DH: Presumably? So I guess there is some sacrifice involved. But even the isolation of vampire life seems pretty great—and also voluntary. Bella still gets to spend Christmas with her human dad. And her house in the woods with the other vampires is obviously the better place to be.
JS: Seems like great real estate—gorgeous Pacific Northwest territory, and yet not a bad drive to downtown Seattle when you need to run an errand. Like picking up some fake passports from your lawyer—played by The Wire’s Wendell Pierce: Bunk Moreland!
DH: A delightful but too-brief cameo in a movie mostly devoid of familiar faces. If only they’d done the whole scene by only saying “fuck.” (I think Stewart could have pulled it off.)
JS: That would have been amazing. I loved the absurdity of that scene. Vampires, we learned last night, have amazing powers: They can see the future, emanate force fields, leap like Spud Webb, and unfurl scary black death clouds from their shirtsleeves. Know what they can’t do though? Fake a U.S. passport. Need a shady lawyer for that. Where’s the vampire whose special skill is forgery? Maybe he got killed off by the Voltari.
DH: Probably. That whole “special skill” business is a new take on vampires, isn’t it? In general, the mythology of this series struck me as haphazard and a bit half-assed.
JS: Yes, the powers seemed invented largely to suit the plot. And I was surprised that the good vampires—the ones fighting off the Voltari, that is—made common cause with some of the human-blood drinkers.
DH: This was hardly the grand showdown between good and evil that the costuming might have led one to expect. Black cloaks = clearly evil. Stylish winterwear = obviously good. And yet our heroes were not above some very dodgy tactics.
JS: And there are so few humans in this movie! I’d imagined that Twilight was basically Beverly Hills 90210, but Dylan was a vampire and Brandon was a werewolf. But everyone in this movie was a vampire or a werewolf. Or vampire toddler feed.
DH: Or Bella’s amusing and only slightly homophobic dad.
JS: That was a great scene—when Jacob took off all his clothes and showed Bella’s dad his ... lupine nature. Let’s talk about the final showdown. At the end, the good vampires and the Voltari meet in a snowy field outside Seattle.
DH: Edward’s surrogate dad, Carlisle, a kindly, cardigan-wearing chap, has invited a dozen or so “witnesses,” a model U.N. of vampires from around the world, to come and see that Renezmay is no threat, so they can tell the Voltari as much when those no-good-niks show up to wreak havoc.
JS: But the Voltari don’t want to be persuaded. Or is it just that they couldn’t hear very well? The two sides were standing at a comically long distance from one another. Anyway, Arrow—is that the leader of the bad guys?—he seems hell bent on killing off Renezmay. Wasn’t clear to me why. So a battle royale ensues!
DH: And it is *gruesome*!
JS: Apparently the only way to kill a vampire is to rip off his head and torch his corpse.
JS: Super gross. Lots of face-ripping and noggin-tossing. Worried about the tweens who were raised on this stuff. I took it particularly hard whenever a wolf would die. Their whimpers were so sad.
DH: The Twihards seemed to take it hardest when one of the cute guys died. And they loved it when the evil folks got their comeuppance.
JS: And a lot of them did.
DH: Dakota Fanning was not popular with this crowd.
JS: The death toll was disturbing. At one point, one of the good guys punched the ground and opened up a giant rift that reached all the way to the Earth’s core. Which was cool and all, but kind of had a neutral effect on the battle—seemed like the chasm swallowed as many good guys as bad, no?
DH: Yes! I couldn’t figure out what he was thinking there. Not exactly Napoleon or Schwarzkopf, that one.
JS: Then something truly crazy happened. I was as surprised as I’ve been at the movies for as long as I can remember.
DH: Same here.
JS: It was nuts!
DH: And the crowd seemed surprised, too—even though I assumed they had all read the books? Maybe not. Or maybe it’s a new, cinematic twist?
JS: I wondered! It sounded to me like the whole audience gasped. Like they were just as surprised as us virgins.
DH: Yes: It was all a dream. Essentially.
JS: Like Newhart!
DH: Or St. Elsewhere.
JS: Basically the battle we saw was a vision of the future conjured for the head bad guy by the clairvoyant good vampiress. So in the end, no one actually died. Arrow was confronted with the fate that would befall him if he chose to take on Bella, Edward, and their crew.
DH: Which seems to violate some basic principles of future-telling—because then he changes his mind, and so the future he saw never comes to pass, and thus isn’t the future. But it still seemed awfully clever, in the moment.
JS: It doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, does it? But I gotta say, I really admired the chutzpah! It allowed the movie to give you a bonkers battle sequence without actually killing anyone off. A brilliant, if utterly manipulative and nonsensical stroke. I loved it.
DH: Very much a have-your-gruesome-cake-and-peacefully-eat-it-too sort of thing. Though it also highlighted just how low the stakes are in this movie? Bella apparently has no special role within the universe, as I sort of assumed she would. Her oddly named daughter, while unusual, is no threat to the basic order of things.
JS: Right. Renezmay isn’t some golden child who will deliver the vampiric race. She’s just a kid experiencing a serious growth spurt.
DH: And the world is more or less as we all experience it, except there are a few dozen vampires out there, and some of them are assholes.
JS: And if you’re lucky enough to fall in love with a vampire, and get him to deliver your baby with his teeth (maybe?), you’ll become immortal and have an immortal child with a flexible diet and neat powers and you’ll get to make out with your husband in a field of wildflowers for eternity. Good deal.
DH: And have the best sex imaginable, with your super-senses.
JS: And that walk-in closet! David, did you enjoy this movie more or less than you expected to?
DH: More, I guess? It was a good romp, Kristen Stewart has just as much screen presence as I expected (which is to say: quite a bit), and there were enough batshit moments—that mountain lion snag, an unfathomably great cackle from Michael Sheen—to keep it from ever being boring. And it was great fun listening to a crowd that was very into a movie—if not so much into Kristen Stewart, who was not cheered nearly so lustily as her male co-stars (understandably enough, I suppose).
JS: I’m with you 100 percent. I had so much more fun at this movie than I expected. And though I’m still thoroughly confused about a lot of things—what does it mean when a werewolf “imprints” on someone?—it didn’t severely impair my ability to enjoy the movie. And that cackle. I won’t soon forget that cackle.
DH: Thanks for sharing this experience with me, John.
JS: Thank you, David. I feel like a new man. Twilight has imprinted on me. I think.
TODAY IN SLATE
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The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race
How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster
The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented
Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada
You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney
Or at least trade it for something.
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An All-Female Mission to Mars
As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.