Twilight DVD Review

I was involved in a conversation last week concerning Twilight when I realized that even though I’ve heard plenty of talk about the movie, I don’t know one person who has admitted to seeing it. Looking over Film Junk I noticed that it had been passed over for review, so I decided to give it a go and write down my impressions. And before anyone asks, I am strictly Team Jacob.

Bella sets out to the Pacific Northwest to begin a new life with her father. There she becomes romantically entangled with Edward Cullins, one member of a clan of vampires living in town and posing as normal people. As Bella and Edward struggle to contain their respective urges, something vicious stalks the town and threatens to destroy their burgeoning romance just as it’s beginning.

The most overwhelming thing about Twilight is how unashamedly juvenile it is. Where most teen movies observe the action from a reserved distance brought on by age and experience, Twilight delves right into the ugly emotional morass of the adolescent. It’s not unlike Batman Begins, in the way that movie could only make sense if viewed as the psychotic delusions of Bruce Wayne. This doesn’t just show the characters struggle with their desires, the entire movie shudders in barely controlled chaos.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was caught off guard as to how dark Twilight is. Bella is clingy, controlling and barely holding it together, while Edward is abusive and a stalker. In a sense, their self-destructive tendencies put a lie to the idea that this is just another glossy teen movie, reintroducing an element of tragedy into what passes as romance these days. Accentuating the dysfunctional nature of Bella and Edward’s relationship is the ordinary and well realized depiction of most of the supporting cast. I was surprised at how much time was spent showing Bella and her father timidly reaching out to one another without really connecting, or the heartbreak on display as Bella realized one of the consequences of her affair with a monster could be the loss of an average life with average friends.

As you can probably tell, I enjoyed Twilight more as an exploration into the phenomenon than I did as a movie, though I may have kept my distance because it brought back so many damaging memories of uncontrollable mood swings, awkward fumbling and other assorted high school drama. In short, if you love zipperless fucks, teenage vampires running around in skin-tight baseball uniforms, or foppish Rastafarian vampires appearing in boathouses without warning or explanation, then this is the movie for you.

SCORE: 2.5 stars

Recommended If You Like: Interview With A Vampire, Wuthering Heights, Thirteen

Around the Web:

  • Nearly all of my friends have shamelessly fallen in love with Edward Cullen. And none of them are teenagers, but otherwise mature women (and a couple guys) in their mid-twenties.

    I’ve picked up the book at the store, read a page or two, seen the movie trailers and endless promotional appearances, and I have to say I just don’t get it. None of what I’ve seen/read/heard has made me want to spend any more time with this franchise. Robert Pattinson is *not* the slighest bit attractive. High school was a bore for me, hardly dramatic, and I don’t have any interest in re-visiting it.

  • I purposely tried to avoid speculating as to why Twilight is so enticing to so many women because I didn’t want to be presumptuous, though I have my theories. It’s probably a good thing, too, because I would have rambled on for three or four times the length.

  • ShenEvil44

    Dude, his face looks funny in this photo, LOL

  • That’s because he’s totally vamping out dude.

  • No mention of the ridiculous practical and CG effects used to portray superspeed!?

    Three words: the effects sucked.

    Also, every performance excluding Kristen Stewart (minus one moment), was a ham and cheese sandwich.

  • Liz

    What surprised me most about this movie was how utterly BLAND it was. It’s a vampire movie, for god’s sake!

    I’ve never read the books but saw it anyway to see what the fuss was about and your dead on description of Edward as being abusive and a stalker is what disturbs me most because all the Twihards I’ve encountered have this scary idea of him as the perfect guy. What planet are we on that the relationship between Bella and Edward is romantic and normal? Most fans don’t see it as dysfunctional, even though it clearly is, and that’s the truly scary thing.

