Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Experiment: Reading through "Twilight" (no, really) Part 3

(NOTE: The following post(s) include discussions of plot points from a bunch of books already published but that have not been made into movies yet, much of which can be considered SPOILERS. So no carping at me for not doing inviso-text or something.)

Among the many (MANY) valid criticisms lobbed in Stephenie Meyer's direction i.e. "Twilight" is one that I think is a little unfair - namely pointing to her self-professed lack of familiarity with the genre outside her own work. I'm of the mind that it doesn't matter - if anything, it ought to make the series more original... but instead only serves to make me both dissapointed and a little perplexed that someone who's not a "fan" of the horror/vampire scene puts out an entry that's so incredibly familiar and cliche.

Where it DOES hurt, though, is in the suspension of disbelief. The teenaged characters in the series are - as befits their age - sponges of the popular culture, but seem to exist in a world where no one has EVER made a movie or written a book about either werewolves or vampires... how else to explain how NO ONE picked up the veritable "hi, I'm a vampire!" name-badges the Cullens (good guys) are wearing all the damn time? The only other possible explanation is that everyone in the series is a moron, which is probably closer to likely as demonstrated in...

Eclipse: in point: This, book #3 aka "the 'action' one," turns on two main plot threads. #1: There's a 'serial killer' in nearby Seattle, but it's really a small army of freshly-minted vampires. #2: The girlfriend of the now-deceased vampire villian from Book 1 is still skulking around looking for a revenge-shot at the good guys. It takes HALF THE FUCKING BOOK for anyone to put together that these things are probably related.

Brief sidebar: Most of the "Hm, something's fishy in Seattle" foreshadowing (which the author isn't getting any better at, btw) comes from Bella's cop father, who filled a similar role last time dropping lines about "strange animal sightings." Somewhere amid the slog, it occured to me that this was how Nancy Drew (30s version) often got her more unusual stories set up - save that her father was an attorney (right?) and she usually wound up solving a problem that had either baffled or escaped the (usually male) adults around her. Bella, on the other hand, typically winds up immediately in-over-her-head, bruised and bloody or flat on her back cooing "thank you sir, may I have another?" to the nearest available dominant-male. Aaah, progress ;) Incidentally, new plot point: Edward puts his foot down and refuses to either sleep-with Bella OR turn her into a vampire until they're married, for those wondering if the weird-ass abstinence metaphor kept on going.

Anyway, this means Superhero Team-Up time for the vampires and werewolves, preceeded by a training montage wherein the wolves learn proper tactics for such a situation. I can't wait to see this part filmmed, since given the way the FX and casting has gone for this series so far I imagine it'll look something like the "pose-off" contest in "Zoolander." The "war" is actually a bit of an afterthought - the real focus is on the increasingly dippy love-triangle, culminating in an awkward sequence involving Bella freezing in a tent (don't ask) and only one of her two paramours being capable of generating body heat. This scene will innevitably be an acting challenge for Robert Pattinson, who plays Edward in the films, because he'll have to try and look even MORE like a whiny punk than he already does...

There's also a lot of backstory on the werewolves, unfortunately including lots of mythology-building (which Meyer is lousy at) and foreshadowing (WORSE at that.) The big new plaything is "imprinting," (which MIGHT have been mentioned earlier but I'm not going back to check) the process by which the wolves 'mate for life' by having their entire worldview snap-focused onto their "chosen" woman the moment they run into her. This is, of course, problematic for werewolves already in relationships (or by-the-numbers love-triangles) but it has an ickier side in that there's no set "age limit" on this - so several of the young-adult wolf guys are "locked-in" on pre-adolescent fate-indicated girlfriends, whom they hang around "babysitting" like Daddy Long-Legs (as in the movie) until she's old enough to screw without Dateline showing up. Apparently the girls in question don't object to this, in fact the book goes out of it's way to infer that this kind of stalker-ish fixation is something they ALL either want or ought to want. So... yeah. For those keeping track, you can add "child-brides" to the list of Retrograde Misogynist Relationship Scenarios That "Twilight" Considers The Height of Romance... right next to ritualized-abstinence, technical-exemption incest and marriage-by-contract.

As to the promised dust-up between the goodies and baddies? Not bad (probably going to need a trim for the innevitable film version's PG13, in nothing else) but one does begin to REALLY notice how situational everyone's "power-set" is. Also, for about the sixth time since starting the things, I find myself wondering if Stephenie Meyer's DVR is full of Inuyasha reruns...

To be concluded tomorrow.


gugug said...

You know, there is another movie franchise which was lambasted by critics when it was released, full of hammy dialogue, lousy acting, cliche characters, and a hokey plot; a movie so terrible the actors derided it at every turn, and one of the leads asked that his character be killed off to spare him the embarrassment of appearing in the sequels.

The movie franchise I'm talking about? STAR WARS! :D

Seriously, I know everyone is hoping Twilight will quickly fade and be forgotten, if history has taught us anything it is not the merits of the movie which make a classic but the ferociousness of the fanbase...

Anonymous said..., Star Wars received universal acclaim when it was released and won 6 Oscars. Twilight received mixed reviews and no Oscars.

Granted, the actors didn't think Star Wars would be a success, but they changed their minds after the first movie came out.

