cultural sociologist. If something catches fire this quickly I look into it. I will also own up to being moderately on board with the first book. It had certain charms, I understood the appeal of the teenybopper love story and will admit that as quick reads go Stephenie Meyer's first round was at least an entertaining one. From there, while I continued to read the books in an effort to keep up with the rapidly snowballing trend, I found myself slowly becoming enraged. My hatred blossomed and grew. I wasn't going to bother reading Breaking Dawn, but after being told that it would make me angry, I did (yes, it's masochistic). Now you might as well call me the regional president of Twi-hard hating....but I'll return to that a bit later.

Though I was embittered and perhaps far too jaded for the books, I watched the first movie hoping for laughable camp and the awesomely bad. It was not awesome, but it certainly was laughably bad. The vampire baseball scene! The poor glitter effects! The complete and utter lack of chemistry between Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson! The deranged, stalker translation of Edward Cullen! And, lest we forget, the in-class meet cute where Edward Cullen catches a whiff of Bella and looks like he's about to hurl like Linda Blair.  It was dreadful, but there was no pretending I wouldn't eventually watch the second film.  After all, the reviews had been slightly more favorable and, as we've established, I occasionally self-inflict poor films and writing upon myself (I say for the greater good, but we all know that's crap).  So, I watched New Moon

Dear reader: it might be even more boring than TwilightNew Moon takes a few steps forward, but manages to squander the effort in other ways.  I don't even know where to begin, so perhaps we should start with what little is good, or, more appropriately, 'decent' about New Moon.  Here we go:
1. Lovely foliage.  2. Taylor Lautner has more personality than you might expect. 3. It actually feels like there's a hint of chemistry between Jacob and Bella.  4. The Volturi.  That's it.  For those not in the know, the Volturi are an Italian vampire clan that are sort of like the vampire Vatican.  They police things and are a tad on the dangerous side.  They're more like the campy vamps you know and love, and they're played by actors who are easily the most talented to appear thus far in the series (Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, etc).  I liked watching the Volturi. They were ridiculous.  Unfortunately, they were also only there for about 10-15 minutes at the end of the film.  Lame.

Now, what's not so good, or downright awful about New Moon would be a much larger list.  There's a lot.  The vampires, when they try to look angry or come hither just look sort of mentally handicapped, or completely vacant.  The glitter effect is absolutely absurd.  Every male character seems to live for pulling off his own shirt.  Taylor Lautner has a face less like a wolf and more like a pug.  Bella is apparently the most tragic and pathetic excuse for a 21st century woman to ever grace the planet Earth.  In order to stop a vampire feeding frenzy in the wake of a paper cut, Bella gets shoved into a lot of glass and just makes it worse....but somehow it's contained.  The werewolf CGI is dreadful...plodding, unnatural, and not situated well within the film.  The jumpiness of the plot makes the flimsiness of the story even more evident. Nobody knows how to use logic.  The soundtrack (which on its own is far superior to the film) is poorly integrated into the movie, it stops and starts and sounds like product placement.  Alice Cullen, fashionable vampire, is still not fashionable. No high schooler in their right mind would accept the Cullens as teenagers. Edward appears out of thin air to tell Bella not to do things she does anyway because she's actually dangerously unstable. Ridiculous. More ridiculous. Nonsensical. Absurd. Silly. Totally lame.  Do I need to continue?  I don't, but I will.  The melodrama is angsty and lukewarm, there's very little tension, Edward's big suicidal gesture is poorly realized and feels more like a halfhearted gesture than a pit of despair.  Edward still has no discernable personality.  Did he do any acting? Not that I can tell.  Alright. I'll stop.  I'm holding back.  Basically, in a scene by scene breakdown there's very little that could be stitched back together to make a salvageable, worthwhile blockbuster.

My issues with Twilight and the cult of Meyer run deeper than simply thinking the whole phenomenon is another example of the universal embrace of mediocrity.  Personally, and feel free to quote and then fight me on this, I think this particular saga pushes feminism back a good 50+ years and its success amongst generations of women, from the preteen to the mid-30's is troubling.  I'll reiterate that Bella is a pathetic character.  She's not a hero.  She has few admirable qualities.  In the books she's drawn as someone the average teen can project themselves onto.  She's a bit angsty, has some problems with her parents, feels like an outsider, but sort of just lets herself float.  The thing that saves her from being anyone else is the mutual attraction to a night creeping monster in the shape of a beautiful boy.

Bella is a shell of a girl who allows herself to be defined by her romantic relationships.  When Edward is present in her life, all else disappears.  She abandons her friends, she repeatedly lies to and betrays her family.  When Edward is not present, she has nothing to do but feel sorry about herself.  New Moon has a scene where, in the wake of Edward's departure, the camera pans around an unmoving, still Bella looking downright depressed as the seasons change.  We are lead to believe that her desperation is such that she collapses in the forest and stays there for two days.  That she sits dead to the world for months with no activities or outside interests simply because her high school boyfriend moved away.  This is the textbook definition of girl whose life is defined by a man.  It's the OED definition of imbecile. Add to this the fact that the sexual tension is built up via abstinence (Meyer is a Mormon...enough said?), and that Bella fears aging since her boyfriend is eternally 17, and you just get one big mixed bag of goody goody, stereotypical thinking.  This is the type of character who sits at the top of ever young adult's reading list.  I'm fearing for the future just thinking about it.  I mean, I'm not saying all the kiddies should run out and slut it up, but I am saying there's a real damn good reason why Kristen Stewart needed The Runaways to make a point about her career...

In Breaking Dawn, things just get worse. Bella decides that college isn't important and runs off to marry her vampiric beau.  After the first round of near fatal sex (yes, near fatal, no Dan Savage, not in an S&M way), she gets pregnant with nonhuman spawn.  Papa, she's keeping the baby;  though it repeatedly tries to kill her from the inside out. This was the scariest piece of children's lit I think I've ever encountered.  I don't mean to sound like a crazy paranoid extremist or ranting, raving propagandist, but I mean...COME ON.  Vampire half-breed baby eats your uterus and makes you a housewife at the same time?  What the hell?  Doesn't it bother you that the book that's capturing the Harry Potter demographic's (HP, I would argue, btw, does all the right things with its multi-faceted, growth driven teen, as heroines go, Hermione could shut down Bella any day of the week on every single playing field) attention is one that basically says to girls look, you know, all that stuff about school?  That's not necessary.  You don't need an education or your own social circle, forget jobs and sanity, all of your problems will be solved if you just dive right in, get married, and get started raising that demon baby.  Your family and everyone you know will try and talk you out of it, but hey, what do they know?  They're not dating a predatory bloodsucker!  You just keep pining away and crushing out hard and making split second life decisions that are basically the equivalent of self-mutilation.

Say what now?

I mean, is this a cruel joke? When do we get to hit the punchline part?  I have to go, I need to keep scraping the cheese off of my TV.

1 comment:

  1. I feel like I need to reiterate: If you take the movie as it is, it's not that god awful, it's kinda pretty actually (and not just the abs, although those are also pretty). It is the source material here that just, hmm, it's just, you know? It's not the fault of the movie makers, but of Ms. Meyer's inability to follow through with any of the creative ideas or characters she creates and turn them into the story that sort of brews underneath the surface but never comes out. And the whole Bella sucks thing. That's kinda the biggest problem.


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