There is something wonderful and teenage about the Twilight books. I was completely unaware of them until I saw “Twilight”, the first in the series, had been left on a train I was on, in 2006. It was a great deal more compelling than the book I had been reading and I finished the whole thing before the train arrived in London. The world created is about how vampires and humans co-exist and makes you want to read on.
Having a soft spot for the soft-focus vampire world of “Twilight”, which was one of the few films I saw in 2008, I was intrigued to see the newest part of the saga. I have liked Robert Pattinson, who plays vampire Edward Cullen, since he played Cedric Diggory in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” in 2005, a role he reprised in 2007’s “Order of the Phoenix”. I understand perfectly well why his face is on the fastest-selling calendar in shops.
And Kristen Stewart, who plays human Bella Swan, was great in 2002’s “Panic Room”, playing Jodie Foster’s daughter. Stewart had exactly the right sense of the claustrophobia of the place and the situation and managed to stand up to Foster and get noticed.
But the movie had been panned by the critics as soft-focus porn – without sex – and tedious. I figured I liked a few of the actors (including the wonderful Billy Burke from “Ladder 49” and “24”) and that teenage sighing doesn’t annoy me nearly as much as it annoys most critics, so I’d go see it. I live in east London, so I have a great need to see pretty rural scenery and I was certain “New Moon” would provide that.
I went with my daughter, who is well past her teenage years but shares my warmth towards Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books and Robert Pattinson. She hadn’t seen the first movie, but that really didn’t matter.
You just have to suspend disbelief and critical faculties and get into the spirit of the thing. The gentle, brooding and slightly sulky mood is sustained and the vampire and werewolf worlds keep their separate identity, even while intersecting with human reality. Italy and America have rarely looked quite so pretty, in such a slightly sinister way.
It broods, like Heathcliff broods. It sighs, like teenagers sigh. It flounces and tosses its perfectly flicked hair over its shoulders. It pouts and slopes and slinks its way into athletic moments of swooshing and jumping, which owe more than a small debt to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in their slow, circular and jerky movements. It also owes a debt to soft porn – not that I’d know THAT for certain, would I? But I have a vivid imagination and can guess, can’t I?
It isn’t highbrow art. The vampire loves the girl and, therefore, he doesn’t bite her. The werewolf also loves the girl, but he just isn’t a killer werewolf, except that he does kill vampires. The vampire and werewolf worlds have a truce and Edward (our vampire) leaves the human world to protect Bella (our human heroine) from terrible things, which threaten from a variety of vampire sources.
It’s lovely. It isn’t the unabashed good fun of “Zombieworld” nor the eerie story told in full of “The Uninvited”. Justice isn’t an extra cast member, as in “Drag Me To Hell”. It lacks the coherent sense of an alternative universe of “The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus” and there isn’t an actor with the sheer power of Heath Ledger to grab at your heart. The bad guys are not as in your face as in “Cirque du Freak”, but they are still bad guys with evil motivations.
It has its own loveable soft-focus charm. My daughter said “They can’t leave us there!” in some real horror, as the end credits rolled. But that’s the whole point of the saga. They can and will leave us hanging on, until the next one comes out in 2010. And they will probably leave us hanging on after that one, too.
That’s the basic thing we need to remember of the being teenage world. It is neither one thing nor the other. Things are never resolved and the resolutions that lurch into place tend to be highly emoted, temporary and largely theoretical. Things don’t last. This set of movies know its audience and gets the teenagers into the mood to stay set in their usual values, with just a little more froth and beauty than usual. It’s a highly-charged romantic vision and has earned a very special place in my heart, where sighs whisper below the surface and yearning is at its greatest.