Also, Harrison Ford didn't want to be in Episode VI because he wanted to focus more on playing Indiana Jones. Plus, he thought Han Solo was already dead.

Finally, the Star Wars movies are the original versions of the story. The Twilight movies are adaptations of books that are (by the sound of it) not very well written.

You can't compare the two

Anonymous said...

Yikes, that's all I've got to say.

Bob, you are to be commended for taking one for the team. I only hope you can find some mental bleach to remove the stain that it Twilight...

gugug said...

Uh no, Star Wars was hated by critics because they saw it as a vapid, mindless, action flick which ruined movies as a 'serious art form.' The Oscars were only for Special Effects and music (arguably the only good thing in those movies). Obi-wan was supposed to live in A New Hope but Alec Guiness asked to be killed and often called Obi-Wan his most regretted role. Harrison Ford famously called the script "shit" right to George Lucas's face.

The love and adoration of star wars is a whitewashing of history by the fans and all their $$$. Time and time again movies come out and are panned as trash but eventually become 'beloved classics.' Will Twilight be one of them? We'll find out in twenty years.

Anonymous said...

It was nominated for 10 awards (supporting actor, art direction, costume, director, film editing, music, picture, original screenplay, sound mixing, and visual effects). It won 6 of those (art direction, costumes, film editing, music, sound, and visual).

So clearly not every critic thought it was a piece of vapid fluff.

Morithias said...

Let me just put my opinion in on this.

If 'Star Wars' really was crap, then in theory it shouldn't be keep getting fans. You can't explain why something that's crap could keep bringing in new fan bases. Especially something that was made in the 80's a.k.a over 20 years ago.

Anyways, love the review Moviebob, and I loved the Inuyasha reference. That anime is notorious for 'filler', and 'used same plot device 3 million times'

Anonymous said...

What's all this talk about Star Wars being derised by critics? Yeah, it did scare some people in its time, but, right now, it stands with mostly positive reviews. Even back then, the big critics claimed it was great, if escapist, fun.

The problem most critics have with it is that, as consequence of its popularity, the mindless action movie genre was born. That's what gugug must be talking about, but, back when it came out, critics had no way to see what would come out of it.

There's a big misinterpretation that most critics dislike action films - and, it's true that your traditional cliché storm will not be well recieved, but that's more of a consequence of how these movies were churned out after the popularity of Star Wars and Jaws, not of a percieved "elitism" by the critics.

Justin said...

Star Wars is like the inverse to Twilight. After the movie series came out (and it included far more creativity and true 'fantasy' than Twilight), we got the book series. Some of those entries (from the 1990s-2000s) include far better story arcs than any of these Twilight novels, which is pretty sad and reflects very badly on peoples' tastes. I think Star Wars started to lose quality with the prequel movies and all of their spin-offs.

The overwhelming attention that this cheap-ass vampire series gets makes me regret that we'll never get movie follow-ups to the Golden Compass (there were two more tales in that series, both of which are excellent books). Why have good story that when we can just have another dollop of modern American emo shit.

Anonymous said...

FYI, there's more than one anonymous here. I'm the guy who made the first anonymous comment, though I agree wholeheartedly with the other anonymous guy. Maybe I'll get a real profile here later, but right now I feel lazy.

To reply to gugug, Rodger Ebert liked Star Wars, so you can't exactly say that all critics hated it. I'd be curious to hear about some of your other examples, unless they're all cases of "so bad it's good." Not trying to be confrontational or anything, sorry if I sound that way.

Now to reply to Justin, THANK YOU. Everyone seems to dismiss all the Star Wars novels as milking the franchise. In most cases, they're right, but I have stumbled across some that were very well written and thought provoking. NJO: Traitor, and Legacy of Force: Betrayal come to mind. Also, the book of Episode III is MUCH better than the movie and actually a very nice read. So far everything I've read by Zahn and Stover has been great and one of these days I'm going to see what else they've done.

Okay, enough about that. Bob, I am a long time reader/viewer of this blog and the OverThinker but a first time commenter (or second depending on how you count). I have enjoyed just about everything I've seen from you and appreciate you reading these Twilight novels for me since someone who's literary tastes I have trusted without hesitation is claiming that I would like them. By the sound of things, I won't. So again, thank you, keep up the good work, and sorry about the wall of text.

Bob said...

The "birth-of-the-blockbuster" era (read: late 70s) analogue to "Twilight" isn't Star Wars, it's Love Story; i.e. a melodramatic romance that was soundly detested by most intellegensia critics of the time (and was a MASSIVE punching for pop-culture satirists like MAD and National Lampoon) that was a JUGGERNAUT upon it's release (and it scored a bunch of Oscar nods) but is now remembered almost exclusively with ironic scorn IF it's remembered at all.

Scott said...

Wow MovieBob. You are certainly a glutton for punishment for reading through the Twilight series. If you're really that bored at the book store, then I can send you my novel. It ain't Lord of the Rings but its certainly better than Twilight and you'll get a kick out of the hundreds of video game references I snuck into it.

tyra menendez said...

history: based on a true story.

Anonymous said...

What? No golden compass sequel?!?
*Checks "tEh IntErnEtz"*
Man, moviemaking is hitting the bottom. I'd say this artform is dying, but then I'd be ignoring the power and might of Watchmen.
Stupid New Line, stupid economy, stupid Michael Bay