Very rarely does a series of films come along that divides film lovers and critics alike.
Very rarely does a series of films come along that divides film lovers and critics alike.
The likes of Star Wars, Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean are prime examples of movies that delight and infuriate so many. However, there is one series that is literal movie marmite; The Twilight Saga. For its fans, the tales of Edward, Bella and Jacob are almost biblical. Twilight’s outlook on abstinence and unrequited love is dark, sexy, mysterious and un-comparable to anything else. But for those who dislike the series, nothing is more detestable. Whether it’s because of its over-emotional, milder look at vampires, or the constant lambasting of the weaker actors – Twilight really does have some passionate haters! So with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 due in cinemas, Greg Evans looks at why these brooding werewolves and vampires can so emotively divide opinions.
The Case For
When the first Twilight film hit screens in 2008 it didn’t quite have the same fanfare as similar franchises, such as Harry Potter. Stephanie Meyer’s books were critically acclaimed, but they never really stepped outside of literacy circles. Her novel about teenager Bella, who moved to a small time town in northern America and subsequently fell for the dashing and reclusive Edward, captured the hearts of many teenage girls, and perhaps even a few men. Whilst this premise alone didn’t necessarily sell the film, the inclusion of rising star Robert Pattinson did.
The R-Patz Factor
R Patz, as we’ve come to know him, started out in Harry Potter playing the small role of Cedric Diggery in the Goblet of Fire. However, it wasn’t until he took the role of Edward Cullen that his star began to rise and rise. His somniferous portrayal of the reluctant vampire wooed audiences and gained him a hysterical following akin to that of Take That in their hey-day.
To counteract Pattinson, the much younger Taylor Lautner was cast as a rival werewolf called Jacob Black. With a completely different method and physique, Lautner won a whole new set of fans that could potentially topple Pattinson’s crown. In a genius piece of marketing, the Twilight team conjured the concept of fans either being on Team Jacob or Team Edward. Cheesy – yes, but it does give the series a unique personality, even if it is purely there to sell merchandise. Yet another counterpart to Pattinson and Lautner, and the overall glue that holds the story together, is the great and honest interpretation of Bella by Kirsten Stewart. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Twilight has won so many fans – its honest filmmaking.
It doesn’t have a Steven Spielberg or Peter Jackson sized budget, but it does have the same heart and ambition. Three directors so far have taken the helm of the series, Catherine Hardwicke, Chris Weitz and David Spade. Each has tried to add their own little watermark to the respected films, but all have remained respectful of the atmosphere and aesthetic of the films. The secluded real life town of Forks, Washington, with its abundance of evergreens and constant barrier of mist make it the ideal place for vampires, werewolves and lonely humans. Audiences can firmly believe that all the actors are having fun and are genuinely putting in the best performance they can. In a cinema age where money often speaks louder than words, this is thoroughly refreshing.
If you take the mythical creatures out of the equation, at Twilight’s heart is a story of those first young loves experienced in real life. It portrays the scared and reluctant emotions that we all go through at some point. Edward doesn’t want to hurt Bella, nor does he want to lose her. Sometimes though, he can try too hard and it seems that by protecting her too much she could easily slip away. The same goes for Jacob. He was initially only looking out for Bella as a friend, but inevitably certain emotions led to other things. These are stories we can all relate to, whether we care to admit it or not; that is why Twilight is such a success.
The Case Against
On the surface, Twilight haters may seem petty and to be simply rebelling against a system that has thrown Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus in our direction. For all it’s worth, Twilight is a member of that maligned group. The first Twilight DVD made a revenue of around $194,881,773 and rather than picking up Oscars, the Twilight cast instead graciously receive MTV and Nickelodeon awards. Respectively, these types of awards are never going to be held in high esteem. But these are all material things that could easily be linked to any other popular film franchises, so who cares? However, with the Twilight Saga there is something else that really gripes people.
Vampires as Friends Not Foes
For many, the different take on the mythology surrounding vampires is a large area of contempt. Not quite in the same frame as Dracula and Nosferatu, The Cullen’s choose not to feast on human blood and instead choose the much more sociable approach of animal blood. They also seem highly immune to many of the supposed ways of killing a vampire; stakes, crosses, garlic and holy water are all benign in the Twilight universe. Yet their immunity to sunlight is perhaps the greatest area of debate. Instead of being scolded and burning away, Twilight vampires innocently glitter in the sunlight revealing a diamond like skin. Now, this can easily be sniggered at. Not only does it detriment the eternal myth of vampires, it makes the actual characters seem nowhere near as dangerous as they should be, which is perhaps one of the biggest injustices Twilight does to itself. In comparison, the werewolves are so macho it borders on the ridiculous. Do they own any shirts at all you might find yourself asking? Of course, this is just nitpicking at what is essentially eye candy for girls. Yet, it is an interesting, if not flawed area of the films.
Acting vs Scripts
Another huge point of criticism is the acting. It was always unlikely that a teenage love story involving vampires would throw up a master-class in method acting, but at times Twilight can leave a lot to be desired. It would be unfair to single out just the actors, though – as quite often the scripts seem to be lacking any depth or strong story lines. Kirsten Stewart put in a great performance in the highly underrated Adventureland and Robert Pattinson’s effort in Water for Elephants was both subtle and charming. Although Taylor Lautner’s recent flick Abduction didn’t win him many plaudits, his progression from New Moon to Eclipse was impressive, to say the least. The awkward, and often cheaper looking action scenes, don’t help the cast much, but once again this is an issue of the budget. Michael Bay often crafts huge and overblown action scenes that cost millions, but is there any real emotional depth to those special effects?
So to answer the question: are the haters right? Well, in some ways, yes! Twilight could be improved in so many different areas that you could write an entire book on it. However, if serious movie goers want a vampire film that sticks to the original myths, but shows the blood suckers as reluctant and scared, then they should look no further than Let the Right One In. A perfectly crafted and stunningly beautiful vampire film, Let the Right One In would satisfy any movie lover. But perhaps for now the haters should let Twilight be, because it’s not going to go away any time soon!
The Future of Twilight Saga
With The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 only a few days away from release, what can we expect from the fourth instalment from the saga? Well, it will definitely be a lot darker and sexier. The trailer shows an intense love making scene between Edward and Bella and a pregnancy. For anyone who has read the book it’ll be interesting to see what director Bill Condon can get away with in a 12a movie. This could finally be the film that allows Twilight to truly break free from its shackles and be as daring and as dangerous as it should be. Yet, with the problems it has encountered in the past it could be the same old story once again. Twilight has a die-hard fan base that will guarantee the film a huge box office success, however the opposition could be so scathing that it could backfire on the entire production. The latter is highly unlikely, but you can never underestimate the power of social media and general consensus. Whatever happens, Twilight has been a huge phenomenon rarely seen in the film industry. It will leave a lasting impression on the lives of people it has touched and those it has repulsed. It has made mega stars of three upcoming and exciting actors and has allowed audiences to relate to monsters on a human level that they were previously told to be scared of. Imitations may come and go, but they won’t reach the high watermark that Edward, Bella and Jacob have left.