Someone had to do it, and the task has fallen to me, because I foolishly admitted to quite liking the Twilight movies.
Say what you like about The Twilight Saga, but the movies are escapist and fun, and they also have some of the best scores I’ve ever heard, courtesy of Carter Burwell (Twilight, Breaking Dawn 1 and 2), Alexandre Desplat (New Moon), and Howard Shore (Eclipse). The stories are immersive, when viewed in the right frame of mind, and the casting is second to none.
However, I’m not one of those who think the Twilight movies are dramatic masterpieces. They’re silly, and they’re fun, and they captured the imagination of their target audience (12 year old girls, rather than me). They succeed in doing what they set out to do and, barring Breaking Dawn Part 2 (which I’ll get to later) they are extremely faithful to the books.
I’ve been ordered to write this article with something approaching seriousness, so I’m not allowed to do jokes about Bella’s one facial expression, or Jacob’s constant nudity, or Michael Sheen going “Oh myyyy…” like he’s just seen two cats doing it in the middle of the road. I probably will anyway. I’ll just conveniently forget that I’m not supposed to.
Here we go then. For each movie, I’ll give a brief rundown of the plot, then explain why it wins and loses points.
5. Eclipse (2010)
Plot: Bella can’t decide between Edward and Jacob. Meanwhile, bad vampire Victoria is raising an undead army to come and finish off the Cullens, to avenge the death of her boyfriend James. Meanwhile, Bella can’t decide between Edward and Jacob.
Wins points for: the opening scene where Riley is bitten and turned into a vampire. The origin stories of Jasper and Rosalie. Hilarious nudity from the angry werewolves. Jane (of the Volturi) turning up and being a badass.
Loses points for: Bella’s wholly unconvincing attraction to Jacob. Bella’s wholly unconvincing wig. Bella’s unconvincing refusal to marry Edward despite him apparently being the love of her life, and the fact that he’ll grant her wish and turn her into a vampire if she marries him.
This movie is the weak link in the chain – it seems to be full of filler and exposition, rather than anything necessary to move the story along. The movie does at least make an effort to use all the most interesting plot points from the book, but on the whole this seems superfluous to the series. Victoria, even with an army, is not threatening enough to carry the entire film on her shoulders, not when the rest of her coven were dispatched so easily in the previous films.
Eclipse really just serves to tie up one of two loose ends, and to attempt to convince us that Jacob might even have one percent of a chance of ending up with Bella. The origin stories of Jasper and Rosalie do add some interest to the movie, but they may have the unintended consequence of making these supporting characters more interesting than the main players.
4. New Moon (2009)
Plot: Edward dumps Bella ‘for her own good’. Bella is sad. Bella hangs out with Jacob. Bella friendzones Jacob. Jacob becomes a naked werewolf.
Wins points for: Bella not having everything her own way for once. Head of the evil vampires being played by Tony Blair.
Loses points for: Lack of Cullens.
I personally love New Moon, but I’m attempting to view it objectively, and I have to admit that, apart from Eclipse, it’s the least necessary film in the series. It does serve to introduce Jacob as a main character, but the main point of the film (and the book) appears to be to introduce some genuine conflict in Bella’s life. In particular, I’m a big fan of the scene depicting Bella’s comatose state when Edward leaves, which is shown in the books by blank pages.
However, I can’t ignore the absence of the Cullens for the majority of the film, as let’s face it, they are the main selling point of the franchise. The movie does attempt to make up for the lack of R-Patz with a buff Taylor Lautner, but this seems like something of a consolation prize.
Also, Aro of the Volturi is played by Tony Blair.
3. Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012)
Plot: Bella is now a vampire. Jacob falls in love with Bella’s baby daughter (really). The Cullens and the werewolves have a fight with the Volturi, but not really.
Wins points for: The rather large fight scene – the ground literally swallows people up, and Edward picks Bella up and hits Aro with her. The Carter Burwell score, particularly the opening.
Loses points for: The creepy CG baby with teeth, the ‘it was all a dream’ ending. Jacob falling in love with the creepy baby. Aro being about as threatening as Nick Clegg, but still played by Tony Blair.
I’ve spent roughly the last three hours trying to put the final three films into some sort of order. I’ve also been crying and eating cookies. There is so little, in my opinion, to separate them, but Breaking Dawn Part 2 just narrowly misses out on a higher spot. The good parts are awesome, but the bad parts are too bad to be forgiven.
Stephenie Meyer wrote the final showdown between the Cullens and the Volturi with no fighting. She said she wanted it to be more like a ‘courtroom battle of wits’. However, the powers that be decided this wasn’t badass enough, so introduced the decapitating, kicking and general tomfoolery we see in the film.
They made this gel with the book’s intended conclusion by using one of the most unforgivable of plot devices – the entire battle was a vision in Aro’s head.
Similarly, Jacob’s ‘imprinting’ on creepy baby Renesmee was necessary if his alliance with the Cullens was to be explained. But it’s still creepy, especially when we see that Jacob does nothing but imagine what she’s going to look like when she’s a few years older.
2. Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011)
Plot: Bella and Edward get married. They have a boring honeymoon for about a month, where they do nothing but play chess. Bella gets pregnant, presumably from all the chess. Bella dies, but then doesn’t.
Wins points for: Bella going into labor, which is sufficiently grisly and awesome – Edward has to actually eat the baby out of her. The brilliant special effects and makeup that make Bella look like this –
Loses points for: everything else in the film.
This film would rank a lot lower if it weren’t for the labor scene, which is comparable to something out of Alien or The Fly. In fact, everything about Bella’s pregnancy is gruesome enough to make it interesting. By this point in the series, you might be forgiven for thinking that the pregnancy and the labour would be like a scene from Cinderella, with random woodland creatures boiling water and bringing clean towels. Not so.
However, not everyone will have made it to the payoff of the second half, because first you have to endure the wedding and honeymoon, which is about as interesting as a repeat of House Hunters.
1. Twilight (2008)
Plot: 17 year old girl meets 104 year old teenage vampire. They fall in love. Some bad vampires pick a fight with them. Then they go to senior prom.
Wins points for: Carter Burwell’s score. The big reveal in the woods. The fight in the ballet studio, the bad guys. The casting. The endless blue filter, which I like.
Loses points for: Bella’s ‘limited’ facial expressions. The endless blue filter.
A lot was riding on this first adaptation, and for my money, it rises to the occasion admirably. It manages to remain faithful to the book, while successfully trimming away the less important parts of the plot. In fact, it improves on some aspects of the book. The ‘big reveal’ (where Bella discovers what was obvious to us all along) is given a much needed injection of drama. It takes place in a suitable atmospheric forest scene, whereas in the book, the whole matter is disclosed during a casual conversation in the car.
The casting is also spot on. Despite fan misgivings before the movie’s release (original fan choices for Bella and Edward were Emily browning and Henry Cavill) the public soon warmed to the chosen cast. Jackson Rathbone (Jasper) and Cam Gigandet (James) also auditioned for Edward, and Jennifer Lawrence auditioned for Bella, but I think the casting team made the right choice. Kristen Stewart may have been criticised for her… less than emotive acting style, but the chemistry between her and Robert Pattinson is undeniable.
At first the movie was going to be a world away from the book, with Bella sporting night vision goggles and being a star athlete, courtesy of MTV Films. Thankfully this never materialised, and Lionsgate took over production, thus keeping the book’s loyal fanbase.
Put simply – if you like the book, you’ll like the film, and this can’t be underestimated. The Twilight movie, is, like the book, an escapist story of romance and wish fulfilment. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it never intended to be. However, as an adaptation of a bestselling book, it does a damn fine job.