July 6, 2010

"The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" v. "Knight and Day"

In Taki's Magazine, I review two anti-Buttkicking Babe movies:
It’s worth comparing a current box office smash—The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, a Mormon teen vampire romance—to a dud—Knight and Day, an expensive Cameron Diaz-Tom Cruise thriller parody.

Knight and Day is expertly made and consistently entertaining, while the Twilight episode is talky and amateurish. Yet, the public’s preference makes sense, because Eclipse’s bizarre ambitions and common passions makes it more memorable than Knight and Day‘s facile technique.

Both movies revolve around a young woman’s struggle to choose the man who will protect her in a savage world.

Eclipse is the adaptation of the third of Mormon housewife Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novels, the biggest bestsellers since J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Bella (pretty Kristen Stewart from last year’s Adventureland) is a human schoolgirl whose (follow me closely here) especially tasty-smelling blood drives vampires wild with bloodlust. Her lively scent has won the heart of the undead Edward (tween heartthrob Robert Pattinson), a gentlemanly vampire who strives manfully to keep his lusts under control. When a less civilized vampire army from Seattle comes hunting for her, however, the icy Edward realizes that Bella's safety requires him to seek assistance from his warm-blooded rival for her heart, Jacob, a weightlifting American Indian werewolf.

I realize that this previous paragraph will likely strike you either as old news (if you are a 9 to 17-year-old girl) or as gibberish (if you aren’t). And I must admit to being baffled for long stretches of Eclipse.

A weaker novelist than Rowling, Meyer doesn't so much understand the adolescent girl’s mind as share it. Her Bella epitomizes female teen self-absorption, the desire to have every boy fight over you and every girl hate you for it.

Read the whole thing there and comment upon it below.

By the way, Stephen Dawson points out the that on IMDB, Eclipse is rated 6.9 by females and 3.6 by males. Is that the biggest gender gap ever in IMDB ratings for a hit movie?


Anonymous said...


WE OWN THE NIGHT(mark wahlberg and joaquim Phoenix) is an intersting movie.

agnostic said...

For comparison, what did girls think about the macho female singers of the late '70s and early '80s? I know guys were into them, but were girls?

Debbie Harry, Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, Chrissie Hynde, etc.

I'd guess they were more into the somewhat strong but still wanting a stronger man types. Like Bonnie Tyler or The Go-Go's or The Bangles, who I'm sure the guys liked as well.

Anonymous said...

Great review; I just saw Knight and Day and you've nailed it. I was surprised, actually, by how much I enjoyed the movie.

One note: you need to work on your colors. 'Cornflower' usually means a nice shade of light blue, not yellow, and in any case the bikini Tom dressed Cameron in on the island was fire engine red.

Simon in UK said...

There does seem something particularly odd about the modern butt-kicking babes always being very skinny little girls. '80s girls were much bigger - compare the Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie heroine to the TV series' Sarah Michelle Gellar. Guys liked Xena Warrior Princess though, and Lucy Lawless is a big lass by the standards of most TV heroines. My tastes in butt-kicking babes definitely run to the (relatively) larger ladies - Pink makes a much more plausible Pepsi-swigging gladiatrix than does Cristina Aguilera.

Anonymous said...

So what happens to Marc Blucas's character in K&D?

Marc played basketball in college for the Demon Deacs - his senior year [1993-94] was Tim Duncan's freshman year.

Stiva said...

Great post. I agree the trend towards 120-lb action waifs is irritating (it pretty much ruined the new Robin Hood movie the way they shoehorned Cate Blanchett into the big battle at the end, just so Russell Crowe could pull her out of a tight spot). And I think you're absolutely right that it's not girls who like to watch that stuff (how many real-life girls do you know who like to beat people up?) but rather nerdy guys. If nothing else, Joss Whedon's whole career is proof of this.

Anonymous said...

The main female character, Bella, is not presented in the books (according to the 1,000,000 times I've been told the details by my nieces) as the type who likes the boys to fight over her and for the girls to hate her for it. She is embarrassed by the attention she gets from her friends for dating the 'sexy' vampire, and tortured by the unrequited passion her werewolf friend feels for her.

But she is an insipid and dull girl.

@agnostic - some girls liked the harder look of Joan Jett (tie-in to previous topic - Kristin Stewart who plays Bella in the Twilight movies played Joan Jett in a recent film), some preferred the cuter look of the Go-Gos. More the latter, I think.

--80s teen girl

Kylie said...

Slightly OT: Another butt-kicking babe movie.

Finally watched The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo last night. Feminist Stieg Larsson was clever to create a butt-kicking female character who we take to be touchingly vulnerable even though she gives little evidence of it.

Ordinarily, I'm extremely sensitive to and offended by the ubiquitous man-bashing throughout Western culture. But I couldn't resist cheering when Lisbeth takes her revenge on [some of] the men who've abused her. The interplay between her and her lover is surprisingly nuanced and doesn't, detract or distract from the mystery, as is usually the case.