    Friends who have read the book tell me that the abusive stalker thing is not so obvious or prevalent in the books, but I’ve read Robert Pattinson interviews where he says that’s what he really emphasized in the character. I dug up a couple of mildly amusing interview snippets about it:

    [On what set him apart from other actors auditioning:] “When you read the book,” says [Robert] Pattinson, looking appropriately pallid and interesting even without makeup, “it’s like, ‘Edward Cullen was so beautiful I creamed myself.’ I mean, every line is like that. He’s the most ridiculous person who’s so amazing at everything. I think a lot of actors tried to play that aspect. I just couldn’t do that. And the more I read the script, the more I hated this guy, so that’s how I played him, as a manic-depressive who hates himself. Plus, he’s a 108-year-old virgin so he’s obviously got some issues there.”

    [On the Edward-centric manuscript the author wrote for him for the movie:] “It was helpful for me – just the amount of violence that goes through his head, which isn’t in (the book) at all, but you can see Edward is completely nuts!”

    Like… this character is not okay. And I think Robert Pattinson did the creepy thing really well in this because there’s really no other way to play the character. I’m generally appalled at the way teenage relationships are presented on screen in general because they’re almost all terrible and dysfunctional, but this one really takes the cake.

  • Ryan M. – The effects and the acting didn’t really bother me. It may be that I’m inured to shoddy production values, or more likely I felt those aspects of the movie added to what I liked about the Twilight, which was balls-out madness. Keep in mind, I’m the guy who liked Blood and Chocolate for many of the same reasons.

    Liz – Thanks for those quotes. They’re amazing and really explain a lot. I don’t know if I could describe something as fucked-up as Twilight as ‘bland’. The dysfunction is why I think Twilight is genuinely romantic. Most great romances have tragic consequences, as opposed to our modern way of thinking that it’s all happy endings and strolls on the beach. That being the case, I don’t think it’s the obligation of a romance to portray cushy relationships or decent role models for kids. How many teens a year do you think die from reading Romeo and Juliet in school? They should ban that shit.

  • Liz

    Yeah, but if you compare the classic tragic romances to something like Twilight, the former are frequently tragic because of life circumstances often revolving around class or social issues. If the tragedy here were because Bella is human and Edward is a vampire and they can never be together (etc.), that’s one thing, because we’d essentially have another Capulets vs. Montagues story on our hands.

    But the depiction of Bella’s and Edward’s tragic relationship is not left on that level; it manifests itself in a violent, murderous character (literally, Edward tells Bella he’s having a very hard time controlling his urge to kill her) and a girl who is quite willing to ignore the stalking and the violence because she’s omginlove. There’s a great romantic tragedy at the core of the story, definitely, but it’s wrapped in a distinctly not romantic dysfunction.

    I definitely agree there’s no reason for this relationship (or any, really) to be portrayed as happy and cushy, but I think it’s dangerous to portray so obviously an abusive relationship with such a loving caress. I fear for tween girls who grow up to become women who get into relationships like this with real men and think that the “I hurt you only because I love you so much” approach is okay because the “epic” (and I use that term loosely) tragic romance of their age is this one. Annoying as Romeo and Juliet are, at least Romeo wasn’t trying to barely control his urge to kill Juliet out of “love”.

    The ultimate translation from book to film is what was bland for me; the story has a lot of potential based solely upon its supernatural elements, but I kept waiting for something interesting (rather than something completely ridiculous) to happen.

  • Liz

    I think what my sensitivity here comes from the fact that this is clearly a dysfunctional relationship that is not labelled as such. There are lots of movies with dysfunctional relationships where the dysfunction is not glossed over, mostly because it facilitates the characterization and plot. This is not one of those movies. It’s the fact that this relationship is masquerading as functional that is alarming. (I had similar problems with Slumdog Millionaire and Love in the Time of Cholera, but that’s another story all together.)

  • What is this, feministic outcries towards Twilight? I guess that’s proof that women don’t want feminism!

    I think it’s cool if Twilight has some fucked up, politically incorrect themes. I applaud you Wintle for seeing this.

