Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



Very popular series of books (which I’d never heard of), and boffo BO: Cost only $37 million, and earned $70 million just on opening weekend. But the reviews were pretty bad. To my surprise, I liked it. Now, let me add that I don’t want anyone to take this is a recommendation. I don’t think it will be everyone’s cup of tea, though it must be raw meat to adolescent girls. Kristen Stewart, who plays Bella, the high school girl who falls in love with a vampire, is very beautiful, and Robert Pattinson, who is the bloodsucking fiend Edward, is almost as pretty. I can just imagine the moist panties.
The fact is, I don’t understand, and I suspect that no male understands, the attraction many women have for vampires, but it’s undeniably there. (Not the Nosferatu-type vampires, of course, but the Anne Rice, Frank Langella, Gerard Butler, Peter Fonda, Louis Jourdan vampires. Sexy vampires.) (Count Dracula has had an enduring fascination. If you type his name into the IMDb, you’ll get almost 200 movies.) There’s apparently something about a dark, pale, cold creature stealing into your bedroom at night, not to rape you but to bite you on your lovely white, vulnerable neck, that is just delicious to contemplate. I don’t get it. But Stephanie Meyer does, and she’s mined it for four best-selling books and what is sure now to be a money-making movie franchise.
This is the ultimate “bad boy” story. You know, that certainty that some girls seem to have that, though their beloved Johnny the Rebel seems to be bad, he really has a good heart, he’s sensitive, he’s misunderstood, and I’m just the girl to change the bad parts and bring out the good so everybody can see it. (And he only hits me when I make him really, really angry!) Frankly, it’s not the sort of movie I would usually like, and I’m aware of its flaws. But there is a resonance here that goes beyond teenage girls. I was reminded of one of our favorite TV shows of all time, which you may not have heard of, a ShowTime sleeper called “Dead Like Me.” (Not that this movie is that good; it isn’t.) In that one, Georgia “George” Lass is killed by a falling toilet seat from the Mir space station, and returned as one of the undead. Her job is to be there when someone is about to die a violent death, take their soul from their body before the violence, and then conduct them to some undefined “other side.” In each episode we see more clever and unlikely deaths. And she spends the first two seasons bitching about it, which was the only real flaw in the series, to my mind. Hey, she’s immortal, never ages, she can heal from any injury, and the work is always interesting. She gets to hang out with Mandy Patinkin. What’s not to like? (Okay, the main drawback seems to be that she can’t contact her family again … but she didn’t like them much, anyway.) And everybody has to have a job, right? Why not be a grim reaper? So all the time I’m asking myself, Would I like to become one of the undead? You bet! In a heartbeat (or lack of heartbeat, as the case may be). It sure sounds better than falling into oblivion, burning in Hell, or playing a friggin’ harp and glorifying some petty pissant God for all eternity. Hell, I’ve tried mortality for 61 years now, and so far it sucks. Gets worse every day, and I suspect it will come to a bad end amongst the worms.
That’s the case here, too. Edward spends the whole movie agonizing because he can’t eat her (she smells very good to his hyper vampire senses) or bite her. His family of vamps consider themselves vegetarians; i.e., they only drink animal blood. They are ethical vampires, unlike some others they could name. Edward is a bit over 100 years old, and looks seventeen. He can run faster than a car (one of the vampires follows Bella from Forks, Washington, to Phoenix, Arizona, apparently on foot, and gets there before she does in her car). He has super strength and reflexes, and super senses. He’s immortal, fer cryin’ out loud. Again: What’s not to like? And yet, when she finally gets around, in the last reel, to asking him to do what I’d have been asking him to do from the get-go, which is “Bite me, you gorgeous hunky animal!”, he refuses to even nibble. Even though we know this is going to mean endless trouble with the bad vampires down the line, because they hate humans and see them only as meat. His rather thin rationale: “I don’t want to turn you into a monster.” Well, he’s not a monster, he’s proven that. His other reason is so she won’t to suffer the terrible yearning for human blood, which the good vamps have to fight every day of their lives.
I’m speaking for Bella now: Listen up, dude. I love you and you love me, but what happens when I’m 80 and you’re still 17? I’d be seriously pissed off that you let me get old, that’s what. Plus, I’d be a lot better able to defend myself from the baddies if I had all your powers. Plus, I want to live forever, and leap tall buildings in a single bound, and stuff. And as for the blood thing, haven’t you dorks figured out that there’s a ready supply of people who never would be missed? I’m speaking of human scum, the child molesters, murderers, rapists, litterers, people who don’t return library books. You are creatures of the night, you wouldn’t have any trouble finding people like that. You could be doing the human race a big favor.
As for myself, hell, I’m horribly seduced by the smell of cinnamon buns in the mall. The urge is well-nigh unbearable. I could eat half a dozen of them, easy, but I can’t do that because I’m diabetic. It’s sheer torture, but I’ve found a way to live with it … most of the time. Now and then I cheat a little, just as these vampires could stick to possums and gerbils and skunks most of the time … with just a wee little nip of homicidal psychopath when they were feeling really peckish. And these vampires don’t even have to deal with the inconvenience of melting in the sunlight; they don’t like the sun, and that’s why they live in the rainiest place in the continental US, but it doesn’t hurt them. And they aren’t affected by any of that can’t-be-seen-in-a-mirror or can’t-be-photographed or can’t touch a cross bullshit, either. So … bite me, Bella, you gorgeous seductress!
I of course do understand why Edward refused her at the end. It was to keep the dramatic tension up for the next three books. And I learned that at the end of the last one, Bella does get her wish. But I just had to get that off my chest.
So that’s why I found what is really only a mediocre movie rather appealing. It portrayed a lifestyle I’d like to live. And it wasn’t stupid. And it wasn’t hyperactive, like so many films I’ve seen recently. It kept me engaged.
Bottom line: I liked it, but you may not. Lee didn’t.