Sure was a lot more fun--and more erotic--than all those gloomy Bergman films. Of course, I doubt I'd have liked it so much if it had taken place in, say, Malmo.

Jim Bowery said...

The Sailer Strategy misses the point. Obama's minions understand its the chick vote that counts.

Dahlia said...

Love the article, Steve!

While I haven't seen or read any of the Twilight books, I'm not immune from overhearing the discussion. Funny, at the same time, my husband and I have been watching "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" via Netflix which surely must have inspired "Twilight" but is aimed mostly at nerdy guys with Buffy being a butt-kicking babe.

That so many young men hate (and young women love) the Twilight series has been much discussed lately and I find your take on why young women like it refreshing.
As for they guys... personally, I can't distinguish the bashing of it from the bashing of any entertainment aimed at teen girls and young women where a young man is held up as an object of desire. Teeny-bopper bands especially come to mind.
That its appeal is so strong as to appeal to some older women makes the jealousy of it even worse.

Perhaps it isn't healthy for young women, which I don't believe, but comparing it to porn is just going way too far. I think it is far more analogous to the babes in action flicks that are either arm candy or kicking butt themselves.
The feelings of people about what appeals sexually to the opposite gender are wildly out of proportion with each other; it takes much less to make a young man feel jealous than it does a young woman. Thus the feelings of women about the lusty, beautiful action movie heroine in male-oriented movies are far less hostile than the man's feelings about the hero in romantic movies aimed at women.
But men have always been more jealous, which is normal and right.

Conatus said...

I was ready to dislike Knight and Day but I enjoyed it more than the most movies I have seen. Why?
I think both Diaz and Cruise are so likeable, so cute, even in their 40s? that you gladly suspend, not only your disbelief, but your critical attitude and go along for a really enjoyable totally fantastical ride. Cruise is like a Labrador Retriever, an eternal child, with the big teeth and eveready smile so you wish him well as he slaughters his way around the world.

Udolpho.com said...

I remember Kristen Stewart being particularly annoying in Adventureland.

Knight and Day is a huge flop, despite Tom Cruise's game performance. While some blame Cameron Diaz' aging, leather-faced presence (it doesn't help), and others the inept neo-80s marketing, it's really just a mess of genres that never gel with a weak "been there, done that" story. The action is at cross purposes with the convoluted plot about Cruise--it's like an action movie that keeps getting interrupted by a thriller starring the same cast. It could have worked if it had done something more in the North by Northwest vein, and if you got rid of Diaz, and if...

Anonymous said...

Count me as one guy who has never understood others guys love of BKB's.

(Butt kicking babes)

When I watch a tall, skinny, pretty 115 pound woman supposedly kicking the crap out of a battle-scarred 230 pound Special Forces guy, my reaction is peals of laughter. Heck, why not a movie in which Special Forces guy gets clobbered by a cute six year old child? It's no more improbable.

Anonymous said...

Normally I try to confine myself to well reasoned arguments and verifiable facts, but I deserve some fun too. Here's my crackpot theory of movies.

I think that the only men who actually enjoy watching tiny women beat up big muscular guys are skinny adolescent boys. These are the same guys who loved Billy Bascom when he cried Shazam! and changed into Captain Marvel. These guys included a lot of late puberty types. Those who were soft little children in Junior High when some of their classmates were big hairy men already.

In the old days Superman was secretly Clark Kent - a milquetoast - and The Incredible Hulk was the wimpy Bruce Banner. BTW the first Hulk movie got the casting all wrong. Eric Bana is almost 6'3" and powerfully built, thus negating the fantasy transformation. Who cares about a guy who when angry transforms from hunk to hulk?

Boys enter adolescence shorter than girls. Then they go to public schools where they are terrorized by older bigger boys. Fantasies about thin, weak boys becoming powerful and invincible hold a great attraction for them. Orlando Bloom is a popular skinny, wimpy actor who seems to play blacksmiths against type and who triumphs in battle. But otherwise there just aren't enough movie characters for weak little male adolescents to identify with.

So these boys accept women as butt kickers. Even a thirteen year old late blooming boy is more than a match for any girl, so that when girls in movies, against all logic and physics, best large men in direct physical confrontations, its the adolescent boys who get the vicarious thrill.


asdasdasdf said...

Never cared for vamp movies. Fangs sucking out blood? Yech.

Anthony said...

A friend of mine commented that Knight and Day was really a chick flick being marketed as an action/adventure movie, and thus the box-office fail.

I haven't seen it, so I can't comment further.

TCC said...

Delighted to find another immigraton-enforcement proponent who doesn't think it's too cheesy to weigh in on the Twilight phenom.

I, mean, there can't be too many of us in that elite club. :>)


Whiskey said...

If you look at the numbers for the popularity of Whedon's butt kicking babes, its not large. Buffy got a lot of ink but few viewers.

Guys don't want to see a butt-kicking babe. They want stories of a ninety pound weakling transforming into the butt kicker themself and getting the babe!

