The other night my wife and I decided to take in a cheap movie. We’d been curious about “Robin Hood,” and like pretty much every film Russell Crowe’s starred in, so we bought our tickets and sat down to approximately forty minutes of commercials prior to the feature.
So they showed a trailer for the “Eclipse” movie. A whole host of very pale faces set in not-quite-angry, mostly sullen countenances, with the occasional two-bit CGI wolf thrown in just to bite something (which apparently these vampires are too tender to do). Oh, the makers of the film tried everything they could, really they did, to give it an air of dramatic moment and seriousness. But I pretty much laughed out loud; it looked ridiculous. Set apart from the fanaticism surrounding the entire Twilight saga, the movie itself looked plain cheap, and I wasn’t in the mood to hide my opinion from fellow theater-goers, not this time. Felt pretty good to mock it openly, in fact.
Then today I was reading from A History of English Literature (1956), about the Anglo-Saxon period and the poetry they composed. You know, Beowulf, Dream of the Rood, ancient poems like that. The authors of this history write,
[T]he earliest English poetry which has been preserved … gives glimpses backward into that almost unknown time – glimpses of wild moors and dense forests where lurked gigantic monsters half seen amid mist and darkness; glimpses of the stormy northern ocean filled likewise with shapes of shadowy fear.
Now I personally find the old stories such as Beowulf very strange, but wondrous strange. They are drenched in a thick film of mystery, every line is dramatic even as it captures something unreal and a world apart from our lives. And as I thought about these old poems, it occurred to me that the fantastic stories today – fantasy such as the stuff of Twilight – lack such weight and dreaminess. Rather than wonder at the strangeness of everything around us and strive for the victory against dark unknowns, we in our day are enamored with stories focusing upon the darkness hidden inside the people around us (vampiric or lycanthropic) and then deciding it is not so very dark after all. Hence, the good vampire or heroic werewolf of Twilight. Probably suggestive of the decline in our own morality, but I’ll let that go for now.
There is yet darkness all about us, with which we must contend. And yes, there is darkness here within us, a darkness with its own personal war. I only wish that we would let the dark be clearly dark, and so remember our need for the light. The modern trends leave me missing that curious cloud which surrounds the ancient stuff. You practically had to wipe it away from your eyes whilst reading line upon line of the old poems…like walking through a dream.