Ampton watches: The Twilight Saga

The other day I was writing about seeing Fortnite gameplay footage for the first time, and today I’m writing about seeing Twilight for the first time. Obviously, my pop culture exposure is behind the times, but better late than never.

Back when I was in intermediate school, which was when Twilight became popular, I was too busy being both a cowboy and an edgelord to indulge myself in whatever most of my female classmates were obsessed over this time. I was a cowlord, an edgeboy. I sat through the first Twilight movie without really paying attention, and never paid close attention to it or watched any of the other movies. However, at the urging of my boyfriend, and out of morbid curiosity, I set out to watch all five movies in the Twilight Saga and find out for myself if they really suck as much as people say they do. Over ten hours later, I have formulated a review that addresses my main issue with these movies.

Both of the characters look like they ate a lot of cheese with lunch despite being lactose intolerant, and are now struggling to not have their intestinal tract explode.

Other people who are smarter than me have already written at length about how racist the series is (can confirm, it’s comically racist), how misogynistic and creepy it is (can confirm, decades-old vampire man marries eighteen year old), and how, well, Mormon the whole thing is, which makes sense given that the creator is a dedicated member of the LDS Church. These things are all horrible and make the series hard for me to watch, but in the end they aren’t the reason why I consider these movies unwatchable.

I will give the movies credit for some things. The soundtrack is strong, especially in the first movie, and they have a very distinct colour grading and directorial style that gives them a pretty cool aesthetic. A lot of the lore and characters have a seed of interestingness to them; the Quileute people becoming wolves to oppose the colonial vampires, the idea of a small town being haunted by the spectre of a family of vampires that bring trouble with them, and the dangers of newborn vampires and immortal children. But the reason these movies suck, the reason they are terrible and I hated watching them, is simple: the Twilight Saga is incredibly boring. Nothing happens in them that I care about, and the movies are mostly filler with some plot events peppered in there to try and act like they have a shape to them.

On the plus side, this moment made me laugh so hard I started coughing.

The plot of all five movies is as such:

  • Bella moves in with her dad in the town of Forks, and everyone is very nice to her and super welcoming. Instead of building relationships with them, she gets fascinated by the Cullen family and Edward in particular, even though a small group of non-blood related ‘family members’ who all date each other are definitely a cult.
  • She gets hunted for sport by other vampires, but she survives and remains determined to pursue Edward despite the fact there is zero actual evidence they enjoy each other’s company.
  • Because he feels bad about her almost dying, Edward leaves town, making Bella so sad that she risks her life a bunch and leads on her best friend Jacob.
  • A bunch of stupid miscommunications make Edward think Bella is dead, so he goes to get the vampire government to murder him since he’s too much of a pussy to do it himself. Bella gets there in time to stop him, unfortunately.
  • Next up, one of the bad guys from the first movie is creating a whole bunch of vampires to serve as her own personal army to kill the Cullens, and we get a whole lot of backstory on different characters. The good guys defeat the bad guys pretty easily, all things considered, and then the vampire government rock up fifteen minutes late with Starbucks to be evil.
  • Bella and Edward get married, fuck, and get her pregnant. And then the baby tries to kill her and everyone thinks the baby will probably be evil. She dies in childbirth.
  • Bella turns into a vampire, Jacob falls in love with the baby, and everything is actually fine. They spend a whole movie getting proof that the baby isn’t evil and then tell the vampire government the baby isn’t evil. And then they all live happily ever after.

A gifted scriptwriter could probably fit the above plot points into a single movie, but instead it plays out over ten and a half hours. You might think that I abbreviated the above list for comedic purposes, but I really didn’t; those are all the important things that happen in this story, aside from long swathes of flashbacks and romantic scenes that made my teeth start to decay and drop from my weary skull.

Okay. Imagine that your classmate got tangled up in that weird cult that goes to your school and gets married to one of them right out of high school. She turns up a month later heavily pregnant and looking skeletal, and then the whole family skips town. That’s an interesting horror plot.