  • Liz

    I’m confused, how is an “outcry” (I’d categorize it more as criticism, but okay) towards Twilight proof that women don’t want feminism? I’d like to hope that men and women alike would disapprove of a relationship where the guy tells the girl he wants to kill her but he’s trying very hard not to.

  • I have not seen it Liz, but I am curious about the uproar. You say that you don’t feel the movie presents the relationship as dysfunctional, but it has the famous scene, you described above, were literally, Edward tells Bella he’s having a very hard time controlling his urge to kill her. That seems pretty clear; are you not giving the audience enough credit?

    This discussion naturally leads into discussions of all on screen violence and if the younger members of the audience are affected. What is different here is we are talking about young women and how they are being conditioned to violence, were as; the discussion is usually centered on young boys and their videogames.

    It has been discussed recently that movies offer a way to participate in a fictionalize situation so the audience can think about how they will handle that situation.

  • Liz

    I wish I weren’t giving the audience enough credit! The organization I work at runs a summer camp and the number of eleven year-old girls I’ve talked to who are gushing and gushing over Edward Cullen is mind-boggling. There are also a couple of online communities I read centered around the mocking of bizarre things in fandom and while obviously extreme fans are usually extreme, the things these people say about how beautiful and loving the Edward/Bella relationship is is kind of scary.

    The problem when your audience (for both the books and the movies) is comprised largely of emotionally immature pre-teens and teens is that literal and explicit dysfunction as I’ve mentioned earlier is still seen as romantic by these girls. Actually, I’m about 85% sure that Edward delivers that doozy of a line when he and Bella are on a date! So there are lots of internal contradictions that are no doubt confusing for someone who is emotionally immature and can’t necessarily sort them all out. As adults we can see the problems quite clearly, but if you’re twelve years-old and you see Edward constantly trying to “save” Bella from all manner of things, it’s easy to interpret his other scary behaviour as being part of his “good” side.

    [Of course, this doesn’t explain the “Twi-Moms” as they’re called, who are of course mothers and thus theoretically adults who should be able to see through this bullshit but are apparently as emotionally immature as their daughters.]

    I think you’re definitely right that it’s part of the larger discussion of violence and its affect on younger audience members. It’s interesting that Twilight brings this up, because off the top of my head I can’t think of another example of young girls being conditioned to violence the way young boys are with video games. Hmm. If you think of one, let me know.

  • Thanks for your insight, Liz. Like I said previously, I feel ill equipped to deal with Twilight from a feminist perspective, which is why I tried to relate it to my own experiences as best I could. I agree with most of what you have to say, and I hope you remain in the discussion even if this gets ugly, but as a completely selfish viewing experience the pure madness of their idiotic self-destructive tendencies was the only thing I found worthwhile in the entire movie. That and vampire baseball.

    Also, I haven’t read the book, so I didn’t have that comparison to make. If the novel is even crazier, I might give it a shot.

    And I don’t think one person’s perfectly valid criticism can be considered an ‘uproar’ or ‘outcry’, so lay off the hyperbole, dig?

  • Just to be clear, I used “uproar” as ref. to the general public’s love for the film, series, books, etc.

  • Liz

    LOL I should be clear that I haven’t read the books (I think one of my earlier comments made it sound like I had when I mentioned the translation from book to film); what I get from the book content is what I’ve gotten from people I know who have read the books. I hope to never read the books. :)

    I’ve been looking for examples of the kinds of things fans think about the characters and in one of the Twilight forums, there was a thread on “Who is your fave twi-guy?” (which is a pretty standard thread for any fandom) and on the very first page one girl said “Edward Cullen is my favorite because he is exactly what I would end up looking for in a guy. Way way to good looking, over protective, old fashioned, and such a gentlemen.” This is the kind of thing I’m talking about.

    [An earlier comment of mine (and possibly this one, though I can’t tell yet, obviously) is in line to be moderated; does this site moderate if you post too many in quick succession, or am I specifically being moderated here?]

