I’m having a crisis of faith.
I first watched Twilight when it came out in cinemas in December 2008 and experienced much of the now stereotypical teenage craze with the series, instantly buying and devouring the books. Since then, I’ve watched the subsequent films that make up the Twilight Saga (New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn: Part 1) and I am now just pages away from finishing my rereading of the series. I spent so much of the last two weeks reading these books that I’ve reached that curious stage where I feel like I know these characters so well - am so attuned to them, even - that it surprises me to realise they are just a work of fiction. I sit through conversations thinking ‘Bella said something like that’, before catching myself and cringing at my own stupidity. They are not real.
It is a result of this that I stuck in the Twilight Saga: Eclipse DVD hoping for a re-immersion into my Other Reality. You can therefore imagine my disappointment when I realise that my whole fascination wasn’t with an amazing, innovative, influential film-series after all. Because the movies aren’t great. If I focus on the films, I can be successfully sucked in enough to the drama and sappy stuff to appreciate it for simply being a teen-romance film. But having it on in the background, my sparse attention picking up disjointed moments only, I realise the disjointedness of the movie itself. It is just so awkward. It has a nice lyrical score and incorporates many contemporary artists that the audience already like. It uses picturesque locations and lots of pathetic fallacy. The actors are attractive. And it uses some of the lines from the books. But that’s kind of it for my positive feelings. After that, you’re just left with conversations that lack fluency and questionable facial expressions. The writing isn’t bad; the lines are dramatic enough to evoke some gasps, and the embedded acknowledgement of the whole Team Edward-Team Jacob fiasco (“Let’s face it, I am hotter than you.” Subtle...) is even sort of amusing. But the fact that every piece of dialogue is presented in the same register, with not a single voice deferring from a seemingly predetermined limited selection of notes (think B flat to C sharp on a piano) gets me cringing into my seat. I’m almost glad when Bella starts to scream, because it makes for a different sound.
The thing that makes it all so mind-boggling is that they aren’t bad actors. I’ve seen Robert Pattinson, Kristin Stewart and Taylor Lautner in other films separately, and it’s never been as bad as this. I get that the book – and films – have an underlying theme of sexual tension, one that is arguably the founding structure of the teen-romance genre, but this just takes the biscuit. You’re angry? Yell. Scream, even. Just quit the monotone.
Despite the battle for sense that those two hours left me in, I do remember why I bothered. I love the books. And I really do like these characters. I like the way their minds think and the ways that they speak. I like how they’re just a little bit better than ‘regular people’ and the frequent references made to other texts that I’m partial to (Wuthering Heights and Romeo and Juliet, for example). So I think I might just persevere. I find it interesting to see how my perspective has changed. The first time I read the books, I loathed New Moon for Bella's constant whining and Edward's poor decision-making. Yet rereading them now, I'm much more drawn to it. I like how Stephanie Meyer has presented Bella, aches and all, and I feel more sympathy for her, if not empathy. Perhaps a sign of new emotional maturity, perhaps not. Either way, it's a complete 180'.
So I’ll reread the books –again and again and again – and ignore the instinct to close my eyes during the films because I do support the series. It has become a worldwide phenomenon for a reason, so it would be quite insensible to ignore it. Arrogant, even. Because I can tell you, I did walk out of the cinema after seeing Breaking Dawn and feel satisfied. It was fine, no real pain inflicted. Just a low-lying mushy feeling, which I suppose is the film’s aim after all. This feeling might not last, and might not ever resurface if I watch the film again with the absence of the giant cinema screen and dark, silent room, but you never know - I might just pull a 180' with this, too. Time will tell, and all the rest.
BOOKS: 5/5 – mind-blowing.
FILMS: 3/5 – mind feels slightly melted.
FILMS: 3/5 – mind feels slightly melted.