TV Tropes has dubbed this phenomenon a romantic plot tumour, wherein a rather boring romantic plotline grows out of control to engulf the much more interesting A plot. According to that page, “A telltale sign of a Romantic Plot Tumor is that you could edit out the romance thread completely and have the story still make sense (and be a more bearable length).” If you took all of the romantic plotline from my summary above, you’d be left with this:

  • Bella moves in with her dad in the town of Forks, and everyone is very nice to her and super welcoming. Instead of building relationships with them, she gets fascinated by the Cullen family and Edward in particular, even though a small group of non-blood related ‘family members’ who all date each other are definitely a cult.
  • She gets hunted for sport by other vampires, but she survives.
  • One of these other vampires goes and creates a whole bunch of newborn vampires to serve as her own personal army to kill the Cullens, and we get a whole lot of backstory on different characters. The good guys defeat the bad guys pretty easily, all things considered. The vampire government was only introduced because Edward was sulking, so they won’t turn up here.
  • And that’s the end of the movie.
  • The stuff with the Quileute people and Bella’s dad being a small-town cop (which are the cool parts, in my opinion) are much more prominent in this version.

What you’re left with is a more action-oriented movie about a girl getting in too deep with forces she doesn’t understand, and her world-weary father and his Quileute friends trying to bail her out. If you were a smart cookie, you could absolutely spin it into a story about cults, about colonialism, or about a creepy mythological mystery, and all of those would be better than what we actually got.

And in this moment, Bella and I were experiencing the same emotion.

The stuff about Bella and Edward having a baby is the most redundant part of all. You could replace the baby with a literal tumour and the plot would be pretty similar – something’s growing inside Bella that’s tricky to remove, and the removal of it causes her to die, so she has to be made into a vampire. The baby does almost nothing in the end, except cause controversy, and we’re treated to very uncomfortable scenes of an adult character falling in love with the baby. The baby rarely talks, ages super-fast so they don’t have to take care of her through the rough years, and doesn’t even appear in the final scene of the movie showing Bella’s happy ending. It makes you wonder why the author even bothered to put the baby in, except as a device to make the vampire government angry.

This is how I saw the last movie.

I suspect this problem was heavily exacerbated by the fact that the last book was split into two movies for capitalism reasons. It’s much harder to stretch a small number of plot points into two films, complete with three acts, than it is to fit it all into one film. However, I felt that things were starting to drag a long time before then. The second film, New Moon, is entirely focused on the couple’s temporary breakup, and it uses a miscommunication plot to get Edward to run all the way to Italy to demand death. This plot doesn’t amount to anything except the vampire government becoming aware that Bella knows about vampires, and it would make very little difference to the series if you cut the whole thing out. It’s not just that the romantic plot itself is unpalatable, which is it; it’s that even if you enjoyed the romantic plot there’s still not much actually going on these movies.

Another issue that exacerbates this problem is the fact that the author never learned to show and not tell. This is frustrating since it’s a movie with a big budget, the perfect place to do a whole lot of showing. Instead, the story utilises voiceover and long sections of exposition to let us know what’s going on. The most glaring example of this is during the final movie, where they need to gather vampires from all around the world to give evidence that the baby is not evil. This could have been a great opportunity to worldbuild but instead was a great opportunity for Bella to do a voiceover dryly explaining to us everything happening on screen. If I’m watching a movie about mythology, vampires, and how they fit into this world, I want to see it, not hear about from an actress who clearly doesn’t want to be there. Bella’s voiceovers throughout the movie have an amazing ability to render their scenes boring as fuck.

This cool-looking action scene is actually just a vision by one of the characters and doesn’t really happen.

In the end, I think that the problem is that the author intended that I get a lot more mileage out of the romantic aspect of the plot than I did. If I were heavily invested in watching these two random people pine after each other, then each endless scene of them staring at each other with a neutral look on their faces might do something for me. It might justify spending ten hours watching plotless scenes of them lying down in a field of wildflowers. As it stands, their relationship doesn’t work as wish fulfilment for me. I’ve already got a significant other, and we care about each other so much that we watch these movies together and we didn’t break up.

And that’s my honest review of Twilight. Let this be a lesson to you all about pacing and plotting stories like this. Make sure that something actually happens in your work, or if nothing happens, it needs to be a deeply compelling nothing. A nothing that resonates deeply with the human soul, and builds the themes and characters of your story.

Also, the CGI baby was fucking ugly.

-Aмртоп

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