Monday, July 5, 2010

More thoughts on Twilight (Eclipse in particular)

Since I couldn't write it better myself, I'm posting the conclusion of Plugged In's (Focus on the Family's movie review service) Eclipse review.  The body of the review is helpful as well, especially if you're trying to decide if there is anything positive about this movie - and guess what? - there is!  Just read the review.

Here is the conclusion of the review by Paul Asay, which makes the most sense I've read in a long time about this series and Eclipse in particular.

Before walking into The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, I expected the audience to consist mostly of girls in the 13 to 18 age range. You know, the demographic that might go to a Justin Bieber concert.

I was wrong.

Granted, there were plenty of young women. But many were in their 30s and 40s. Even 50s. And let me tell you, they were 
into it: They cheered kisses. They cheered shirtless appearances. They saved their biggest hurrah for Edward's proposal. I don't know whether this was the "Team Edward" vs. "Team Jacob" dynamic at work, or whether these fans were just absorbed in the story, but they couldn't help applauding whenever any of 'em exchanged lip gloss.

In short, these viewers were 
engrossed in the film's fantasy world—and I'm not talking about the whole vampire-and-werewolf fantasy. I'm talking about the film's fantastical view of love. Eclipse, like all the Twilight films, is far more about romance than horror. And almost all romances, by their very nature, idealize both love and the lovers involved.

In some ways, that's manifested pretty positively here, and some of these values 
should be idealized. It's great to see Edward being so careful with Bella's virtue and so gentlemanly throughout, for instance. More folks in the real world should aspire to such chivalry.

But  Eclipse takes that romanticism to another level, giving us two male protagonists who are practically godlike: Edward is a knight in shining skin who props his beloved Bella on a pedestal; Jacob is a dark-haired pinup idol, sensitive and vulnerable even as he's virile and strong. They are creatures of pure imagination—preternaturally powerful and kind and desirable and desirous. No wonder teens who are still mulling what true love looks like are attracted to these characters. No wonder grown women—many of them who fell in love, got married and found their relationships weren't wall-to-wall passion and joy forever and ever—find themselves drawn to them, too. (emphasis mine -jeh)

In this sense, I suspect 
The Twilight Saga, particularly Eclipse, feeds our already unrealistic, sky-high expectations about what romantic relationships should look like. I don't think a lot of teens will walk out wishing to be vampires or werewolves. But many of them (and more than a few adults, it would seem) may pine for the sort of love and attention Bella receives from her supernatural suitors.

The film—which is better artistically than the first two—has some other problems as well. I mourn the fact that Bella is so bent on becoming a vampire. Setting aside, for a minute, the ethics of becoming undead, the fact she wants to jump into this irreversible decision feels terribly hasty. Bella's own father comes across as practically powerless to influence his daughter's life, yet another reason for sorrow. (emphasis mine -jeh)  
Eclipse is also darker and more violent than the first two entries in the franchise. The decapitation scenes in particular were especially jarring. And sex is obviously becoming a bigger and bigger issue for Edward and Bella.

As I left the theater, though, I thought less about those things and more about the American inclination to idealize love. That inclination can sometimes make real love—an undeniably great and wonderful but complex roller coaster—feel a little like a disappointment.

It's telling, perhaps, that 
Eclipse's supposed love triangle isn't much of a triangle at all. Bella is Edward's girl. She always was, always will be. She chooses a charming, bloodless, idealized man over one of flesh and blood who's arguably more fallible, more real.

And I can't help but wonder, how many 
Twilight fans are being encouraged to shop for love in the very same way? 

From Paul Asay's review on Plugged In:

1 comment:

Devon said...

Everything in this review (the conclusion, at least), operates on the assumption that the people watching the film or reading the books cannot think critically about the text. The reviewer's fear seems to be that the audience will assume that because love is portrayed in a certain way in the film, that's what we should expect in real life. This perspective overlooks what I take to be one of the fundamental values of fiction -that in fiction, we get to experience things that we KNOW are not real and that furthermore, we can take from that not-real experience something valuable and applicable to our lives.

The reviewer's comments almost get this when he notes that there's an ideal of chivalry in Edward that is sorely lacking in our culture. My problem here is that the reviewer seems to think that he's capable of getting that while no-one else is.

I would concede that there's always a danger that the audience will leave a film like Twilight hoping/expecting to find the same thing in real life. That is to me not a problem with the film; it's a problem with a culture that has lost the ability to read critically and to recognize that there can be no one-to-one correlation between fiction and reality.