When the final installment of Twilight premiered in theaters in 2012, it became one of the biggest blockbusters of all time, pulling in more than $850 million worldwide. Since then, J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard – now a trilogy box set – has held the top spot on the American bookshelves, and Robert Pattinson’s vampire dreamboat has become a worldwide icon.
While Twilight’s appeal may be undeniable, the wildly popular saga isn’t for everyone. For those looking for a change of pace from the usual fantasy novel fare, here are some alternatives to consider.
Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves
The first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was released in May 2014 and stars an incredible cast, including Russell Crowe, Mark Ruffalo, and Kevin Hart. This adaptation of the 1991 film by Timeless Productions features a contemporary setting, but the combat styles, medieval costumes, and medieval weaponry remain intact.
While it has received largely positive reviews, some critics argue that the shift in setting from the medieval to modern doesn’t gel seamlessly. The action sequences take a bit too much of a Back To The Future vibe, and the characters still largely function within the confines of their rigidly defined archetypes.
The Hobbit is the first of three prequel films to Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Although not technically a “virgin” film, the $250 million prequel does not feature any scenes between Gandalf the Wizard (Ian McKellen) and Aragorn (Andy Serkis).
Instead, it follows the adventures of Bilbo Baggins (played by Martin Freeman), who teams up with a dwarfish character named Gandalf the Wizard (played by McKellen) to save the good folk of Middle Earth from the menace of a great white dragon named Smaug.
The Hobbit has received widespread acclaim, and some of the praise is due to its groundbreaking depiction of dwarfism. Critics claimed that it broke new ground in terms of diversity, especially given that it centered around a character who is a “mixed-race” individual named Bilbo Baggins. Moreover, the fact that it was directed by a woman, Franck Khalfoun, made it even more intriguing.
This adaptation of the classic J.R.R. Tolkien novel was the only movie to premiere in theaters this year. While it’s unlikely that we’ll see a fourth film anytime soon, the first Hobbit trilogy box set is currently available on DVD and Blu-ray.
The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games is a 2012 American dystopian thriller film based on the eponymous novel by Suzanne Collins. It is the first of three films in the franchise and the second movie to be directed by Gary Ross. The first film in the series premiered in theaters on March 2, 2012, and the most recent installment, Mockingjay – Part 2, was released in theaters on November 16, 2016.
The story centers on the fictional country of Panem, where each year a tournament known as the Hunger Games is held to determine the winner of a public execution by beheading. After the winners are announced, they are forced to go on a pre-determined survivalist path or face the wrath of the people. The central question in this dark saga is, “Who will stand up for the underdogs?”
Touted as the “female Harry Potter,” Elizabeth Banks stars as the main character, Effie Trinket, a baker from Colorado who wins the right to represent her state in the Hunger Games. She then recruits a ragtag group of friends and joins forces with a former Olympic athlete named Finnick, played by Liam Neeson, to take down the tyrannical head of state, President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
The Hunger Games was an instant international sensation and, like Twilight, has since become a true phenomenon, earning over $650 million at the box office worldwide. The first Hunger Games film held the number-one position on the annual box office chart for three consecutive years. As of October 2018, it had made over $850 million in theaters.
The Transporter Refueled
The Transporter Refueled is the second film in the Transporter series and stars Jason Statham, who plays a high-tech transporter named Ethan Hunt. The film premiered in theaters on September 27, 2018, and while it doesn’t feature the original stars from the franchise, it does feature some incredible new faces. It’s a completely self-contained story that doesn’t rely on the previous installment for much of anything.
The primary plot centers on Hunt (played by Statham) and his quest to recover a stolen nuclear weapon that has been smuggled out of a South African military facility. Along the way, he befriends a fellow agent, Natalia Rome, who helps him infiltrate a dangerous criminal organization. The film also features Wagner Moura, Pedro Pascal, and Keith Stanfield. While it’s difficult to put into words what makes this film so special, it’s safe to assume that it has something to do with Statham’s incredible versatility and knack for finding the humor in even the most dire of situations.
Alice In Wonderland
Alice In Wonderland remains one of the most beloved fantasy classics. It was first published in 1865 and later incorporated into Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, a 1865 children’s book by Lewis Carroll. The 1865 version of Alice In Wonderland is considered one of the first “pulp” novels and was immensely popular in its day. Many of its themes, such as classism, drug use, and a child-centric world, still resonate today.
Alice, the eponymous protagonist played by Mia Wasikowska, is a young girl who finds herself in a strange land filled with peculiar creatures that defy logic and nature. She ultimately finds her way to the “White Rabbit’s” house for a mind-blowing tea party and encounters the Queen of Hearts (Mia Fisher), the Mad Hatter (Ethan Peck), the Cheshire Cat (Luke Evans), and the Red Queen (Anne Hathaway), who are all vying for her attention and affection. One of the most memorable scenes from the movie is Alice’s encounter with the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), who emerges from his cocoon only to reveal that he is, in fact, an “Alice” – an “Alice” within an “Alice” (a double-entendre if ever there was one).
The 2018 Alice In Wonderland was a cinematic homage to the original novel and drew rave reviews for its meticulous details and faithful adaptation. Although it didn’t meet the incredible $100 million budget that the film industry is used to throwing around, it still did just fine, making over $600 million at the box office.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Richemont, the company that owns the Swiss-made watch brand, filed for bankruptcy in 2015, and as a result all the trademark registrations for the name Crouching Tiger were revoked by the government. The latest film adaptation of the beloved novel by Yuen Woong, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Crouching Tiger 2) premiered at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2018 and marks the Hollywood debut of Woong, who wrote and directed the first installment. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon follows a trio of martial artists who fight for survival in a cave while trying to discover the identity of a woman they have been trapped with for 500 years.
The story’s setting is supposed to be reminiscent of Beijing’s Imperial Palace, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, most of the palace’s incredible details – like the elaborate gates and red walls – were completely stripped away, replaced by a Hollywood studio backlot.
Nonetheless, as impressive as the palace looked in the film, it wasn’t completely computer-generated. Rather, it was built in Spain and transported to China for the shoot.