Total Eclipse of Some Vampires

Life is full of surprises. Some are pleasant, like finding forty dollars in the pocket of the jeans you’re about to wash. (Hey! Free money!) Some are unpleasant, like discovering that the spider you killed in your bedroom yesterday morning had friends in your closet. (Eek! Free spiders!) The discoveries that fall in the middle of this spectrum are the most interesting, and I had one of those today.

I like the latest Twilight movie.

Before you start either throwing rotten vegetables or cheering, please note: I haven’t read the books, and I won’t. I have quite enough to read, (and I will blog about that someday, promise) and I want to see how the rest of the movies scan. I didn’t go into the theatre with a good handle on the source material, and it probably contributed to my enjoyment of the film. Characters came and went, and other people in the audience gasped or cheered or crooned, but I just carried on giggling to myself.

Remember the scene at the beginning of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl when we see Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley interact, and she sweeps past him in a huff because he is so goddamn polite to her, calling her “Miss Swann” all the time, when all she wants is to have her swash buckled? And he stands in the doorway, moonstruck cows in his eyes, and the entire audience breathed, as one, “Elizabeth,” about two seconds of close-up before Orlando Bloom breathed, “Elizabeth”? Well, this entire movie was a lot like that.

What is it about girls surnamed Swan, anyway?

Back to my comparison. That interchange between Will and Elizabeth handily describes the interaction between Edward and Bella. Bella wants her swash buckled, and Edward wants to keep her on that shiny pedestal for just a little bit longer, because he wants to protect her soul or some rot. That was the only thing that made me feel the hot breath of religious values breathing down my neck, for the record, and it managed to be both confusing and completely unnecessary. These vampires don’t seem all that concerned with their immortal souls. (At least, not as concerned as they are with their hair.) Other than that, the scene is actually touching. Edward describes what their relationship would have been like when he was a young man, a hundred years ago, and tells her how much he wants that, because it was “less complicated.” Well, sure, relationships are way less complicated when your girlfriend has no political or economic power, but I’m going to ignore that sidebar.

He follows that explanation up by proposing to her. It’s a romantic proposal, and just one of the many times in the movie that I felt very sorry for Edward. Bella looked at the engagement ring with something akin to vexed horror in her eyes, as if he had presented her a box with a dead rat in it. Maybe that was just because it is the ugliest ring in the history of bad jewelry design, but I doubt it. Poor Edward. He manages to be both one of the deepest, and one of the least necessary, characters in the movie. This struck me as odd, considering his cult status.

He is, unfortunately and undeniably, doing it to himself. Bella wants sex. Lots of it. I got the feeling that this young lady spends a lot of quality time with her hand-held shower head, if you know what I mean. (I bet you do.) And her frigid boytoy is too invested in his idealized notions of the past and the future to give her what she wants. No wonder she’s frustrated. Enter Jacob. Not literally, because that would be wrong, but yowza!

Edward pales (haha!) in comparison with Jacob, this fleshliest and bloodliest of werewolves, who has more abs than he will need in a lifetime. Even more attractively, he possesses the ability (probably a side effect of his shape-shifting) to sincerely apologize. He does stupid stuff, and then deeply regrets it, and then is able to put his deep regret into words, with accompanying gestures and facial expressions. He has one of the two senses of humor this movie was allotted, and is only occasionally overweening, arrogant, and officious. As opposed to Edward, who is overweening, arrogant, and officious all the time, with a side order of insecurity.

A competition between two men in which the winner is the one who treats the heroine like a piece of really stupid furniture less of the time is obviously deeply flawed. But I couldn’t help noticing that Jacob seemed happier to just carry Bella around the woods having a conversation, than Edward was to be snuggled up in bed with her. Bella, for her part, was much more animated around Jacob, and their Big Kiss practically melted the film. Hell, him snuggling her in a snowstorm was hotter than Edward’s chaste snogs and pleas for marriage. Though maybe that was his shoulders getting to me. Have I mentioned that Taylor Lautner is a sexy, sexy beast? No pun intended.

Most of the time, Bella seems to barely tolerate Edward, and tolerate Jacob with only slightly better humor. (She also can’t seem to close her mouth, and she should probably get that looked at. I’m assuming, for the sake of argument, that there are orthodontists in Forks.) She behaves like a girl who knows she’s going to be leaving town at the end of the summer, and will never have to deal with either of them again. She treats them both pretty badly, but in ways that feel emotionally honest, because she does seem to be caught between them. I got the feeling that if she could swing it, she would happily be the cheese in a paranormal sandwich. If you know what I mean. (I bet you do.) Someone needs to give this girl the Anita Blake series.

