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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Twilight (**1/2)

Looking Good Enough to Eat

Twilight could have used a little bit of levity. The story of a pretty, sullen teenage girl falling in love with a shiny (in the sunlight) broody vampire doesn't have to be so gloomy. Case in point is when Edward Cullen brought Bella Swan home to meet his vampire family. Hosting their first human guest ever, the vampires went all out and cooked up what looked like a really delicious Italian feast. (Me: Oooh, is that pancetta? I love pancetta) Watching vampires dance around the kitchen like Giada Di Laurentiis was kind of fun. It could have turned into a delightful dinner party: a bunch of vampires who don't eat human food sitting around the table watching the human girl eat. Even better if they all made awkward jokes about eating humans. But no, Bella killed all the fun that could have been had by saying she ate beforehand, ruining the dinner party for everyone. 

Twilight's first half hour where Bella moves from Phoenix to rainy, glum but beautiful Forks, Washington was pretty slow. Bella takes her sweet time discovering what every single person in the audience knows going in - that the mysterious Edward Cullen and his pale gothy flock are the unholy undead. Nosferatu. Das vampyres. Once she finds out though, and this is after Edward saves her from being squished by a truck and gang raped by a bunch of drunk assholes, all the while confounding her with his wild mood swings, she's refreshingly all for it. Bella and Edward are a good match for each other. They're both pale, attractively angular, self-centered, and kind of dull.

To her credit, Bella asked a lot of questions about Edward, his origins, his powers and the sordid details of Twilight's version of vampires. We learn that Edward is 114 years old, super fast and strong, doesn't sleep, claims to read minds, and likes to spend more time in trees than Tarzan or the Viet Cong. Also, his vampire clan enjoys playing baseball during thunderstorms. The Cullens actually seem like pretty cool cats once you get past their douchey gothness and blank stares. They live in a posh glass house but it seems like none of them throw stones. That the Cullen brood spend their eternal lives in a living hell of going to high school is an intriguing idea touched upon but not explored. 

Twilight is surprisingly chaste. Some kissing, just a little neck nuzzling, but no wham, bam, thank you, Dracula. Vampires are usually hardcore about getting in the ladies's knickers as well as their necks, but not Edward, who has self-control issues regarding blood sucking. The Bella and Edward love affair seemed rather subdued. Despite Bella's occasional voice-over declarations of eternal love for Edward, their relationship wasn't quite the bubbling cauldron of romantic intensity it ought to have played as.

I sure don't blame Bella for falling in with the bloodsuckers. Author Stephenie Meyer (whose cameo in the diner was a 7.5 on the Stan Lee scale) gave Bella the following choices for friends: the vampires, Native Americans descended from wolves, or a gay Asian kid, two whiny chicks, and a doofy faux jock. Hanging out with the monsters breathing men would kill was clearly the best choice for a girl looking for some excitement in the sopping wet town of Forks. I liked the squinty glares the Native Americans and the vampires traded whenever they ran into each other.

Unfortunately, any time Bella walked against the wind riled up the hungry and the horny of the vampires. This lead to a tacked on subplot about evil vampire serial killers who suddenly wanted to make a meal of Edward's human girlfriend. The plot holes came fast and furious as the Cullens decided to split up to protect Bella. Some of Cullens drove Bella back to sunny Phoenix (long drive seems to take moments) while Edward lead the others on a decoy mission. Bella somehow gets away from her Cullen bodyguards when the evil vampire called her while holding her mother hostage, although he apparently didn't have her at all. Then Edward Cullen inexplicably appeared out of nowhere to save Bella with vampire violence before the other Cullens suddenly came on the scene. This was Heroes-level lack of attention to details and logistics. The explanation to Bella's parents of how she wound up in the hospital in Phoenix with a broken leg, cuts and bloody bitemarks makes even less sense.

Considering there were 7 Cullen vampires the whole time, their splitting up made no sense. The Cullens could have just stuck together and killed their enemy. They still could have worked in Edward fighting the evil vampire mano e mano. Also, these Twilight vampires sure fight gay. A lot of grabbing, holding, gaping mouths and flicking tongues. I did like the hottest of the Cullen girls, the little dark-haired one with clairvoyance, jump-straddling the bad guy and snapping his neck. I also thought the Cullens dismembering the villain and dancing around his bonfire of death was pretty neat.

The moral dilemma in Twilight revolves around Edward's self-esteem issues as a vampire, which are in direct conflict with Bella's breathless desire to vamp it up. It's an interesting spin. Edward is steadfastly against Bella becoming "a monster" like him but Bella doesn't care; she wants it all, the even-paler skin, the permanent glitter in the sunlight, and the power to climb trees with superspeed by herself. Edward says no and for once, the vampire is the one with his head on straight. The vampire's making a lot of sense. Either way, they're screwed, because Bella seems like the kind of chick who'll find a way to get what she wants eventually. Meanwhile, Bella's underwritten parents are completely in the dark about their daughter practically having vampire in-laws. I didn't even realize until the end Bella's mom is Nina Meyers from 24. Jack Bauer suddenly bursting into the room and shooting her in the head would have been awesome.

It should have been a lot more hot blooded but Twilight mainly accomplished what it set out to do, which is launch a movie franchise for teen girls to call their own. But if you ask me, this vampire/human teen romance stuff has been done before and better. Young ladies, if you want forbidden romance and heartbreak plus a wicked sense of humor and a superior supporting cast to go along with it, you'd all be better off putting down your Twilight books and popping in seasons 1-3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD. I think you'll agree, your precious Edward is no Angel and Bella Swan is no Buffy Summers.