Omega 13 “In defense of…”- A weekly treatise in which we analyze publicly derided Box Office Failures using granular convection to piece out the good that might lie beneath.
With the internet taking great pleasure casting an askance view on even the minute of failures in all manner of creative endeavour I thought it might be nice to look at those famously bad films of the past and revealing all the moments where they made the right choice. All movies have them, and they are even easier to see in a bad movie than in a good movie (since good movies are brimming with goodness). Kind of a Devil’s Advocate, but with a Pollyanna attitude; This is Omega 13…
Episode 07- Twilight (2008)
Distributer: Summit Entertainment
Release Date: November 21, 2008
Budget: 37 Million
1st Weekend Total: 69.6 Million (Domestic)
The film that convinced Karen Rosenfelt that she knew anything at all about how movies are made, she does deserve credit for snapping up the Young Adult novels and getting the films made before anyone noticed they weren’t very good. Well, except this one, Twilight is actually a really good film, that does not deserve all the hate and venom it has received and unfortunately it was followed fast by the sequels whose half-life of good was fast… and still grossed over 3 Billion Dollars worldwide. I was hesitant to put Twilight on the list because it is actually a good film, but, I found, that no matter where I went people enjoyed their hate for the film, and much like Ishtar and Waterworld, no one had actually seen it. I am here to say that aside from the Vampire purists who despise the sparkliness of the film, you have a smart, well written story of angst, that rivals Romeo and Juliet- yeah you heard me, Let’s begin…
Bella (Kristin Stewart) has moved from the perpetual sun of Arizona to the constant grey of the state of Washington where her father lives, and works as Sheriff in the small town of Forks. After acquainting herself with the new school Bella is drawn to the mysterious boy, Edward (Robert Pattinson) who keeps to himself and his brothers and sisters, away from the rest of the school. Between longing looks between them both across lunch rooms they finally meet in Biology class where Edward seems distant to her, and rudely dismisses himself from class when she is paired up with him as a study partner.
After some days of his absence Edward arrives back at school, apologizes for his ill-manners and very quickly they fall for each other. After Bella puts the pieces together that he and his family might be Vampires, Edwards relents and welcomes her to his family. And although they are from two different worlds, worlds that cannot mix else some kind of violence may happen, they are drawn to each other somehow. They are in love. Beyond space and time, their love knows no bounds, and Edward and Bella will not let anything come between their emotional connection, including the hunting and killing of other Vampires with sinister designs on Bella.
Bella and Edward’s story is the integral centre to Twilight, not the Vampires, and later Werewolves. Theirs is a hyperbolic love story that represents the ache and yearning of what love was like when we were teenagers. The kind of love we slowly forget as we grow older and practicalities outweigh abandon (thanks David Margulies) but inwardly wish for as we pray for those butterfly flutters which we vaguely remember.
This Shakespearian story of unrequited love plays out like this, the Cullens are the Capulets and The Swans are the Montagues, in that Bella Swan eagerly and without concern pursues Edward despite the warnings from friends and family. No one quite remembers why the Cullens are considered strange or off-putting (aside from their own aloofness- yet their father, a Doctor, is a stand up citizen of Forks), but rumours abound in their direction. Like Romeo and Juliet, Bella is drawn to Edward almost at first sight and although Edward tries as he can to quell the affection, he too is drunk on his love for Bella.
The metaphor of the Vampire and the problems that come with Edward abandoning himself within Bella’s embrace, is only too real when Edwards comes in the window of Bella’s room late one night to steal a kiss from her. In what is an intense, prolonged lead up to a kiss that only builds in tension as he leans ever closer to place his lips on hers one can feel the electricity of first love fill the room, and the room one is in watching. Their love is pulsing like radio waves through molecules, smashing in all directions and energizing the air until that moment- that moment that every single person who still believes in true love waits for- the overwhelming sense of oneness. Not music is heard, no sound but the actors breathing, a beautiful moment is witness- had- shared.
And here is where it becomes more than just a film about Vampires and what is almost never discussed regarding the Twilight series as a whole, but especially appears here as the underlying statement the writer is making about abstinence and “saving oneself”. Bella is entranced by her first love, she is high on this heightened level of puzzle-pieces finding themselves that she is want to give herself to him, all of herself, but Edward says no.
Yes, the man stops. He is clearly infatuated with her, and most assuredly wants to sex with her, but he controls himself. Within the film we know that there is more to this than just sex, his uncontrollable need to feed on human blood is something he fights everyday. To be so intimate with someone he cares for and also wants to drink from is the curse he is fighting but ultimately, when he steps away from kissing and implies that they must take their time, what is being said here is waiting will make it more special. And then, this is when the music swells (no pun intended) and the young lovers spend the whole of the night, talking and laughing and enjoying time together until Bella succumbs to sleep and Edward is left in the blue of the morning, with her head on his chest. He is happy- happier than he has been in years.
