Thursday, July 30, 2015

Tackling Twilight: New Moon

Somewhat snarky opinions and completely unobjective reviews of the Twilight Saga: Part Two. [Note I forgot to mention in Part One: there will probably be slithering spoilers.] [Note from me: meant to post this yesterday, oops. Sorry.] Here we go!

Because this doesn't really go with any one book/movie but New Moon starts with Bella's birthday, I feel like it fits here: Edward is technically 108 in Twilight, 109 in the rest of the series. But physically, he's seventeen. Meanwhile, Bella is seventeen in Twilight, eighteen in the others. I felt like the look of Edward/Rob in the movies seemed a little off. I did my googling: Kristen's barely older than her character, while Rob is twenty-one at the start of the series. Because I'm a book purist and want to make a point, I just want everyone to see the pair at actual seventeen years of age:

Another photo of seventeen-year-old Rob:

Okay, point made. Moving on!

New Moon opens with Bella turning eighteen. Which is apparently a big-freaking-deal, but not because she's a legal adult. Not because it's one of the birthdays in life that actually feel like a big deal, like ten and thirteen and sixteen and twenty-one. No, because now she's older than her precious, perfect boyfriend, and nothing in life could possibly be worse.

get over yourself

The movie did handle that one better. It focused a tiny bit more on her I-don't-want-to-be-the-center-of-attention issue, which was more valid and part of her characterization, than her ridiculous obsession with "aging." She's so whiny. I just really, really hated Bella at the beginning of this book. OH MY GOSH YOU'RE NOT EVEN TWENTY YET STOP COMPLAINING EVEN I'M OLDER THAN YOU.

Almost quit the series right there. Anyway.

This book informs us of the Volturi, basically vampire kings and cops combined. There's Aro, the calm, collected spokesman/leader; Caius, the perpetually angry one; and Marcus, the eternally bored one. There are tons of others, but we don't hear about them until later.

this is from a later movie, but it's all I could find showing the important Volturi members in one image. from left: Marcus, Aro in front, Jane in the back (we'll get to her later), and Caius

The event that really kicks off this book is when the ever-adorable, super-sweet, totally lovable Alice (have I mentioned she's forever my favoritest?) throws a birthday party. Bella's being all sulky and don't-celebrate-me, but it's a little more bearable now, so everything's pretty fine... until she gets a paper cut and Jasper, the newest non-human-drinker in the fam, goes a little psycho-vamp and basically the whole family has to clear the house while Carlisle treats Bella's wounds (which somehow became big messes of blood and broken glass). I feel like this is one of those scenes a person could possibly ridicule for being over-the-top, but it was actually written and handled well. I honestly don't remember what was book and what was movie in this part, but Carlisle and Bella have a conversation about beliefs concerning vampire souls, where we finally learn why Edward is so against Bella's becoming a vamp. I think it's really cool that even the vampire world has its own branches of belief systems. Yay worldbuilding!

despite all the reasons I should totally NOT, this is the moment I have a major crush on Carlisle Cullen
Because of the events of the party, Edward breaks up with Bella. Because the immortal love of her life has left her, Bella goes into a major depressive episode (that's the actual medical term). My reaction upon first reading this book was "no way, c'mon girl, this is pathetic, it's just a boy, yeah breakups suck but seriously, actual depression? isn't that a bit much?"

yeeeeeah, still getting a bit of creep vibe off this guy

My reaction upon actually thinking through this book later was... different. I mean, I've experienced both romantic breakups and clinical depression (I'm bipolar). The former is definitely a way I can relate to Bella, which I haven't really done until this moment. I've done plenty of research on the latter. Edward left because it was the right thing to do, but Bella believes he didn't really love her, so we have all that sad angst to handle, too.

Actually, not only are Bella's depression symptoms spot-on, the several months before the plot picks up again are a perfect literary portrayal of clinical depression. (Yes, even the four pages with just the months written. If you think through the meaning of those empty pages, you get a really good idea of what a major depressive episode looks like from the inside.)

The movie does really well with the portrayal, too. Even if a romantic breakup seems like a ridiculous reason to go into depression, honestly, depression doesn't make sense. Often depressive episodes like this have a trigger, but that trigger could be something completely unexpected or really trivial. There may even be no trigger at all. A breakup -- which is bigger than nothing and not trivial at all -- certainly qualifies as a trigger.

Of course, the main focus of New Moon is introducing the werewolves and Jacob Black. Who, by the way, is the sweetest guy ever. He completely won my heart over, while the foreshadowing and buildup for the wolves was well-handled. Halfway through the book, I was Team Jacob, 110%. Good riddance, creepy old vampire! Hello, sweet and selfless childhood bestie <3

There's lots of boys fighting over Bella, who is fed up with them, and it's pretty hilarious.

