When it comes to famous fictional series, few can match the worldwide success of The Twilight books and movies. Since premiering in 2006 with Spartacus, the saga has continued to rack up awards and accolades – most recently earning a spot on Time’s 100 greatest list as one of the greatest series of all time. To date, the books have sold over 450 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 40 languages.
With its large following and cultural impact, it’s not surprising that fans of the series have been eager to see the end product of Victoria’s (played by Kristen Stewart) and Robert Pattinson’s (a.k.a. Robert Pattinson) collaboration. To that end, the Twilight duo recently released Twilight: The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment in the series. Based on the popular comic book series of the same name, the film picks up where the previous movie left off and follows the battle for Gotham between Batman (played by Christian Bale) and his arch nemesis, Bane (played by Tom Hardy).
Despite its successful cast and premiere at the top of the box office, Dark Knight Rises faced heavy criticism from fans who felt that the new movie did a poor job at continuing the magical world introduced in the first two films.
In The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, the final installment of the series that was released in 2012, fans get to see a baby Bella (played by Stewart) grow up before their very eyes. The sequel also sees the return of several original cast members and ends on an emotional note, cementing Bella’s transition from girl to woman.
While the Dark Knight Rises may have addressed many of the concerns that Twilight fans had, it did so at the cost of severing the cinematic magic that made the series so special in the first place. Is the final product worth the investment for fans who are seeking a satisfying conclusion to the saga?
Continuing the Magical World
For those who’ve been following the series from the beginning, Twilight continues to be an ambitious and groundbreaking cinematic achievement, not just because it’s a movie adaptation but also because it attempted to carry over the magic of the source material onto the big screen. While prior adaptations of The Twilight books focused on the visceral thrill of the vampire fight scenes, Summit Entertainment and Director Chris Weitz opted to go for a more personal and magical approach. Rather than focusing on the bloodsucking creatures as Michael Jackson did in his titular 1990 film, the emphasis in Twilight is on the strange yet compelling relationship that develops between human and wolf – a relationship that draws on Native American legends and the fey folk of Scottish and English folklore.
From the very beginning, the focus in Twilight was on Bella’s (Stewart) magical journey as she undergoes a metamorphosis from girl to woman, a process that is symbolized by her evolving relationship with her animal companion, a wolf named Jacob (played by Billy Burke).
Although Twilight took a while to find its legs at the box office – it wasn’t until 2007’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 that the series truly broke out, earning over $750 million at the box office and spawning a popular DVD trend that continues to this day – people are still intrigued by Twilight’s unique take on the vampire genre. What is it about the series that drew in audiences in the first place?
First off, let’s establish that vampires and werewolves are not characters found in traditional stories or literature. Instead, they’re modern-day creatures that began popping up in fictional works in the early 19th century, with the first full-length novel Dracula being published in 1847. In the novel, Bram Stoker presents us with a character named Dracula, who is often compared to the creatures of myth because of his predatory nature and unrivalled skills as a seducer of womenfolk.
As with most predators, vampires are at their most menacing when cornered – they’re also known to be highly bloodthirsty, which ties into their predatory nature. While there is no typical vampire or werewolf, the creatures have since been associated with greed, jealousy, and a lust for blood (hence the common phrase, “You suck my blood”).
Although Dracula and the other novels in the series don’t follow a traditional storytelling structure, they do contain many traditional storytelling elements. For example, in order to trick or seduce a woman, a vampire is often required to play the “seduction game.” In this game, the vampire starts by complimenting the woman he or she is seducing and then proceeds to drain the woman’s blood, slowly at first, then increasingly faster and more passionately the longer the game goes on. This pattern – of slow seduction followed by animal-like passion – runs through much of Dracula‘s narrative.
Another key component to Twilight‘s appeal is its unique depiction of werewolves and vampires as sympathetic characters. Although they are typically associated with violence and horror, the creatures of the night are instead shown engaging in self-reflection and introspection as they navigate their complicated relationships with humans and other animals.
In the films, the vampires and werewolves rarely kill animals, preferring to feed off human blood. This leads to a tense yet engaging dynamic between the creatures and the animals they feed off, creating an uneasy alliance. While the “vampire vs. animal world” scenario is a common narrative in films, what makes Twilight stand out is its humancentric view of the world: we are the main characters in the story, and the animals appear as ciphers for the humans. This focus on the human experience is something that has drawn audiences to this series from the beginning and made it a unique contribution to the cinematic history of vampires and werewolves.
The ‘New’ and the ‘Old’
For years, fans had to make do with adaptations of novels that were published in the early 20th century. As society transitioned from an agrarian to an industrial one, the emphasis in cinema shifted from naturalistic depictions of the characters’ day-to-day lives to more fantastical storytelling. Vampires and werewolves, who were often associated with medieval mythology, didn’t entirely fit into this emerging cinematic narrative – they still have their day in the sun but now had to contend with the advances of science and technology.
Summit Entertainment and Director Chris Weitz have sought to update the classic creatures for modern audiences, giving them a more ‘human-like’ appearance and behavior, which is most apparent in Stewart’s Bella. Whereas most vampires in old films were portrayed as thin and pale, Stewart’s choice to play the part called for her to gain weight, undergo a full-body transformation, and show off her curves. In addition, rather than just turning into a monster at night, the werewolves in the films now undergo a full transformation whenever they change their minds – something that was not seen in older versions of the creatures.
Although the overall look of the creatures has changed, their story hasn’t. Summit Entertainment has sought to retain the essential elements that made the classic creatures so special in the first place, and with the help of Director Chris Weitz, they’ve brought those elements to life with stunning visual effects and incredible attention to detail. Even the smallest nuances in the way the creatures move and act are incredibly realistic thanks to Weitz and his team.
Is It All Worth It?
Victoria’s (Stewart) transformation from human to vampire is a long and eventful one that not even a Hollywood blockbuster could capture in a single film. For fans who’ve been following the series from the beginning, it’s not just about watching Stewart grow up before their eyes, but also about seeing her undergo a physically and emotionally challenging transition. It also marks a turning point in the narrative, with Bella entering a new phase of her life and becoming the woman she is destined to be – a powerful and influential beacon for girls and women around the world.