That's why Spider-Man did lots more business than Buffy, and why Dragon Tattoo is a guaranteed flop in the US remake. Because no guy wants some used up butt-kicker even in fantasy.

Look at the Apatow movies that make money. A schlub, a nothing, gets the hot babe. One worth getting -- not one with a questionable past and rampant hypergamy (the schlub always transforms into a higher status guy than the gal).

Knight and Day failed because women don't find Tom Cruise a desirable hunk. Instead a weird and gay lunatic.

Anonymous said...

All action movies since the beginning of time center around ludicrous, unrealistic fight scenes in which the hero beats up 20 guys, followed up by some more ludicrous scenes in which he successfully shoots 5 running guys in the forehead while hanging upside down off a helicopter at some bizarre angle.

The action genre was never been known for realism, way before women entered the picture. If that's what you want, blockbuster action films are probably not the place to look for it.

BamaGirl said...

"Great post. I agree the trend towards 120-lb action waifs is irritating (it pretty much ruined the new Robin Hood movie the way they shoehorned Cate Blanchett into the big battle at the end, just so Russell Crowe could pull her out of a tight spot). "

Agreed. I like seeing active female protagonists, but I like it to be somewhat realistic too. Plus there are ways to make a petite female into an active character without turning her into either a damsel-in-distress or a "BKB." The Cate Blanchett thing really irked me as well, especially since they had spent pretty much the whole movie establishing her as a feisty widow who could hold her own in medieval England (which I imagine probably happened in order to survive in those situations). The battle scene was just total overkill.

Anonymous said...

You couldn't visit a rightwing site during the election without tripping over 50 guys wanking over pictures of Sarah Palin posing with rifles & her kill. Guys like attractive women who are interested in masculine things and are good at them.

Even here. Steve's posts about hardass Amazon Kathryn Bigelow, which lovingly detailed her expertise on weaponry & creating explosions & fascination with war were the most admiring comments I've ever seen about a woman on this site. The rise of the BKB is just another version of this.

Kylie said...

Anonymous said..."You couldn't visit a rightwing site during the election without tripping over 50 guys wanking over pictures of Sarah Palin posing with rifles & her kill. Guys like attractive women who are interested in masculine things and are good at them."

I'm certainly no Sarah Palin. But just yesterday, my husband insisted taking pics of me with the CZ at the range. If he can get me to pose with the AK-47, he's in hog heaven. He's still bragging that I was the high scorer (and only woman) in our CCW class.

I'm not touting myself as an attractive woman, I think sharing those interests with men makes a woman seem more attractive to them. I get lots of appreciative comments from men at the ranges I use, saying they're glad to see me there, that they wish more women would shoot or that they could get their own wives down to the range.

Anonymous said...

As a woman, I prefer female characters who are not doormats but I'd like more realism in the way they fight back. Women do not have the upper body strength to wield a sword against a male warrior in his prime as in Robin Hood or Alice in Wonderland. On the other hand, they shouldn't sit in a corner wringing their hands and screaming either. Maybe they can be getting the children to safety or hitting someone over the head with a cast iron pot or looking around for a gun. The only time I can buy a female warrior is when there's magic involved. Bella is pretty much a drip but I'm not a 16-year-old girl. I refuse to see any movie Tom Cruise is in because of the way he treated Nicole Kidman in their divorce and his wacky Scientology cult. I like Cameron Diaz and in principle I like seeing slightly older actors on the screen. The sexism of male commentators about women barely over 40 annoys me. There should be more roles for men and women over 50 or 60.

Anonymous said...

Post-Lucy Lawless (who as someone else pointed out, is a big, strapping lass) the only two women who looked remotely plausible kicking butt were Jennifer Garner and Summer Glau. And it's instructive that they both are red staters (Texas and W. Virginia) with extensive ballet training. Garner and Glau's combination of extreme physical fitness and precision choreography made it at least somewhat convincing that they'd be able to triumph over larger opponents.

Anonymous said...

The sexism of male commentators about women barely over 40 annoys me.

Their wombs are barren.

Ergo they don't interest us anymore.

Anonymous said...

"Their wombs are barren.

Ergo they don't interest us anymore."

If that actually true for you, I feel sorry for you. Of course you're assuming that every movie must be about sex, how sexually attractive one finds the actor or actress AND that women have no value except procreation. I disagree that people can't be sexually attractive and interesting in their 50s, 60s or 70s but I'm not particularly interested in seeing nothing but bed scenes anyway. Your view is dismissing the female half of the human race and the half of the population that's past child-bearing/swashbuckling as of no interest when it comes to story telling, whether it's a political drama, a war drama or a romantic comedy. Your mind and your heart must be pretty shallow and uninteresting things. But you go ahead and watch Baywatch for the rest of your life, since that sounds like it's about your speed.

Anonymous said...

"Their wombs are barren.

Ergo they don't interest us anymore."

On the other hand, some of us enjoy lots of sex with hot, lusty women, without having (much) fear of them having a kid and sticking us with child support for 18 years...

...ergo, some of us love the 40-something cougars!