After Bella's 'aging' whine-fest, the only thing I didn't like for most of the book was... well, also Bella. Because even though her depression was written well... WHAT THE HECK WHERE DID HALLUCINATIONS ENTER THE STORY

She can hear her (ex)boyfriend in her head... so she does a bunch of crazy stuff to hear him more! (Which leads to her hanging out with Jacob, but still. WHY DOES THIS GIRL NEVER THINK THINGS THROUGH) Later she can even SEE the guy! If this was like an iffy, maybe-imagination-maybe-not thing happening every once in a while, I could handle it. But it is a major thing happening majorly in this book and it majorly creeps me out. In the movie, she was even crazier. I was half ARE YOU NUTS YOU CRAZY CHICK and half DON'T KILL HER I'M INVESTED NOW.

One of the sorta-evil vamps comes back from book one, but really, that scene's just set up to introduce the wolves. It's pretty similar in the book and movie. Suspenseful, good writing, not really a huge scene in my opinion. Maybe that's just because, coming in to this series so late, I already knew all about the wolves and which one was which so I was just waiting for Bella to figure it out.

My opinion of Jacob Black hit a turning point when he became a werewolf. First, he avoids Bella (understandable). Then, he's acting all cryptic and confused (reasonable reaction, of course). And the discussion where he and Bella hash everything out and reunite is the cutest thing ever and they totally should not have changed it so much in the movie.

BUT as we see more of wolf-Jacob, suddenly we've lost our ball of warm and fuzzy sunshine. I mean, he's still super hot in the physical sense (literally, body temp of 108. okay, the biceps thing too.) But now he's always angry, always conflicted, soooo hateful towards all vampires regardless of their beliefs/choices/morality, strangely possessive of Bella... it's weird. At the end of the book, I was so mad at him, I was literally screaming into pillows and yelling through my empty house. That boy has major issues! I want him nowhere near the main character, who at some point I started to actually care about. (I told you about that character development thing? Well, it's very subtle. Creeps up on you.)

see? she's inching towards confidence and making her own place in this strange other world and standing up to her (maybe-not-so)perfect man

By this point, Edward has mostly been absent; I've gone wholeheartedly over to Team Jacob and then retreated as fast as I could; while Bella is still reckless and not always a genius, I've become emotionally invested. I'm the most conflicted reader ever, because I don't want to love Twilight, but I'm not sure if I really hate Twilight, and I'm not particularly fond of any of the main characters mentally, but suddenly I am insanely emotionally invested in all of their fates and decisions. It's confounding!

The last third/fourth-ish of New Moon (except the very last scene, which I hated, and which sealed my dislike of Jacob forever, and which was completely and totally changed in the movie) is what made my mind up -- on Twilight as a series, on the main characters, on which team I'm on, the whole shebang.

Bella races to save Edward from his (what she thinks is guilt) (what is actually) grief over thinking she's dead. I cry.

Bella and Edward are reunited. It's very emotional. I cry.

We finally get to meet these mysterious, powerful Volturi, including a little girl named Jane with some freaky huge powers. I squee over Aro. Aro is the bomb.

Aro reads thoughts with a touch


Bella and Edward's powerful, unique love completely rocks the vampire world, and (with help from the visionary Alice) saves the day. I cry.

"Stop, stop, stop! Kill me! Kill me... not him."

Bella and Edward have a whole boatload of absolutely precious scenes as they (also Alice) go home. Jacob is an angry jerkface and I am never going to love him again, but let's skip that unpleasant bit. Bella wants to be a vamp still, and this time she stands up for what she wants despite Edward's objections. She goes to his family for backup, plans are made, and... OH YEAH EDWARD JUST PROPOSES, NO BIG DEAL. (I don't cry.)

Bella freaks out, which on one hand felt totally weird because if you want an undead forever with your vampire boyfriend is marriage really such a problem?! but on the other hand she is only eighteen and not even a high school graduate yet and (the main issue here) her parents married young and then divorced so her mom has raised her with some pretty set ideas about getting married too soon.

Overall, she overreacted, and I appreciate how the movie smoothed over that. But I was still so very happy with all the warm, fuzzy, lovey-dovey feelings from all those reunion/coming-home scenes, even Jacob being a jerk and Bella reacting weirdly to a proposal couldn't ruin my new take on this series.

It was beautiful. It was emotional and suspenseful and personal and even though the book was mostly better (totally different than the first one) I cried the whole way through the last half hour of the movie. I can't really explain what, exactly, affected me so much. It's all a very emotional set of scenes, and I think some of my reaction involved personal factors more than the actual writing (which was also amazing). All I can say is, from the moment Edward and Bella were finally home free, I knew there was no going back.

This hater had -- somehow, somewhere along her snarky way -- become a Twihard.

Anyone who has read this massive post this long deserves lots of virtual cookies.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tackling Twilight

Hello, my lovely readers! The long-awaited day is here. It is finally time to share the somewhat snarky opinions and completely unobjective reviews of the Twilight Sage from a former Twilight Hater. Let's do this.

