I have to admit that I found the first few sequences of it engaging enough. I found myself having favorable feelings toward the lead characters, the human female Bella and the vampire male Edward. I appreciated Bella’s sassiness and her low-key disdain for things like prom and sports (“I told them not to let me play,” she explains to a boy whom she has bonked on the head with a volleyball). She pulls it off without being too goth and depressive and black-eyeshadowy about it. Also, I was a sucker (so to speak) for Edward’s lovely vampire-boy-next-door good looks and his aching, painful, unrelieved horniness (more on that later).
Anyway, Bella and Edward encounter each other in school and somehow—by sheer animal magnetism, I suppose—fall at once in love. But Edward tries to keep Bella at arm’s length because (we soon learn) he is a vampire and he fears that he will lose control and try to have sex—er, I mean try to drink her human blood. But she persists in engaging with him and it gets harder (so to speak) for him to resist. Eventually, after he has magically been present to save her life a couple of times, and after he reveals his true vampire nature (which she has already gleaned during a hilarious Google search where she hits on a lot of digitized ancient texts), they just both go ahead and confess their feelings for one another. More hilarity ensues when Edward brings Bella home to meet his family. The family is, in fact, a coven of vampires led by one Dr. Cullen. Together, they live in a beautiful woodland home. The doctor is the town physician and the others masquerade as his kids or perhaps foster kids, the sexiest of whom is Edward. They gamely try to prepare some human food for Bella, and we learn that these vampires don’t eat human food, and that this particular group also abstains from feasting on human blood (they are vegetarians, as vampires go). Edward tours Bella through the house, leading her to his bedroom. “No bed?” she wonders aloud, not adding sotto voce, “I guess we can do it on the floor…” Yes, he doesn’t sleep either (no sleep, no sex, what do you do?) but he has a really fancy room and a nice stereo system.
This goes on for a bit and it’s all very nice and inoffensive until eventually Edward invites Bella to play baseball with his family. They evidently only do this as thunderstorms are setting in so that the storm noise masks all the sonic-boom racket that they kick up during their hyper-speed style of play. But now it all goes to hell. A trio of other vampires show up. We don’t know who they are, and the Cullens evidently don’t know them either and it doesn’t seem that it will go well at all. Indeed, when vampires who don’t know each other meet it is rather like cats meeting for the first time with a lot of hissing and posturing. Eventually the situation relaxes a bit and the newcomers suggest that they all play ball together in a friendly manner. But then one of the newcomers picks up a whiff of the human stench on Bella and realizes that the Cullen coven is protecting some tasty food.
Now...for some reason this requires a crazy cross-country chase, climaxing in Phoenix. The Cullens determine to protect Bella from being eaten by the Bad Guy by getting her out of town. She has to lie to her dad, hurt his feelings, pretend to run away from home in anger and disgust. These vampires must drive like freaking maniacs, too, because it appears that they make it from somewhere in the Pacific Northwest down to Phoenix in just a few hours overnight.
Anyway, this whole sequence, the Chase Subplot (which I guess is intended to be the “exciting” part of the movie), seems utterly unnecessary. Here’s how the Chase Subplot ends: Bella gets herself ambushed by the Bad Guy in a dance studio that she used to attend. The Cullens show up to save her, but not before she gets bitten on the arm by the Bad Guy, causing the vampire’s poison to start coursing into her veins (yeah, the vampires are venomous as well). Edward then needs to save her by—get this—sucking the poison out of her arm. This poor kid. He has so badly just wanted to get laid (drink Bella’s human blood) this whole time and now he has a sort of frustrating half-chance at it, but must still keep it in his pants, so to speak, so as to preserve her humanity (virginity). But what he really wants to do right then is kill the Bad Guy. But Dr. Cullen tells him to get to work saving Bella and that the brothers and sisters will take care of the bad guy. So now Edward has to engage in this agonizing form of half-sex with his human girlfriend while being coached and warned to pull out by his dad. Good grief. Talk about a boner-killer. Meanwhile, Edward’s siblings dispatch the villain by busting him to pieces and setting him on fire.
Ok, so here’s my main gripe with the Chase Subplot: WTF? Why didn’t they just do this back on their home turf and save themselves all this violence, danger, deception and wastage of gasoline? If the way to deal with the Bad Guy was simply to kill him and burn him to ashes, it seems they could have just done that straight away. It ended up that he wasn’t particularly hard to defeat once the Cullens made up their minds to defeat him. What was the staff meeting on this plan like?...EDWARD: Let’s kill the muthahfuckah! DOC CULLEN: No. We must first lure him to Phoenix and then kill him there. EDWARD: Oh. Well I guess that makes sense…In fairness, I know that they thought they were just getting her to safety, but their plan was so easily thwarted by the Bad Guy that it seems like they should have seen through its flaws with their own vampire powers (they do have a clairvoyant among them, after all, though her powers are only good so long as no one changes their mind about what they are going to do). But, as J pointed out to me, “They needed something to fill forty-five minutes of this movie.” Maybe it’s more plausible in the book. I don’t know.
Eventually all this foofaraw and huggermugger winds down and the young lovebirds get to go to the prom together, cutting a rather stylish swath through the crowd of their less-special peers. Then, finally, Bella avers that she would like Edward to do his thing and turn her into one of them. He’s wanted it so badly. She has said yes. It’s time. He’s going to do her right there on the dance floor. And then, noble and stupid boy that he is, he backs off just before the moment of climax and suggests that she just be happy living a long normal life with him. God. Damn. It, I thought. I guess we’ll just be relying on the good old right hand tonight, Edward, you freak…And that’s easy for him to say, long normal life indeed! He’s an immortal being who will not age and die. He’ll be sexy and seventeen forever, just as he has been for a century already, but she will (if she remains human) grow old. Even if she retains her good looks and charm into old age, it will eventually become awkward for her to appear anywhere in public with for her forever-young old man. “Is that your son?” someone will ask at Walmart. “My word! He’s gotten so tall!” Hmmm.
Well, I guess that even though I didn’t love this movie, I have to give it some credit because I had a lot of fun today writing this little review of it!