Well, of course, a lot of people like Twilight a lot.
Boxofficemojo tells us Breaking Dawn, the 4th in the series, has pulled in $226 million in 13 days, and the entire series over $1billion. That’s a lot of ticket sales, from a lot of happy viewers.
But you know what I mean. The whole franchise has attracted lots of sneering, lots of contempt, lots of derision for those who dare to say they like it.
To a lot of people these movies are mindless, pappy, simplistic crimes against cinema.
I’m not sure why the phenomenon makes people so angry, why they don’t just ignore it.
I came late to the Twilight franchise. Saw the second one, thought it was better than I’d expected, was dragged to the fourth one last night.
And, to my surprise, I really enjoyed it.
Oh sure, it’s slow. Languorous tending to glacial sometimes, mainly because they like to hold on to their moments. (Boy do they like to hold on to their moments. They squeeze everything they can out of each emotional beat. I had to laugh as they held a shot, held a beat of love, or despair, or grief, held it on and on until I felt they couldn’t possibly get any more out of it – and then they did!)
But this movie knows why Science Fiction/Fantasy is such fun – it takes its metaphors, its themes, and makes them concrete on screen.
And that works so well in this case because Twilight, Breaking Dawn isn’t messing about with trivialities.
Breaking Dawn is primal.
From the very opening monologue it’s about some of the deepest things we have: what it takes to become an adult, and what falling in love can involve.
And it hits these concerns full centre, full power.
First of all it’s a neat dramatisation of a Love dialectic. We get both versions. Classic romantic, an eternal truth (the vampires), and a more cynically deconstructed scientific notion of a gene-spreading imperative that deceives about its true nature (the imprinting of the werewolves).
Then it’s about fundamental, primitive role models and mythic archetypes. All consuming romantic pairings. The stakes and dangers of giving yourself to another.
The classic coupling of sex and death is put on screen so graphically in Bella’s wedding night. That ominous sense of doom, that starts so early, and gets ever more potent the closer they get to the bedroom, is very powerful.
And deservedly so. In this story it’s a serious possibility if she and Edward make love he will lose control and tear her apart.
And yet she loves him much she does it anyway.
And, like a real, strong man, the most desirable kind of man (in archetypal terms) he could destroy her but he controls himself.
And as a result they both have ‘the best night of their existence’.
Doesn’t that drive deep into the terrible anxiety about sexuality that plague most of us somewhere deep down when we are teenagers – and hits some people for the rest of their lives?
And then, impossibly, she’s pregnant. This can’t happen – but it does. And not in a good way. In a very, very scary bad way.
It’s growing too fast, it’s out of control, who knows what’s in there…?
Another primal target hit full on.
There’s another theme woven throughout: the basic rite of passage, the time when you replace your family for your lover and you become an adult.
One of my favourite moments in the whole movie is the wonderfully funny look of anguished, determination on the father’s face at his daughter’s wedding.
(Incidentally, this is a theme shared with Mama Mia – perhaps not coincidentally another much sneered at global smash.)
Twilight asks How important is Love? How far would you go? Would you leave everything you value? Would you step into a dark unknown? Would you surrender to a far greater power? Would you dare to swap your soul for love of another? Would you? Would you really? And if you would, how incredible must the experience of that love be?
Oh, and finally, it’s about Bella. An ordinary teenage girl, who just happens to be the centre of a massive web of protection, practically the centre of the world.
Just about every event in the story, every concern of every character, is Bella driven. Her safety, and her emotional wellbeing moves everyone.
If you were a teenage girl wouldn’t you thrill to that idea?
Come on. Don’t be curmudgeonly. What’s wrong with making films for teenage girls? Don’t they deserve a bit of the magic too? Especially when it goes so deep into what makes us human.
Genuinely loved it. Can’t wait to see what happens next time.
Oh, and if you want to get into another animated debate here’s another post about Lord of the Rings wiping the floor with Harry Potter. There’s a pretty lively comments section…