  • “is in line to be moderated” ITS CENSORSHIP, WTF, EVERYONE LEAVE THE SITE!!!! just joking, that’s for Sean and Jay – sorry guys.

    You were saying.

  • My apologies for the confusion, rus, and sorry to hear about your comment getting eaten up, Liz. Hopefully it shows up eventually.

  • Liz

    Haha, I’m assuming it’s a glitch and not that I’m being censored. I keep reading this site because the guys who run it have never given me particular reason to believe they’re closet misogynists (which can’t be said of a lot of other movie blogs). Please don’t prove me otherwise, guys! :D

    The comment in question is right after comment #12 (not that anyone but me can see it).

  • Liz

    Oh, maybe it’s in moderation because the CMS thinks it’s spam? The site timed out when I was trying to post it, so I tried again with the exact same comment, which usually sends a flag to the CMS that something is amiss (and so I won’t try posting it again).

  • Your comment should be up now.

    If a comment is ever held for moderation, it’s because the spam filter has picked up on a link or a series of words that it thinks could possibly be spam.

  • Liz

    Awesome, thanks Jay!

  • I think women has gone for the psychos way before Twilight came out, it just capitalized on the sensibilites of these insecure beings. The most notorious murderer in modern danish history, who killed his mother with a hatchet, and killed a woman and her two sons in horrible fashion, got married while in prison for gods sake! I bet that bitch loved Twilight – even though she did divorce him 2 days later.

    The people who love Edward Cullen are probably the same people who idolize Alex DeLarge, scary stuff, but I don’t think rightthinking minds are being warped. There are just alot of stupid and crazy people out there.

    Liz, your name, picture and comments combined can’t help but make me think you are Lisa Simpson. Is this on purpose? It makes you seem strangely insincere, through no fault of your argument.

  • “It’s interesting that Twilight brings this up, because off the top of my head I can’t think of another example of young girls being conditioned to violence the way young boys are with video games. Hmm. If you think of one, let me know.”
    I can’t think of one that wraps it in a candy wrapper like this movie does. You have ones that use the young girls prematurely engaging/forced in to sexual situations as a way to sell tickets and examine an issue. Thirteen, Hounddog
    You have ones that have young women using their bodies to dupe older men. Lolita, Hard Candy
    Then there is the interesting twist in Doudt.
    Of course these are mature films on ones centered on the teen audience.
    There has to be some 1950s film that has a girl being hit by her all American boyfriend because she is acting slutty and it is portrayed as o.k.

    Liz, good luck with Henrik and his circular logic. I got to get some work done.

  • Liz

    I have a hard time believing that millions of tweenage Twilight fans are made of the same stuff as women who fall for serial killers, but okay. While I take being compared to Lisa Simpson as a compliment (rather than as an insult, as it seems it was intended), I can’t say this was my intent in using the avatar I do.

    I think that’s a good way of phrasing it, Rus, as Twilight being wrapped up in a candy wrapper. In all the other movies you mention, the dysfunction is integral and thoroughly examined in the plot and is most definitely not idolized. It’s not necessarily subversion (although sometimes it is), but it’s also not misunderstood as being part of a beautiful and amazing star-crossed relationship, either.

  • I didn’t mean to insult, but I just couldn’t abstain from thinking it. I guess maybe it is a little insulting, I definitely think Lisa Simpson is exaggerated for comic relief. Can’t you just see her speaking out against all the popular girls in love with Twilight though?

    “I have a hard time believing that millions of tweenage Twilight fans are made of the same stuff as women who fall for serial killers, but okay.”

    Isn’t this what you’re saying though? Or are you saying that they will be made of the same stuff, if they grow up loving Edward Cullen? That’s probably it. I for one have no problems with perverse movies.

    There is a danish series of movies based on Morten Korch books, which are sexist and awesome. In one of them, a guy can’t get with the girl he loves and she teases the hell out of him because she can. Then he gets the advice that what will make her fall in love with him is a good beating. He beats her up, and they live happily ever after.

