Thursday, July 09, 2009

Experiment: Reading through "Twilight" (no, really) Part 4

(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.)

Quick preview/summary of the following spiel: Holy. Shit. What a disaster. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this (supposed) last act to "Twilight" actually makes all the prior novels slightly more attractive in comparison. I think the last time I saw a work of fiction go so completely awry in it's final moments it was "High Tension." But before I get going...

...in reading and reconsidering this series, I've tried to pinpoint what it is exactly that I found so off-putting about Stephenie Meyer's writing. What I think of her subtext is a seperate matter, I'm talking about the mechanics of storytelling. Finally, I think I have it: 'Twilight' reads like it's it's OWN fan-fiction. By that I mean, the bigger IDEAS at play here aren't all inherently bad - in fact, many of them have been GOOD many, many, many, MANY times before in other vampire books/movies/etc. It's a style/execution thing, in other words. Reading through, I was occasionally aware that - did I not know any better - I'd be inclined to assume that "Twilight" was actually some other, more interesting franchise and what I was reading was an "imaginary tale" composed by a 14 year-old fan to accompany the heavily manga-inspired pencil-sketch of various characters "doing it" she'd uploaded to DeviantArt. In any case...

Breaking Dawn: I observed before that the series is at it's worst whenever it tips into it's own mythology. Unfortunately for me, Book #4 is ALL mythology, ALL the time. The human supporting players either vanish, die or get brought in on "the deal;" so now it's ALL superpowered magical/mythic beings and their attendant whys and how-tos ALL the time. To be a little inside-nerd-baseball about it, the best descriptive I can find is that it reads like someone doing a near-perfect parody of Chris Claremont... except it's not meant to be funny.

To the story: Edward and Bella get married and jet off to experiment with vampire/human sex before she officially switches sides herself. The attempt ends with her waking up looking life a used pinata but accepting that it's her own fault for wanting sex in the first place - a position the book seems to agree with her on. Really.

Sidebar: Before we get any further, just so it doesn't have to keep coming up let me put down for the record that - seperately from my opinion on it's literary merits - on a purely THEMATIC level I loathe and despise every single archaic, hyperreligious, feminist-backlash bone in this series' body. Taken as a whole narrative, "Twilight" is basically all about taking a female lead who's essentially independent and cautiously-cynical about romance and teaching her (frequently by violence) the virtues of submissive co-dependency. All joking aside, fuck this.

So, in short-order, all that 'experimenting' unexpectedly leads to Bella getting knocked-up with a half-human/half-vampire baby that's apparently draining her life-energy en-route to making it's exit Chestburster-style. How exactly did this work, anyway? Three books have been spent telling us how ramped-up the vampires various physical attributes are AND how little self-control Edward has in these situations, so... look, it's been a long time since I read all the way through "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" (look it up) but instead of a fetilized egg shouldn't she instead have an exit wound somewhere in the vicinity of her tailbone? Whatever. The male characters mostly want her to get rid of it before it kills her (do coat-hangers even COME in pure silver? will it need to be blessed?) but she refuses even under threat of death because the fetus is talking to her and doesn't want to be "killed." Yeesh. Thus, we now have an answer to the question: "What if Sarah Palin had written 'Alien?"

A series of character-contrivances set up a big combination brawl/birthing/turning-Bella-into-a-vampire sequence (which if filmmed could potentially rival "Flash Gordon's" football-fight for what-am-I-watching high camp) capped off with Edward performing a C-section with his teeth. Huh. Okay, well... four books in, the male lead FINALLY does something cool. The resulting baby is a rapidly-maturing telepathic... well, "Daywalker" basically for those of you who've seen Blade (though in the Twilight universe having "none of a vampires weaknesses" means she'll have to apply her OWN body-glitter) and Jacob the werewolf falls in love with her while she's about an hour old via the werewolf "life-partner imprinting" thing. ...Yeah. Somehow, I imagine that a lot of heated Twilight fan-discussions of "imprinting" on the interweb end with one of the parties being surprised by Chris Hansen.

One Deus ex Moronica misunderstanding later, though, and the Volturi (bad guys) are making a beeline for some baby-vampire extermination (it's against the rules, or rather looks like something else thats against the rules.) Good guys' solution: call in favors from all the OTHER good vamps they know and meet the baddies with a joint good-vamp/werewolf army for a showdown. Alright, THAT I can get behind. Two teams of good and evil vampires lined up for combat throwing superpowers at eachother. Pretty hard to fuck THAT up, right?

...and then a character we've never met or heard of before shows up out of nowhere, explains that it's all a big misunderstanding to the bad guys, the bad guys go "oh, okay. Our bad," waste ONE extraneous bit-player for good measure and then take off. And that's it - it's over. No, really. That's the big finish to this: The villians shrug and walk home, the good guys get back to playing house. No major status-quo changes, nobody important dies, nothing.

Yeah, I wouldn't even know where to start to "wrap up." Suffice it to say, this last one is the one I'd most like to see as a movie just on the basis of how silly it all gets. Overall, I can say that gaining a better "understanding" of this series didn't actually help me LIKE it any more. It starts out boring, flirts with becoming interesting towards the middle then crashes and burns at the climax... not much more to say of it than that. In the end, I'd say this "experiment" made for amusing blogging. Maybe I'll do it again sometime... if I find myself in a situation where I can blaze through another similar inexplicably-popular series. Did "Left Behind" officially end, yet?