Bella’s father, Charlie is played by Billy Boyd, and his portrayal of protector, and unfortunate absentee father trying to make up for lost time and still have a semblance of authority is bigger than even this film can handle. Charlie is a large part in Bella’s life, but we see in his face how scared he is of losing her that he is always weighing his words. A man who is quiet, yet pensive, who revels in the simplicity of going to the same coffee shop and ordering the same Pie- the pie that Bella used to love back before the family broke up- every week because it brought him closer to Bella even when she was not there. And, Charlie, too proud or stubborn to show his feelings, can’t tell Bella this and the locals have to.
Boyd is a treat to watch, carrying the burden of losing his family once with him in every movement, and word spoken. Firm in his actions and somehow soft as he treads lightly careful not to disturb Bella’s life until, later in the film after the antagonist Vampires have expressed their plans to have Bella killed, Bella has to make a hasty retreat and can’t tell he father why she is leaving. In a scene much like any scene of this nature from other films, Billy Boyd’s reaction to the hurtful words from Bella- that we find out later were the same words her mother said when she left him years ago- the pain in his face, the fear, the desperation as he flits through his memory to find what he did wrong. But he did nothing wrong, she is doing what she can to protect him.
You’re not going to drive home right now. You can sleep on it. If you still feel like going in the morning, I’ll take you to the airport.
No I want to drive, it will give me more time to think. And if I get really tired, I’ll pull into a motel. I promise.
Look, Bella, I know I’m not that much fun to be around, but I can change that. We can do more stuff together.
Like what? Like watch baseball on the flat screen? Eat at the diner every night? Steak and cobbler. Dad, that’s you, that’s not me.
Bella, come on. I just got you back.
Yea, and you know if I don’t get out now, I’ll just be stuck here like mom.
The film is also about the loss of innocence. Not only is it considered a step to adulthood once your virginity is lost, but as in Edward’s case, who’s life was saved when he was turned in to a Vampire, he was doomed to forever be a teenager but also never had a chance to fully live as a teenager and experience the blanket of firsts with the bright and wide eyes of purity that a child like Bella still has. As perfectly shown in the Final Act where Bella has just lied to her father to save his life, and is in a car speeding out of Forks when she sees her close high school friends coming out of the diner laughing and carrying on as teenagers should. You see in her face that she knows she will never have a chance to live that life again. That knowing about the things that go bump in the night are real she is a little older and a little sadder, so again, when Edward chooses not to sleep with her he is prolonging her naiveté a while longer.
Catherine Hardwicke, who already proved she could direct a film about a 13 years old in Thirteen proves that she has a knack for getting in the minds of teenagers once again. The interactions between Bella and her friends is enjoyable and never completely over the top but still obnoxious because, well, these are teenagers of course. Her sense of space space in the frame shows she knows when it is time to get close and when one wants to pull back and watch from afar. Her Background as a Set Designer is prevalent, here- take the simple, comfortable man’s space of Charlie Swan’s home that still has remnants of what his wife decorated so many years ago that he couldn’t take down… to the modern home of the Cullen’s that, in an almost Frank Lloyd Wright balance of modern and nature mixed.
And, then we are left to talk of the story itself, the Vampires. So many hard core fans of the Vampire mythos were offended by Stephanie Meyer’s take on the genre, but that is where the problem lies. This is not your Daddy’s Bram Stoker, this is Meyer’s Vampire story and she lays out the rules and she adheres to them. That is all one can ask, and more films have falter at such a simple task: Sticking to their own rules. Yes, Vampire’s sparkle in the sunlight, and this is why they cannot go out in the day, and why the Cullen’s have moved to the cloudy northwest. Sure, these Vampires enjoy a family night of baseball in a thunder storm, but isn’t that okay? We have a family, a disparate group of people drawn together through tragedy, in spite of long-life and great strength miss the simple things in life like going to the park and having a picnic. Anne Rice did the same thing in Interview with the Vampire, albeit with differing results.
If you are wondering why Twilight doesn’t appeal to you it is because of one of two things, 1) You are not a 13 year old girl, or 2) You forgot what it was like to be 13. When love was the only thing that mattered in your life, you never paid bills, food was magically provided to you, you could stay up all night reading scary books and on an hour of sleep still make it though the riggers of school. But! when you fell in love, or had a crush, nothing was more important. It was the beginning of a new world, and the end of one. It made you ache beyond reason, every song spoke was written for you to relate, and when you couldn’t have that love the pain was all encompassing that you were sure there was no point in living.
Above all, Twilight is a good film that does exactly what it set out to do, tell a story about two people falling in love despite all odds, amidst a fantastical world of Vampires that roam the earth feeding on the innocents, or choosing to work within the law. It is beautifully shot, and well acted, with a script that is capable. Perhaps, it does not deserve to be an Omega 13, and it certainly does not deserve the eye-rolls, and bad lip service it gets.
End Episode 07
Stay tuned for next week’s episode of Omega 13 where we dig through mire to find the appreciable inside 2004’s Catwoman.