My journey into ‘Twilight’

30 Jun

In the Darkness (a.k.a. Theater):

Am I the one person left in the United States who had not seen any of the ‘Twilight’ films until last night? It certainly felt like it. On a whim yesterday I went looking for three movies worthy of a triple feature’s worth of my time on my day off and found ONE ticket remaining for the ‘Twilight’ Trilogy showing last night. Since I hadn’t seen any of them but have heard so much about them, the timing was perfect, and so I clicked. Lit fans, consider yourselves warned: I haven’t read the books, and am therefore completely ignorant of any details the film missed. Normally, I’d be put off by someone who had not read the source material for adapted work, but in this case, I felt a sense that this was a gift to have a fresh perspective on all three films at once.

Immediately upon my arrival I felt…different from the rest. I was the only one who was over 16 and not wearing black. Well, not quite. But it felt that way until the first movie started. Armed with a giant Diet Coke, I prepared to survive a night of Vampires.

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For those in need of a movie synopsis, click here.
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The first film, ‘Twilight,’ captivated my attention. Immediately I cared about the characters and what happened to them. It was easy to see why a generation of Tweens would fork out cash and drive out to the theater on a week night. I wasn’t sure about Robert Pattinson as a leading man, but he did a beautiful job filling the screen with his presence, a seeming voice of life experience and maturity amidst the teen angst. A Vampire who appreciates Debussey can’t be all bad. No thanks to the chicks in the row behind me who insisted on having a conversation through the most romantic and significant dialogue of the entire movie, ‘Twilight’ left me wanting a Vampire of my very own. True, there were chunks of time devoted to dramatic, close-up, slow-mo, angst-filled dialogue. How many times can two characters have the same conversation? But it was survivable.

Until the second film. ‘New Moon’ had far more of the same repetition. And far less Robert Pattinson. By the end of the film, the room was spinning, and not in a good way. The hours of spinning shots produced trouble orienting my equilibrium, and I even found myself wishing I was a guy — since there was no wait for the men’s room. I’ve never seen so many middle-aged women on a cell phone in one bathroom line before. It was the one gift to men from the filmmakers. No sooner than I had wished I was one of them, I realized if I had been, I would have pulled off my own limbs and thrown myself into a fire by this point. Never have I encountered two chickier flicks.

But ‘New Moon’ brought about another phenomenon — the appearance of the first of many bare chests. And I assure you, the Tween screams when the guys pulled their shirts off could have competed with armor piercing rounds.

Freeeeezing cold, looking around for my own Werewolf to keep me warm, ‘Eclipse’ began late. ‘New Moon’ had pulled Bella and Edward apart, and in ‘Eclipse’ I found that the fire between them required too much imagination. I’m not sure if it was a change in Bella’s character or in Kristen Stewart’s acting, but it was much harder to believe Bella and the depth of her feeling for Edward in this film, which unfortunately robbed me of most of the satisfaction in the ending. It just felt to me like Robert was there but Kristen was not. Nevertheless, ‘Eclipse’ was far superior to its younger sister and explored new plot material. Though I like Bryce Dallas Howard a lot, I’m just an old-fashioned movie-goer who hates seeing characters replaced mid-stream (because a franchise has become more successful and can afford greater star power, regardless of the fact that the new faces got them there…anywho…). Bella’s love triangle angst swung back and forth so much I felt like I was a personal yo-yo for the filmmakers. Tell the story! for the love.

There were also two substantial plot questions that lingered unanswered as I left the theater, and again, I apologize for my ignorance to those of you who have read the books. 1) Other than the explanation of ‘natural enemies,’ what was the specific source of the hatred between Vampires and Werewolves? An entire tribal council with no answer left me thoroughly disappointed. It just seems that time and the wisdom of ages would have taught both species otherwise. Where was the moment of crisis where the Vampires lack of choice in the matter was made clear to the Werewolves? 2) Why is Bella different from other humans? Why do the Vampire super powers not affect her? Hello?? Such an interesting character trait and all its possibilities left dangling.

What I Brought Home:

If you can lay my sarcasm and screaming Tweens aside, there are some encouraging and absolutely beautiful elements in these films.

The most overwhelming theme that was pounded home again and again and again was the concept that without self-control, we are all lost. Every hero in the story had to have it. Self-control was the thin red line that separated the good guys from the bad, the heroic choices from the evil. In my own life, self-control is the hardest thing, the one fruit of the Spirit that always seems to elude me. Setting aside my own desires for the sake of someone else, beloved or stranger, is one of the greatest struggles of my life. The enormity of the sacrifice these Vampires and Werewolves were making was as big to me as the screen it was shouted wordlessly from.

Just as with every other sci-fi movie ever made, the ‘Twilight’ series (‘Eclipse’ most specifically) addresses the question of what it is to be human. What is the distinction between mortal and Vampire? Between good and evil? What tender joys will we miss out on as the consequences of our choices? How pleasure screams while treasure rests quietly. The scary creatures the author chose to tell this story through beautifully illuminate the answers.

Bella’s moon began to wane with me in ‘Eclipse.’ Her determination to rush into forever at Mach 2 with her hair on fire was boggling. Aside from the hubris of the young, it eludes me why a little time, waiting…patience were such a problem for her. She never really listened to anyone, and how she managed to arrive at her final choice is a bit beyond me. She has eternity ahead of her, yet it still had to be a race to the finish? I can only imagine those qualities being a hindrance once bitten.

