Friday, 3 April 2009

Why TWILIGHT is a piece of fei-oo

This is a blog post about the film TWILIGHT as opposed to the book. I haven't read Stephenie Meyer so I have no idea about how much of the story is hers etc. So for all intensive purposes, I'm talking about the film and not the book. Every time I say the film is a bunch of crap, I just get a disbelieving sigh from fans. So it's time to justify my verdict.

First of all, the apparent primary appeal of this film seems to be Robert Pattinson. Everyone says he's a complete unknown; they're clearly forgetting that he played a supporting role in HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE a few years back and had quite a good death scene. Nevertheless, he seems to be the thing attracting viewers. This is something I really don't understand, but that's a matter of opinion. What exactly is the appeal of Robert Pattinson? Is he really that attractive? Maybe it's because I'm a heterosexual male, but I'm capable of appreciating that other men are attractive. Robert Pattinson I just don't get.

So that brings us to the audience. The film is aimed at (needless to say) readers of the book. They announce that the film is being made and you tend to get two reactions from fans. First off, they think "Ooooh, shiny Twilight as a film". Then comes the security response - "Bet it's going to be shit compared to the book". They cover themselves. That way, if the film is really bad, they've said that it's the fault of the film, not the book. Which is true.

The film clearly targets young females. The plot is essentially "A teenage girl risks everything when she falls in love with a vampire". It's escapism for teenagers. Young women long to be swept up and carried to a far away land where normal, boring things don't happen. The risk of danger adds to the appeal. There's also that sexy vampire thing going on as well.

So if a film satisfies its target audience (teenage girls), has it done its job? In a way, yes. You can almost guarantee that no 14 year old girl is sitting down thinking about the poor dialogue, anti-climax ending or poor character development. They're seeing an 'attractive' vampire swooping in to take a normal girl out of her boring life. Job done.

This brings us onto the whole sexy vampire theme. It's something that's been done time and time again. Right from the birth of cinema, vampires have been portrayed as sexy characters (disregarding Nosferatu of course). So this is nothing new. If it were done well, we might be able to get past this, but the fact of the matter is that it's practically impossible to fulfill the sexy vampire role in a teenage film. For that, you're going to need an 18 rating and possibly leather. And even if we just focus on the imagined appeal of a vampire - without showing explicit content and thrusting bloodsucking into the viewers' face - it still doesn't produce. There are a few scenes where Edward is desperately close to Bella, but for me, that just seems like a poor substitute to the chemistry between Buffy and Angel.

The acting isn't bad. Obviously it's not Oscar-worthy, but it's not as if the stars are given desperately emotional scenes. If you think they were, turn the sound off in a truly emotional scene and it'll still be emotional. That's not the case in TWILIGHT. Too much of the emotion comes from the musical score. Film is a visual medium and that's what should come first.

For me, the best acting in the film comes from Kristen Stewart. She does her best with the choppy dialogue and awkward moments, but that's all. If she were given a more powerful role, I'm sure she'd do better.

Dialogue time. In any film like this, there are going to be some majorly corny lines, but people will forgive that for the sort of film it is.

Bella: How old are you?
Edward: Seventeen.
Bella: How long have you been seventeen?
Edward: A while.

Not exactly Shakespeare but we can get past it. But can we really deal with horrible lines like;

Bella: I'm not scared of you.
Edward: You really shouldn't have said that.

Where does that come from?! Telling someone you're not afraid of them is a bad thing? A good thing? A funny thing? Either way, it's horrible, pointless dialogue.

James - the badass of the piece (but I'm coming to this) - says this line: "Beautiful. Very visually dynamic. I chose my stage well". No self-respecting tracker vampire who hunts people for fun would ever say anything like that.

I could go on and on, but I think I've made my point about the dialogue. As bad as it is, it does have a few funny, ironic lines, but nothing original or unique.

The structure of the movie. Along the way, we begin to realise that something is killing off townspeople. Readers of the book knew exactly who was responsible, but for the average audience, it seemed highly likely that it was one of Edward's family. Then suddenly - about two thirds of the way in - we meet the bad guys. Let me explain something they teach right at the beginning of screenwriting - introduce your villains early on.

The audience likes to know where they stand. Every action film shows the villain near the beginning so people know who they are. It gives time for the audience to appreciate and accept them as dangerous. This isn't the case in TWILIGHT. They come in and we suddenly realise that maybe it was them killing everyone. Ok, but the way they killed them was nothing special.

To really show that these vamps are badass, there should have been an earlier scene where we realise who they are and what they can do. Also, the only reason these vampires can be seen as 'bad' is because of who you compare them to. The Cullen family is all dressed up in nice shiny baseball outfits. Enter the bad guys - dressed in leather and walking slowly. If you take them and dump them in another film, they suddenly become less scary - Blade - for example - makes them look like teletubbies.

Essentially, James is the dangerous antagonist. He is apparently an unstoppable hunter. He likes to track and kill his prey but we have no real evidence of this so he's not scary. There should be a scene earlier on where James displays expert hunting skills, shows no mercy and kills someone in an extremely gruesome fashion. But alas this never came.

The Cullen family try to tempt him away and hit him with the old bait and switch. But James doesn't fall for it. Again, nothing original here. Even I could work out (in his position) that I was being tricked. So he finds Bella, breaks her leg, then Edward turns up. There's a tiny fight, then James is killed out of frame. This is a vampire who is "never gonna stop", yet after a small fight, a few baseball-playing vampires manage to can his ass. A very unsatisfying ending.

The entire film now rests on characterisation. There is none. A few characters learn a few things, and others get a bit happier, but there's nothing big. No character arc really.

Annoyingly, the film opens with Bella's narration, explaining who the guy sitting next to her is. He's her cop father. Oh, because we didn't understand that what with him calling her "sweetie" and wearing a cop's jacket and hat. The voice over is completely unnecessary.

All in all, the film fails to produce to the full extent. I think they tried to be too much like the book, forgetting that what works on the page rarely works on screen. So many of these problems could have been avoided had the film makers read a few screenwriting books and given their audience more respect.

I think that's all I have to say on TWILIGHT but it's been a while since I've seen it. If you want to tell me your opinion - agree, or shout your gorram head off at me - feel free to comment or even e-mail me -



Sofluid said...

Great review!

I can't really comment having never seen the film OR read the book, but from a screenwriter's point of view I'm astounded at the aweful quality of writing you described... It's... Shocking!

Writing an adaptation is hard, yes, but there's no need to cut corners and take the easy way out just because you're having to translate a novel...

Neil said...

There's absolutely no reason for the film to be as bad as it is. I don't think anyone would describe the book as an action book, yet two thirds of the way into the film, there seems to be an attempt to make it an action film.

To me, it came off as 'an action film trying to have some other elements'. Rather than 'a film having some action in it'. The result was a distorted blending of genres - romance and action. We didn't get a good romance, or a good action and definately not a good film.

Manda said...

Believe it or not, the movie was actually better than the book. I thought Melissa Rosenberg did the best she could with the material. They don't establish the villain until four fifths of the way through the novel and he's even less bad ass than movie James.

Neil said...

The solution is simple - change the story completely. You'll piss off all the fans and have a poor adaptation, but the film would have been good. But I suppose they weren't allowed to do that.

Adaptations aren't easy at all. If you do things exactly, the films often go wrong. I AM LEGEND is technically a poor adaptation and completely destroys Neville's 'legend' that is spoken about in the title. However, the film is very good and the way the film plays out allows for a very powerful ending.

Every time I hear the line "and this is his legend", though, I always shout "NO IT'S NOT!"