Dir: Catherine Hardwicke
Star: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Cam Gigandet

While certainly containing much that is easily mockable - most of it centered on Pattinson's angst-ridden performance as emovamp Edward Cullen - this wasn't as awful as I feared. Sure, its soundtrack often resembles a MySpace playlist, and the undercranked footage of the vampires whizzing around is patently laughable. But, in many ways, it is perhaps the recent vampire film which is truest to Bram Stoker's original, both being equally as much about extremely repressed sex as anything. Bella (Stewart) moves from Phoenix to the Pacific Northwest to live with her father (Burke), and is immediately attracted to brooding classmate Edward. He tries to deny the apparent connection between them, but it is too strong. Just as he gives in, and she is becoming part of the family, a nomadic band of vampires including the psychotic James (Gigandet) show up, who regards Bella as more of a snack than a companion with whom to spend eternity.

Stewart is credible enough in the role, and it's easy to see the series' appeal to love-lorn teenagers of any age. It does suffer from obviously being the first film - Team Jacob is introduced, then spends the rest of the time delivering Meaningful Glances from the bench - but even this cynical hack found some moments which made me go, "Cool!" While it deserves a cynical critique, I liked the way the roles were reversed, with the vampire having to try and restrain himself from the predatory teenage girl. That said, Pattinson is from the Elijah Wood school of acting i.e. with the emphasis on "wood", and a perpetual expression of teen angst, even as he moves well into his second century. I'm already sick of his fucking eyebrows.

[June 2011]


New Moon

Dir: Chris Weitz
Star: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene

Well, if the first one had its moments, the sequel is mostly unredeemably awful, provoking hoots of derision every time Team Jacob showed up, inevitably with their shirts off. Really, if I were Chief of Police, my daughter went missing, and was returned being carried by some topless guy, I'd consider him a person of interest, rather than saying thanks and letting him go. Not so here, which is largely a pale retread of the original - Bella lusts after a guy she can't have - with the vampire replaced by the werewolf Jacob (Lautner), Edward having left the country for a spot of international mopery. Throw in some painfully obvious Romeo and Juliet references - that whirring sound is William S. spinning in his grave - and you've got something almost awful enough to make me pine for the return of Edward Pattinson's eyebrows. Lautner's abs give a better performance than he does, and get about as much screen-time.

But there are three scenes which stand out, rescuing this from a worse grade [and that they only move the needle up to D+, should give you some idea of how truly dreadful much of this is]. The camera circling round a moping Bella, as the seasons change. The wife of James, returning to take out Edward's mate, in the same way Edward took out hers, and the ensuing battle with were-Jacob (even if the question of where he and his cronies get their apparently infinite supply of shorts, is never answered). And the scene where Bella and Edward face the Volturi, centuries-old Italian vampires. They are led by Michael Sheen, with Dakota Fanning as a minion, who can cause exquisite pain with her mind. A film about them would be infinitely better; I also note the performance complete's Sheen set of the holy trinity of ultimate cinematic evil, having also played a werewolf and Tony Blair. Those moments don't come anywhere near justifying the 130 minutes to which this is stretched.

[July 2011]

...and werewolves...


Dir: David Slade
Star: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard

Thank god that's over. It struck me mid-way through this, that the problem is not the Twilight-verse as such. There are a lot of potentially quite interesting stories in there, with an almost infinite scope for imagination, and a world that runs parallel to ours, just out of view. However, the love-triangle of Bella, Edward and Jacob is perhaps the most tedious and boring of them; imagine if the Harry Potter books focused heavily on the Harry/Hermione/Ron romance aspects. This eventually builds to an epic battle against an army of newly-created vampires led by Victoria (Howard), who is still righteously pissed at Edward for killing her soul-mate, and a very uneasy alliance between the vampires and werewolves, united by the love of their clan member for Bella. It's actually pretty damn cool, and it's just a shame that the key-word in the previous sentence is "eventually". For before that, we have a lot of Bellangst and macho posturing between Edward and Mr. Shirtoff [I complained bitterly about the way his female packmate does not run around topless for the entire film...].

Basically, it just repeats the same mistakes of the first two movies, being way too long, and obsessing on themes like Bella's abstinence, which don't exactly improve with repetition. Neither do the performances of the two leads, which have shown almost little or no development or character arc since we first met them: Bella now appears a whiny, co-dependent nuisance, and Edward a control-obsessed stalker. I guess that makes them perfect for each other. But fun to watch - not so much... As before, the main pleasures are to be found in the supporting characters on the fringe, who give a glimpse of what might have been. By this stage, however, it's clear that the aim was simply to churn out more of what had gone before, and given how (inexplicably) successful that was, it's hard to blame the studio for this conservative approach. And that's an excellent way to sum up the entire series. Who needs imagination and risk-taking when you can make hundreds of millions playing safe?

[July 2011]

Oh, my!
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