Okay, so, we start off with this book that is proclaimed by one side of the literary community as the worst thing to happen to human intelligence since television and the other side as the greatest love story -- not of the decade, or the century, or even the millenium, but of all time ever.

Either way, that's a lot for a book to live up to.

Full disclosure: I kinda hated this book. I loved reading it, don't get me wrong, but mostly because I read this series as audiobooks while I was home alone and it was so freaking entertaining yelling at everyone who was being (a) idiotic, (b) redundant, (c) totally creepy, or (d) all of the above. (Generally all of the above.) (This was basically all of the first book.)

life-threatening idiocy: exhibit a
Now, I wouldn't say this is the worst book ever written, mostly because I did manage to read the whole thing without my brains exploding and I still wanted to move on to the rest of the series afterward. And yes, it's pretty badly written, but I don't think that's actually the writer's fault. I mean, 1. Stephenie Meyer wrote The Host, so I already know she's fantastic and brilliant. 2. This is Meyer's first book ever written at all ever, so if you know anything about writing you should be expecting it to kinda halfway suck compared to anything else she writes for the rest of her life. 3. When you have a character who starts out so thoughtless and reckless and "prone to life-threatening idiocy" and totally lacking in this thing we call healthy fear and more than a little redundant in her mental depictions of everyone around her... well, I don't think the annoying bits in narration are so much the writer's fault as they are the narrator's. The funky, sometimes messy plot I chalk up to this being Stephenie Meyer's first, but the annoying repetition of how perfect and totally-not-scary Edward is I put entirely in Bella's hands.

I haven't mentioned Charlie, mostly because I'm not sure what to make of him. This bit from the movie's great, though. "Isn't he a bit old for you?" You have no idea.
I don't always hate Bella, but really, I don't get how anyone above the age of fourteen could like her from the start. Who insists on not only hanging out with but proclaiming their love for the most dangerous predator on the face of the earth -- who already told you the thing he wants most in life is to eat you?!

Let's not get started on Edward, the 100+ year old hot dude who breaks into the house of a girl he's barely met and watches her sleep, the 100+ mind reader who secretly follows the girl he's barely met to a town over an hour away "just in case" she gets in trouble, the 100+ single dude who insists he and said girl shouldn't be friends ('cause, you know, he might accidentally-on-purpose literally suck her life away) and yet keeps showing up next to her with his mysterious and cryptic lines that are clearly doing the opposite of driving her away. For a guy who's been around so long, you'd think he'd figure out the difference between romantic-pursuit and serial-killer-creepy levels of interaction. Or at least how to carry a decent, normal conversation with a human being.

the epic creepy staring contest of lust at first sight
I'm fairly certain the only reason people with half a brain really love this first book is the Cullen family. They redeem the thing. I mean, most of book one I'm thinking, why don't we just have books about this family of awesome ancient complex creatures with intriguing histories and undying love for each other? I mean, all these individuals with great stories both pre- and post-death, and adorable, healthy relationships with their mates and the rest of the family, and they're one of only two vampire groups in the whole world who don't run entirely on instinct and just assume humans are totally ethical food choices now... but instead of all that fabulous material, we get a so-called love story between the creepy, reclusive single man in the house and a random human too stupid to realize what's good for her and skip town.

Okay, well, moving on.

The movie is, honesty, better than the book. Bella isn't really more likeable, but she's less annoying when you're not in her head the whole time. (I know I'm knocking on her a lot, but there's actually this thing called character development in this series, so it's not always this bad.)

Yeah, they already met before, but this is the moment that really started it all.
Edward, surprisingly, is less creepy. I mean, he still commits the freakiest of crimes: breaking into the chief of police's house to watch his teenage daughter in her sleep. (Are we still supposed to find this romantic? Are you kidding me?!) And I don't think there's any way to completely smooth over the fact that he's so "protective" of this random chick from biology that he follows her on her Port Angeles girls' day shopping. (Oh, his eyes. That scene, when he admits he followed her... *shudder* the creepy stalker eyes! Wait... that's supposed to be sexy? Grr.) Yes, he still insists they shouldn't be around each other and then seeks her out to talk to every other scene. (Even at 108, he occasionally has the mental maturity of a teenage boy.) But at least the other super weird, creepy, and/or stalker-y bits from the book are smoothed out in the movie, or just cut altogether.

I still can't decide if this is romantic or obsessive and unhealthy. I mean, can you really expect the undead to act in a way considered "healthy"? Objectively, I call creepy, but in the moment when I'm watching this, I'm a little more conflicted. Movie magic, I guess.
The plot is, mostly, better paced and more coherent in the movie, especially because you get to see stuff as it happens instead of later on when Bella finds out about it. Really, there are just so many benefits to a movie not being limited to one character's point of view.

So, next time: Tackling Twilight, New Moon edition!