TwilightSo I had certain preconceptions going into this film. I certainly didn't think I'd enjoy it all that much- after all, it wasn't targeted at me- but I did think that it would be competently made. After all, this was a fairly high budget film, and had a lot riding on it. Remarkably, the film failed to meet even those standards.
Theres a lot to go over here, so I'll break it down
Twilight is, at its heart, about a romance (although I'll get to to this later). To sell such a story, you must have decent actors. Sadly our leads fail utterly here. I don't know if they have put in good performances elsewhere, but here they feel like they are desperately trying to over act every scene. Watching Kristen Stewarts face in every scene was really very funny, as her face went through a gamut of expressions in an attempt to display emotional complexity. A lot of the lines came out flat and emotionless, and while I get that they were going for awkward conversation between her and Edward, it came across as if they had forgotten their lines and needed prompts every 10 seconds. I've seen better performances in the Hills. Of course, performances can often be blamed on:
The entire film has an irritating colour filter put over the top of it that makes it look like the characters are in the matrix. I don't entirely get why this choice was made, as it gives the entire world a sheen of unreality- but not in a fantastic way, as one might expect with the gothic romance tone that one might imagine this film could aim for. The action in this film looks kind of shoddy and cheap, and feels like its escaped from a music video.
Now I have no idea what Bella is like in the books, but in the film I don't see why we are meant to like her. She is our protagonist after all- she gets a voice over for crying out loud- but she comes across as utterly unlikable. She doesn't appear particularly smart, or funny, and rarely talks, yet everyone at school likes her. Initially there is an indication that maybe she is going to become an outcast, after her car gets mocked, but very shortly everyone in the school decides they like her despite Bella rarely ever talking to her. This is the female hero we're meant to like? She does or says nothing to earn our affection, and spends most of the time mooning over Edward. Bella is actually the central reason this film fails, and I'll come back to her later.
I have a serious issue with this kind of romance, it has to be said- Buffy the vampire slayer has exactly the same problem. A 16 year old (Bella might be 15, not sure), fall in love with a century (or more) old immortal being. A bit squicky, certainly, especially as both in Buffy and in Twilight the love is not based on any kind of deep connection, rather the "love at first sight" thing. That is a hard thing to sell, and Twilight fails at doing so- Edward and Bella have mostly awkward conversations, split up by (admittedly romantic) dates where Edward does something impressively super human. It doesn't feel like a real relationship. Of course the failure of the leads to act is a big issue too.
Note that this kind of romance can be sold. Romeo and Juliet is a good example- their romance is really based on sand, but, in, for example, the Baz Lurhmann version we get a good feeling that THEY believe it- there is a strong sense of infatuation at least, which just isn't sold here.
One reason we don't buy many of the relationships is that the script doesn't sell them. People really only talk in this film to advance the plot, which sounds fine, but this film should be about relationships, and if everyone is having exposition dialogue, you don't get a feeling of a relationship between characters. Which is disastrous for you caring about them.
This is a major failing of the film. Where is the conflict in this film? What is it about. Lets summarise the plot (OMG spoilers!)
-Bella comes to a new town, feeling like an outsider, but its ok because everyone there thinks she's awesome
-Bella spies a hotty named Edward, and wants to get into his pants
-She's meant to sit next to him during Biology, but he becomes uncommunicative and then doesn't show up for their remaining classes
-A car almost crashes into Bella, and Edward saves her
-Turns out, he's a vampire
-She's cool with that
-he saves her, again, from some thugs in town
-They get together
-She meets his family of vampires, who are actually utterly supportive. One of them is a bit moody about it but nothing comes of it
-They make out a bit, and Edward mumbles that apparently he can't control himself, but its not very well sold.
-Edward meets her dad, who, again, is FINE WITH IT
-They bump into some evil vampires (this is very close to the end of the film)
-One of the evil vampires decides to kill Bella, primarily because not only is he a dick, he's a really stupid dick
-He tricks Bella (not hard to do, folks!) into coming alone to a dance studio alone, almost kills her but then Edward turns up and saves her
-The film keeps going on, the audience dies of boredom
So, wheres the conflict here? There could be an issue with a new school, but, as mentioned, there isn't. There is a minor conflict with Edward not liking her, but its done really poorly, and I'm not sure why we're meant to care. Bella cares, but only because hes a cutie, as far as I can tell- after all, the rest of the bloody school loves her.
The romance itself should have a conflict at its heart- Edward has to hold himself back from hurting her. But bear in mind Edward isn't the protagonist, so we don't care about his pain. What should be happening is that the romance is palpably dangerous, and Bella has to make a choice to continue it- it should be about Bella having to change and emotionally grow, but Bella really doesn't change. From the moment she sees Edward she want to be with him and this desire is utterly constant. This is why she makes a terrible protagonist.
This theme of Edward being the only character who's actually changing remains constant to the end of the film, where the bad vampires, who have been built up a tiny bit (in a sub plot that feels disconnected from the rest of the film), decide to kill Bella. Yet again, the threat feels dulled- theres one bad vampire against 7 good vampires, after all- it'd be a hell of a lot better the other way round- and feels tacked on, as if the film needs an exciting conclusion. The threat is an external agency, and I think would be a lot more tense if it had, perhaps, been one of the Cullen family.
so Bella goes to save her mother, not telling anyone else in an act so appallingly stupid she should really get a prize, and then Bella gets beaten up in a surprisingly distressing film. Then Edward has to save her, as she has vampire venom in her, and will turn. So Edward has to show self restraint, and fight against his instincts to save her.
So once again theres the problem that while this should be Bella's film, the only person who has to become a better person is Edward. Bella doesn't change. She doesn't treat her friends or family any better, she doesn't become more or less active, she just continually mopes. You cannot have your protagonist do this and expect the audience to care. She has to have something about her to care about. Its just insane.
I was really disappointed by Twilight. I understand thats its not made for me, but it doesn't seem to be made for people who understand stories, for crying out loud. It just feels terribly incompetent. Now I've only seen this film, so defences that tell me that the book, or the sequels, are different, are not terribly convincing. As a stand alone piece of film, this is absolutely, unremittingly, dreadful.