Bella’s youth and ‘modern thinking’ also kept her from understanding the difference between sex and love, the difference between easy and true virtue. In ‘Eclipse,’ Bella pushes Edward for a night of passion in his empty glass house. He obliges at first but changes course, but not because of any instincts to kill this time. Edward believes in true respect and has come to learn over the centuries the virtue of patience — virtue which does not change with the date. This scene brings into contrast the difference between animal lust (shown by the mortal) and real love (shown by the Vampire). Lust is about getting what I want from you. Love is about valuing you and your needs over mine. Both Edward and Bella’s father, Charlie, have a deep appreciation of the gift of marriage. Can you remember the last time you saw a man value marriage on the big screen? I can’t. Edward’s commitment to allowing Bella to choose her own path, how he exercises self-control over and over, to allow her the continual opportunity to break his heart and leave him alone with eternity is just mind-blowing. ‘Eclipse’ left me with the hope that for some teens ‘virgin’ will no longer carry a social curse and that love will return to vogue. Just because love is ‘old-fashioned’ doesn’t make it less real.

For those of you who have trouble with Vampires and Werewolves and other dark fairy tales, I haven’t forgotten you. See the films anyway. Ask yourself: What if it were the Capulets vs. the Montagues, or the Hebrews vs. the Canaanites, or Snoopy vs. Linus instead of Vampires vs. Werewolves? It wouldn’t bother you, would it? It’s all the same, just different names. That’s why we use metaphors in storytelling. Metaphors help us understand concepts we wouldn’t otherwise. Where would we be if Jesus had not used them in His teachings to help us understand? Consider the metaphors, replace the names with new ones of your own, and view your own inner demons through them. There are questions in the ‘Twilight’ series that could not have been asked in Snoopy vs. Linus. Possibilities that could not have been explored. Point in case: Whoever heard of a Vampire with self-control? When have you ever seen the devil exhibit fruits of the Spirit? And what do any of those things really mean here, to me, today? Nobody accused the story of being fact. It’s fiction. It’s a story that belonged to God before it belonged to any of us, and there are limitless principles that can be gleaned through any story. Imagination is a gift from Him, and so is the ability to perceive light in darkness.

I love stories like this because I know that evil does exist. I face it in my own heart every day. I’m not perfect — I’ve got a little bloodsucker in me. And every little bit of encouragement I can get to resist it does me good.

Assuming I can overcome the giddy Tweens.

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3 Responses to “My journey into ‘Twilight’”

  1. jedijson June 30, 2010 at 12:13 pm #

    Having read the books (but have yet to see any of the movies), for the life of me, I can’t remember why the werewolves and the vampires hate each other so much. I do know that they think the other “stinks.” But I can’t remember which book they told that part.

    Good question on why Bella isn’t affected. You will find out. You’ll also find out (I hope) why the vampires seem to have super powers. It’s all tied in together, and is an interesting twist to the “vampire” story.

    I am concerned, though, about the next movie. I’m sure it will come as absolutely no shock that they *do* get married. The thing that I’m concerned about is that there is a *lot* of sex in the next book. I’m concerned about how they will portray that on the screen in such a way as to make it accessible to all the tweens, yet at the same time, keep it PG. And they *must* discuss it, because it becomes a major plot point in the book.

    I may just have to see these movies. I’m probably one of the few that just didn’t enjoy the books all that much. If it hadn’t been for them being a gift (I was given the set), I probably wouldn’t have read them at all. The first one was just atrocious, as far as the writing was concerned. They did get better as time went on, though.

    • Elizabeth June 30, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

      My concerns are the same as yours, Jason. I wish I could find the link to a snarky little blog post that discussed how they would turn Breaking Dawn into a film. It’s just…there is so *much* sex, whether graphically depicted or not, and the aftermath of a vampire having sex with a human is downright brutal. Disturbing, almost. I think a person’s response to how that is shown on the big screen (because I’m not sure these young minds all quite grasp what happens whenever they have to picture it themselves while reading) will either be revulsion, pain, etc…OR a step in the other direction, where the (unintended) abuse becomes appealing. There’s some definite S&M imagery in Breaking Dawn.

      (I may start referring to the final book/movie as BD(SM)…sorry for all the hits you may get from that reference, Jen!)

      I hate the books and what they are. Entertaining to read, yes. But, in my opinion, absolute pieces of CRAP. Meyer is a very immature writer.

      Another part that really bothers me is the aspect of the books that facilitates fantasies about “underage” vampires for older women. But that’s a different thing altogether.

      • jedijson June 30, 2010 at 2:29 pm #

        What about the idea of “if you don’t like the way you look, just become a vampire?” Remember what (I think) Alice said to whats-his-face? “She’s going to be absolutely STUNNING!” Talk about the possibility that it could seriously affect a girl’s self-image.

        I totally agree. Meyer is a very immature writer. But either she improved, or her editor did. One of the two.

        I also have a serious problem with the brutality of sex between vampires and humans. Now that I’m a father of a little girl, I seriously don’t want her thinking that it’s OK for a guy to bruise her so severely she can barely walk. Not that I want my sons thinking it either, but I have my doubts that the boys will ever be interested in these books/movies. She might be, but I doubt the boys will be.

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