13 comments:

Twist said...

I saw a poster for a new Meyer book where, I shit you not, "From the author of Twilight" took up more space on the book than the books title and Meyers name.

I think it's about cat people, so it should be neck-deep in contrived mythology, too.

Justin said...

All I have to say is "wow." Is that really what goes on in the fourth and final book of this series? Really? Based on what you've described, this sounds like it's guaranteed to be a let-down when it hits the movie screen. Even the third Matrix movie had a shit-ton of robot-human battle before they made their lackluster truce.

Based on this and what I saw with the first movie, Stephanie Meyer really doesn't know how to put a story together.

Jabrwock said...

"The attempt ends with her waking up looking life a used pinata but accepting that it's her own fault for wanting sex in the first place - a position the book seems to agree with her on. Really."

It's only rape if he doesn't love you, right? /rolleyes

The author must have a really disappointing sex life...

Reminds me of that scene from Meaning of Life where the protestants argue that they "could have sex anytime they want" thanks to condoms, even though they have two kids, and have only had sex twice. Only if that scene were trying to be completely serious, rather than the humorous interlude that it was.

Jabrwock said...

"I'd be inclined to assume that "Twilight" was actually some other, more interesting franchise and what I was reading was an "imaginary tale" composed by a 14 year-old fan to accompany the heavily manga-inspired pencil-sketch of various characters "doing it" she'd uploaded to DeviantArt."

That is disturbingly accurate...

untravaersil said...

Wow.

I saw the first movie after watching your review of it on the escapist, and afterwords had to scrub my eyes out with bleach.

Although I wonder if you know about her other project called "Midnight Sun," which is essentially Twilight from Edwards perspective. I havn't bothered reading it (Im not brave enough), but maybe you would care to look it up, Mr. Bob?
http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/midnightsun.html

Don't think its what Twist is talking about though.

Bob said...

Justin
"Based on this and what I saw with the first movie, Stephanie Meyer really doesn't know how to put a story together."

I wouldn't go THAT far. The structure isn't a problem and if nothing else the idea that she "gets" a teenaged girl's view of romance seems accurate based on how rapidly it accumulated a fanbase. The problems are almost ALL on the 'genre' side - the action is tepid, the various mythologies are silly and just about every "big" moment is massively telegraphed.

untra
"Although I wonder if you know about her other project called "Midnight Sun," which is essentially Twilight from Edwards perspective. I havn't bothered reading it (Im not brave enough), but maybe you would care to look it up, Mr. Bob?"

Yeah... no. Re-read bad literature from the perspective of it's least-likable character? No thanks ;)

Zveshi said...

You are braver than I for reading all four books. I didn't even finish the second one before I had to stop (Bella got on my nerves).

Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy wouldn't be a bad series to review

Jabrwock said...

@Zveshi

While HGTTG would be a great series to read (again!), I haven't heard of the masses of movie fans who rant that critics of HGTTG "just don't get it". It seemed like there were many more fans of HGTTG the book venting about HGTTG the movie than there were critics of the movie who had never picked up the books in the first place.

Unlike "Dawson's Creek with Vampires", where the majority of the die-hard fans are also die-hard fans of the books...

tyra menendez said...

hitch hiker is a cult series, adored by many that started as a radio series in brtain. and since the author is dead, there won't be anymore.

but i've always said twilight comes off as something that should not be in print, but rather relegated to the depths of interwebs hell, that is fanfiction.net.

Nixou said...

"I'd be inclined to assume that "Twilight" was actually some other, more interesting franchise and what I was reading was an "imaginary tale" composed by a 14 year-old fan to accompany the heavily manga-inspired pencil-sketch of various characters "doing it" she'd uploaded to DeviantArt."

The fact is, I remember reading in a french Fanfic site and "original story" which was mostly the same as Twilight, the catch being that I read it in 2001, years before the hardback novel was printed. The site still exists, but the "original story" is not here anymore, and I wonder if Meyer somehow managed to plagiarize the work of a 17 years old french high schooler, earn millions of fans and dollars, and get away with this.

Ron said...

For Bob's benefit,

Left Behind has officially ended, but you don't want to work nearly that hard to go through the books.

Luckily there is someone who is going through them for us already, the brilliant Fred Clark at
slacktivist.typepad.com

Fred has literally spent the last five years slowly reviewing 5-20 pages of the series a week to an amazing level of detail showing it's flawed plot, characterization, morality, and theology. He has a razor sharp wit, an excellent grasp of literature and is a religious person himself and can destroy the book on its own ground.

Reading through his stellar work would be worlds better than reading the source material itself. He posts other things on his blog as well, but the archives to only his Left Behind related posts start here:

http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/left_behind/page/25/

They have that classic blog standard of newer things being on top, so page 25 is the first page of his work but that will change.

Anonymous said...

I tried reading Left Behind. I got the first one for $.01 on Amazon. It's easily the worst writing I've ever seen, outside of fanfiction. I imagine it's as full of pretentious moralizing as Twilight is. I haven't read Twilight and I think reading it may have damaged you, as a person. Do not read Left Behind unless you are ready for the most boring, pedantic delve into salvation fanfiction.

A. Reece E. said...

Does anyone have links to the prior entries to this particular series of reviews?