I do have to feel for Edward, though. He’s a sweet guy, at non-beating heart. His perfect love is lusting after a werewolf, whom she also loves, whom he says that he could like, if it weren’t for the whole vampire/werewolf racial struggles, and the werewolf being after his girl. (Someone should give him the Anita Blake series. You can just all get along! Naked, even!) His perfect love also cheats on him, though it’s tame and for a good cause, (“Kiss me! Don’t get yourself killed!”) and generally has a personality, which he seems to view as something of a tick in the “con” column, given how much trouble it’s gotten her into. He is tormented and insecure and a dish, and she’s having none of it. Stupid werewolves. With their stupid body heat.

You would not believe how big a deal being exothermic is in this movie. Body heat, blood, the “Change,” territory, emotions, truck parts, all of these things act as metaphorical stand-ins for sex. Edward taking the distributor cap off Bella’s engine is a big deal, because it prevents her from seeing Jacob, if you know what the movie means. And at that point, you really do. This coyness on the part of the film is almost endearing, because Bella puts sex right out in the open. She manages to have decently forthright conversations about wanting each the furball or the iceball, or not, wanting sex or not, and why, and when.

To her endless credit, Bella has only so much patience for the rivalry between Edward and Jacob, or for their individually bone-headed shenanigans. I get the feeling she’d be more forgiving if there were boner shenanigans going on, wound up like a rubber band-powered airplane ready for lift-off as she is. But, it is not to be. She takes the initiative with Edward when she wants sex, and punches Jacob in the face when he kisses her without her permission. (“Acto gammat!” says Bella’s fist.) Both of these enterprises fail, in their own ways, (Edward refuses to put out, and she sprains her wrist on Jacob’s face) but there is potential in the way she handles herself. There are fewer instances of creepy stalker abusive behavior from either Edward or Jacob than I have been led to believe are in the prior books/movies, or even the book version of Eclipse, for which I am truly grateful. I did think that in the few moments where that behavior cropped up, the actors tried to gloss over it as best they could. They seemed a little embarrassed by it, and all those moments fell utterly flat. (“I trust you completely; it’s him I don’t trust,” Edward says, right out of the jerky boyfriend handbook. At that point, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart could be seen visibly shuddering.)

There are other nice things to say about the movie, about how her father (the other sense of humor) is a font of genuinely caring paternal concern, how the secondary vampires and werewolves are attractive and interesting. There are less nice things to say, too, about how the major “plot” is full of fang holes, and the emotional conflicts are as real as they can be in a series that depends on willing suspension of disbelief so strong you could make a bridge out of it. Forks, Washington, is scenic and heavily pine-infested, and skinny jeans only look good on Audrey Hepburn. The sexual politics and emotional entanglements in the main triangle were the best part of this movie, but I do not know what Bella sees in Edward.

Maybe in the books something else exists between them that transcends little things like having no chemistry, maybe the first two movies set the heavily romantic stage for this period of flux. (though I have it on good authority that Jacob is pretty much the only available snoggee for much of New Moon.) But from my canon-ignorant point of view,  Bella, despite the script’s best efforts, seems to have outgrown Edward’s chivalric worship, and wants to screw Jacob senseless up against a tree.

This movie is pure, undiluted escapism, both visually and emotionally. Who wouldn’t want hot supernatural men desperate for your love and attention? Who would die for you? Kill for you? Keep you warm in a snowstorm? Defy their entire societies for you?

Ahem. I seem to be approaching rubber band-powered airplane territory. In the immortal words of Jayne Cobb, “I’ll be in my bunk.”

I enjoyed all of that hormonal angst, and the relationships were honestly acted out. The CGI was fantastic, the werewolves were breathtaking in their detail and expressions. But what made this movie for me, and probably for the millions of women, of all ages, who are absolutely enthralled, was the underlying, bittersweet memory of being eighteen and convinced that you knew what you want. Your world living and breathing and dying with the one you love so much it hurts. The utter conviction that love can be quantified and qualified. That emotions are complicated, but that they can be figured out. Bittersweet, like I said. And I’m only four years out from being there.

P.S. The trailers were fantastic. Easy A, RED, Harry Potter and the Long Camping Trip, it was fantastic, I tell you. I can’t wait.

4 thoughts on “Total Eclipse of Some Vampires

  1. Maybe in the books something else exists between them that transcends little things like having no chemistry,

    Nope. There’s none of that. At least not in the first two books. And the first movie was only slightly better than the first book. Because, you know, they only had so much to work with.

  2. Hey! Skinny jeans look good on me!

    Nice review. ^_^ I think you’ve summed up most of the flaws of the series pretty well – I’d like to see this movie. I think I’d agree with pretty much everything.

    Except the skinny jeans thing.

    • I bow to your superior knowledge of the ways of the skinny jean. Perhaps they did look good on Kristen Stewart as well, and I am just too prejudiced to understand. Team Boot Cut forever!

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