  • Liz

    Lisa Simpson is definitely exaggerated, probably because no one else around her ever speaks up. :)

    “Isn’t this what you’re saying though? Or are you saying that they will be made of the same stuff, if they grow up loving Edward Cullen?”

    What I’m saying is that most women who end up in abusive relationships in real life do not go purposely seeking abusive people; the same can’t really be said for women who seek out men who have been imprisoned for heinous crimes and are still behind bars. Most of the young girls reading Twilight are not likely to have that screw loose that makes them engage with convicted felons, but more than a few of them are unfortunately likely to end up in abusive relationships at some point in their life. (I don’t know what the current stats are, but last I checked for Canada it was something like 1/4 of all women will be abused by their parter at some point in their lives.) Twilight puts a candy wrapper (to use Rus’ term) on what would ultimately be textbook signs of domestic abuse. Instead of using this relationship to explore those kind of warning signs, it presents them as key elements of a beautiful relationship. It makes me queasy.

    I’m not saying that the movie needs to moralize at people, but the negative messaging is really strong and I hope to god that someone is talking to these young girls about what they’re seeing and what they’re taking from the film.

    That movie/book series sounds appalling, Henrik. o_O

  • Matt

    The guy vamping out looks like he has Asperger syndrome.

  • I’ve been thinking about getting some ink. Maybe I’ll get a vamp stamp.

  • Matt

    @ Sean


  • Greg

    Don’t refer to it as getting ink. Apparently, professional tattoo artists hate that term. I know you want to seem cool, Sean so I’m just trying to protect your rep.

    Some sweet debate from a review of what the majority of the world thinks is a crap movie. Great stuff, guys.

    Made my lunch hour very interesting.

  • Phew… thanks. I wouldn’t want Kat Von D to laugh at me if I ever met her at a book signing.

  • I’m just disappointed that we’re over 30 comments in and not one hardcore Twilight fan has spoken up.

  • Hi FilmJunk, I’m Shelly on Rus’s old man’s computer – my treo was taken away from my lameass dad :( anyway twilight wasss soooooooooooooo good!! <;)- OMG, I almost didn’t see it because my main bitch tess was like all bla bla bla my period. and my 2 bitch Casey was all, I want to go to dave’s house to play gramble – thats were if you spell something wrong you got grab a guys dick yuch, just kidding, omg! Anyway we got in to the movie, oh wait yeah – dad left my phone out, bye-

  • Liz

    Wintle, you just have to wait for this to get linked on one of the Twilight fan forums and then they’ll be here in droves. :)

  • Rusty James

    When does Gramble the movie come out?

  • I’d love to see Twilight fans enter and hopefully learn something about themselves from Liz’s posts–and this one:

    I picked up Twilight on a whim.

    That’s right. I’m an adult heterosexual male and I actually touched a copy. I wanted a full perspective on what could have made this book a phenom and now I have it: Any girl who reads these books and gushes over Edward is completely shallow. Every page on which Edward is featured has something to say about how he is inhumanly beautiful. This is his only desirable quality (oh–and he’s sorta loaded).

    So a Twilight fan’s rebuttal might be “but he loves her and protects her from harm no matter what the cost.” No, he doesn’t love her. The guy is just a weirdo-pedo-stalker!

    Every mention of why he likes Bella is only to tell her he desires her blood. A vampire’s desire for blood has always been related to a humans desire for sex. So…all these girls, and apparently women, desire a sexy man with a ridiculous desire for her that he abstains from? So in real life these girls want a supermodel who wears one of those BDSM male chastity gizmos?

    I’d wager on yes to all these questions. Lol.

    P.S. The book is one of the most poorly written novels I’ve gotten my hands on. I’ve read many books that have been turned into movies (either before or after the fact) and this is the only film adaptation that has almost literally gotten every scene from the book on screen. How does an almost 600 pg book fit so nicely into a 2 hr time slot you ask? Over description. lots of it. Everywhere. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the horrors that await a competent reader.