by Drew Hunt
I've seen every film in the series, spurned by both my curiosity as to why these films are so popular and also by my girlfriend, who harbors a morbid fascination with all things Twilight and has spoken to me at length about the novels' appalling misogyny. (I'm not going to address that subject here, but I will say that if I ever have a daughter, there's no way in hell I'm letting her anywhere near those things.) Now that the tale of Bella and Edward has reached its conclusion, I'm left feeling duped. In fact, I'm less convinced that The Twilight Saga is a series of films and more convinced that it's an elaborate practical joke aimed at people who give a damn about culture.
The Twilight movies are ideal indicators of how complacent mainstream moviegoing has become. It's a culture that rewards a film (over $1 billion and counting in the United States alone) for achieving the barest of minimums, and asks for nothing more than to be distracted for two and a half hours. This isn't necessarily their fault, of course. The last decade of Hollywood movies is brimming with remakes, sequels, and remakes of sequels, cashing in on the built-in audiences of preexisting source material. It's an efficient ruse that worked—and continues to work—like gangbusters. Case in point: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, a single book that was needlessly split into two films. It made little sense from a storytelling standpoint, but worked brilliantly as a moneymaking scheme to squeeze every last possible dime out of Harry Potter enthusiasts.The model was so successful that the Twilight series did the same with Breaking Dawn.
In other words, Hollywood is cashing in on the admittedly reliable notion that audiences will turn out in droves to see something they already like. That's what makes the lack of ambition in these films so astounding. It's not even that they're bad, although they certainly are—the first film, simply titled Twilight, looks like it was directed by a Full Sail film student who slept through half her classes, and the rest don't fare much better. Rather, it's that audiences never once demanded that the filmmakers do any better. With each new installment came the same essential formula; no risks, whether thematically, visually, or otherwise, were taken. (In this regard, the first Twilight film, despite its clunky structure and downright moronic stylization, is far and away the most interesting because it at least aspires to provide a unique experience.) And yet audiences were content, even downright elated, to march into their local cineplex and endure something unimpressive; they could have stayed home and seen essentially the same thing on TV.
With each new Twilight film I saw, I hoped for some sort of variation or alternate take, something that spoke to an authorial point of view that wasn't merely a direct translation of an existing text—you know, something like a movie. I guess that's too much to ask for in a world where it's apparently acceptable for a teenaged werewolf dude to fall in love with a half-human/half-vampire baby that ages at six times the normal rate and is born with teeth. Go figure.