You’d think that, after a few films now, we’d know exactly what to expect from Robert Pattinson. But no, at least not in this case. For his upcoming feature film, The Twilight Saga: Tenet, Pattinson has crafted an origin story that is both intriguing and completely out of the ordinary. It’s inspired by true events but uses a completely new set of characters. It’s not the typical Robert Pattinson movie you might have seen before. And for fans of the vampire franchise, you’re in for a treat.
New York City Setting
The first thing that will draw your attention is the New York City setting. The film’s premiere will be held at the historic SVA Theater in New York City, and not at a movie theater in Los Angeles or San Francisco, as was the case with the rest of the series. The scene in Tenet is modern and bustling, yet there are also references to classic films and literature. The latter can be attributed to the fact that the main character, David Packard, references the works of Bram Stoker and William Shakespeare. So this setting is a clear indication that this story is very much a product of its time. It references both the late ‘90s and early 2000s.
In writing the character biography for Tenet, Pattinson said this about David Packard: “He was an average joe who got pulled into something more.”
This is very different from his portrayal of Edward Cullen, who is often described as charismatic and compelling. In reality, David Packard is neither of those things. Or rather, he was never able to harness his natural charisma or pull power. This is made evident by the fact that he usually serves as the secondary or supporting protagonist, with the occasional scene-stealing turn from time to time. Yet David Packard is a fully-fledged protagonist. At least, we’re led to believe that he is, because his journey is the film’s primary focus. It’s also the only character we’re allowed to empathize with. For whatever reason, Pattinson didn’t want to give David Packard’s story a cinematic treatment until now.
The crux of the story is the emergence of a dangerous new creature that is the result of scientific experiments gone wrong. The government agency, Division 13, which is responsible for these incidents, calls them “hybrids,” and it’s up to David Packard to hunt them down and destroy them. So it’s clear from the get-go that these creatures are something different, not just the result of science but actual manifestations of it. To say the least. Take a look:
- Ava (Alice Englert), a human who has been turned into one of these creatures, known as an ‘avatar’;
- Eddie (Alexandra Burrows), a werewolf;
- Tara (Taylor John Thomas), a vampire;
- Sasha (Victoria’s Secret Angel), a vampire bat;
- and, last but not least,
- Ava’s son, Max (Joe Anderson).
The first three are human, but the latter three are not. Also, as we’ve established, these are not ordinary vampires. They’re hybrids, created in a laboratory as part of a secret government program. So while other films in the franchise have used Vampires as archetypes or tropes, here they serve as a literal description of what this movie is about.
Another thing that makes Tenet stand out is its expanded focus. While the other films in the series have often been viewed as character-based stories more than anything else, Tenet is much more character-centric. The other films in the series have always been about vampires and werewolves, which is understandable. They’re the main subject matter of the franchise after all. But, with the exception of Eclipse, which focuses on the romance between Bella and Edward over the course of their senior year in high school, the other films have usually avoided delving too deeply into the human characters’ stories. There have been exceptions, of course, like New Moon, which does double duty as a tale of Bella’s burgeoning friendship with and subsequent infatuation with anguished young man, Jacob Black. But those scenes, while deliciously awkward, don’t overshadow the main story, which centers around Alice and her need for acceptance and love. This is far more the case with Tenet.
In Tenet, we’re given much more attention to David Packard’s story and the tribulations he faces. While the other films have featured cameos and short scenes that add little more than color, Tenet is a much more substantial beast. In particular, the opening minutes of the film are entirely dedicated to giving us a glimpse at David Packard’s past and how he came to be the man he is today. Which, in turn, makes the film feel all the more impactful and meaningful. This isn’t the case with the other installments of the franchise. It doesn’t hurt that Tenet‘s screenplay was co-written by the same team that brought you The Twilight Saga. (The movie’s director, David Michôd, also directed the first two The Twilight installments.)
More Than Ever
While the franchise as a whole has grown, the individual films have maintained a core group of fans. But that doesn’t mean that the popularity of the series has declined. Quite the opposite, in fact. As we’ve established, the series is built on the popularity of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. Over the course of the past ten years, their characters have become synonymous with the term “vampire” in popular culture. So much so, that “vampire” now has its very own entry in the Oxford English Dictionary. (Incidentally, the OED also recognizes “werewolf” and “zombie” as terms that have become common parlance over the past decade.) It’s safe to assume that all of this could not have happened without the work of Stephenie Meyer and her crack team of writers. And even then, it took until the fifth film, Eclipse (2008) for the franchise to truly achieve critical and financial success.
If you’re a fan of the Twilight saga, then it’s likely that you’ll enjoy the new movie. And that’s exactly what Robert Pattinson had in mind when he signed on to play the lead role. “I have such a passion for this franchise,” he said in a press release. “It’s so strange how many people love it, because it’s really not that interesting of a story. I mean, it’s a love story between a human and a vampire. But it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. So as an actor, it’s very exciting to have the opportunity to bring that to life.”
Ultimately, what makes the movie so compelling is its fresh take on a very well-established universe. Not only have the events in this film occurred almost a decade after the last Twilight installment, but they’ve also diverged significantly from the books on which the film is based. For instance, in the novel The Death Cure, Bella visits London for a few days before Edward’s funeral. But in the movie, that sequence takes place before the events in The Twilight, which means it couldn’t be filmed. Similarly, in the novel, the Cullens barely acknowledge the existence of Jacob Black, while in the movie, they’re clearly wary of him. So they could never exist in the same universe. That’s not even mentioning the way in which the characters have aged. For example, while Edward is still considered a hottie among the teenage set, others might consider him a little too ‘brooding cool guy’ for their taste.
However, with all the talk of fresh takes and diverging paths, it’s important to remember where this story stands in relation to the others. While it has all the makings of a great solo-hero movie, it also functions as a prequel to the rest of the franchise. So if you’re already invested in the broader story, then it’s worth noting where this particular installment fits in. For better or worse, the future of the Vampire saga is now in our hands.