Judge Patrick Bromley submitted this review from Spring Break in Sporks, Michigan.
The people and places of Forks and La Push.
In my recent review for The Twilight Saga: New Moon, I made mention of the fact that the hysteria surrounding the Twilight film confuses me. Having seen both entries in the series thus far, they strike me as unremarkable films—not bad so much as hollow and forgettable, like episodes of a weekly TV series I wouldn't watch if given a choice. I'm fairly alone in this, however, as the Twilight franchise (first the books by Stephanie Meyer and now the movies) has become a legitimate phenomenon. Coinciding with the release of New Moon, the new documentary Twilight in Forks: Saga of the Real Town makes its way onto DVD to simultaneously explore and exploit this phenomenon.
Though positioned as a documentary about the town of Forks, Washington (where the Twilight films and books take place), make no mistake about it—this is little more than a love letter to the teen-angst-and-vampire series and its obsessive, adoring fans. I'd be on board for that, too, if the film was at all interested in examining why it is that Twilight has inspired such feverish devotion in such a huge and varied population of fans. Unfortunately, that's not this movie. This movie simply wants to give the fans a forum in which to express their love of the books and films, covering everyone from teenage girls to older moms to high school teachers and, in one instance, a middle-aged man with a goofy blonde dye job. Some of the participants are thoughtful and well-spoken when they plead their case, such as the teacher who says it's not fair to write off the fans or Meyer's books when they mean so much to people. Others are arrogant, insulting the cults of Star Wars or Star Trek as "weirdos" while bragging about how accepting the Twi-hards are (for the record, few fan groups are more accepting than Star Trek fans). But Twilight in Forks seems to side with them both, and that's where the problem is.
Despite my own problems with the series, I have no interest in seeing a movie that sets out to mock the Twilight fans. What would be the point of that? To feel superior to a group of people who have found something they love and that makes them happy? And, yet, if that's the attitude you want to take, you'll find plenty to judge in Twilight in Forks. I would have liked a documentary that attempted to find out what it is that's drawing people into this series so deeply, though, and this film never manages to get far enough beneath the surface (which is to say, it never gets beneath the surface at all) to even begin answering those questions. Sure, we get to see how the lives of some Forks residents have been changed, whether it's the woman who opens a Twilight-themed gift store that turns out to be so successful she needs another location, or the guy who runs the guided Twilight tour in Forks. But I found it almost patronizing the way the film simply reaffirms what the fans want to hear—that their devotion is totally justified—without ever trying to understand who they are or why that is. Just as I'm not the audience for the Twilight films, I guess I'm not the audience for Twilight in Forks, either. So it goes.
Summit cashes in…er…releases Twilight in Forks: Saga of the Real Town (that title is kind of hilarious, actually; there is nothing about this documentary that remotely suggests a "saga") on DVD in a no-frills package that's technically acceptable but far from remarkable. The 1.78 anamorphic image is fine, but the fact that the film was shot on video means that colors are rarely dynamic. The movie is mostly talking heads, interspersed with a good deal of questionable b-roll footage (to keep things visually "interesting," the filmmakers are constantly cutting away to material meant to enhance what's being discussed; usually, it's overly busy but fine, but every once in a while it's eye-rollingly bad). The 2.0 stereo audio track keeps all of the dialogue audible and well-balanced, and that's all it has to handle. There are no extra features.
A love letter to Twilight fans, made strictly for Twilight fans. Everybody wins, I guess. Everyone except for me.
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