OPINION: As TVNZ prepares to unleash the horror of the Twilight movie series over the next month of Sundays, James Croot looks back at the time he bravely binge-watched the entire five-film series.
They say the darkest hour is before the dawn.
Well, in my case, it was the whole 608 minutes it took to navigate this once insanely popular “emo-operetta”, from Bella and Edward’s first meeting to Breaking Dawn Part II‘s “epic” showdown.
TWILIGHT (2008, TVNZ 2, 7.30pm tonight and then on TVNZ OnDemand)
As Bella’s (Kristen Stewart) voice-over ominously intoned that she’d “never given much thought to how I will die”, I contemplated whether death by vampire-romance pentalogy would be considered an honourable demise. Probably not and my mother might never get over the shame (my father was still in denial about me owning a Madonna CD when he passed).
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, Twilight has been praised for its Bronte-like vision of girl meets vampire. But for me, this tale of a former Miss Phoenix who relocates to Forks, Washington, felt more reminiscent of the original Beverly Hills 90210, with Bella essaying Brenda Walsh and her potential beau boasting Luke Perry’s hair.
The only difference was Robert Pattinson was playing a character older than his actual age (Edward Cullen is about 108 here).
Although somewhat bland (the violence and thus peril is weirdly understated) and bogged down by some appalling dialogue (“Your scent is like my own personal brand of heroin”), Hardwicke’s movie is kind of fun, with Taylor Lautner’s awful wig and Anna Kendrick’s eyebrows the standouts.
By the time bad vamp Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre) is seen scheming, I’m ready to see more.
NEW MOON (2009, iTunes)
Now, confession time. I did know a little about this one from having watched the god-awful spoof movie Vampires’ Suck, which, to my horror, now appears to have been virtually a shot-for-shot remake of Chris Weitz’s symbol-heavy melodrama.
Instead of Wuthering Heights we have Romeo and Juliet, as Edward is forced to give up Bella because some of his family members want to suck her blood. Then it goes all Jules et Jim/Pearl Harbour-y as Lautner’s Jacob attempts to muscle in on Bella.
Melancholy in the extreme, it has lines such as, “If this is about my soul, take it, I don’t want it without you”.
New Moon also introduces the nefarious Vampire Council, The Voltari, which adds an element of humour (“I’ve never met anyone more prone to life threatening idiocy”, Edward’s sister, Alice, berates Bella) and Lautner’s infamous inability to keep a shirt on. Of course, Edward eventually decides Bella is worth the potential heartache and so by the end of the film he’s proposing marriage.
ECLIPSE (2010, iTunes)
Ah yes, the one where nothing much happens.
Essentially, Bella spends the movie mulling over Edward’s proposal while supposedly fighting off the seemingly unwanted attentions of Jacob: a pasty miserablist or a smug git, and both of them seem incapable of going five minutes without shedding a shirt.
David Slade’s film is essentially a slasher (someone is playing serial killer in Seattle), but it also marks the overt start of what many have called “abstinence porn”, as Bella attempts to keep Jacob at bay and Edward resists Bella’s demands to “turn her”.
And for Mormon conspiracists, the more bizarre elements of Meyer’s religion make an audible appearance when Jacob helpfully offers a solution to their three-way conundrum: “You can love more than one person at a time”.
BREAKING DAWN PART I (2011, iTunes)
Promising match, hatch and near-dispatch, Bill Condon’s take on Meyer’s last book was controversially cleaved into two bite-sized pieces.
As the film opens, everybody appears to have made up, and even Jacob begrudgingly accepts the nuptials are going to happen.
Shirts are off within 30 seconds and even Bella joins in the act as the wedding gives away to a South American honeymoon. But the couple look like they have more fun playing seemingly endless games of chess. The sex is bad, and anyone who has seen Aliens or The Fly will know what to expect as Bella’s instant vampiric pregnancy puts a dampener on the rest of their honeymoon.
“I know how this ends and I’m not sticking around to watch, ” Lautner’s Jacob opines when he discovers what’s happened.
If only I could have followed his lead.
But while Bella’s Christian Bale-style transformation and blood- smoothie drinking doesn’t make for pleasant viewing, it’s the badly CGI talking wolves that are the true visual grotesques. And they are literally at the door when Bella’s heart gives out and Edward is forced to “turn her” to save her.
BREAKING DAWN PART II (2012, iTunes)
I twi-d really hard to like this, but for me the cinematic adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s vampiric magnum opus ends with more of a whimper than a bang.
To be fair the source material has to take the wolves’ share of the blame, this one tries to channel The Merchant of Venice, but instead leaves one feeling more like quoting Macbeth: “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (thanks largely to one of the worst writing cop outs since TV series Dallas decided it “needed” a shower scene).
The man seeking his pound of flesh here is Volturi leader Aro (an extremely camp Michael Sheen). Word has reached him that not only has human Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) been turned, but that she and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) have had an immortal child, the latter something forbidden under vampiric lore. The punishment is the destruction of the entire coven, something the Cullen clan are naturally enough keen to avoid, especially when the child in question is actually a hybrid, born not bitten and growing at an accelerated rate.
Artful opening credits, varying film speeds and impressive vistas suggest something memorable, but all hope of portent and promise goes out the window early with the titter-inducing CGI-d baby Renesmee, an over-reliance on X-Men-esque special powers (why can’t a vampire just be a vampire?) and the sudden desire of the film-makers to cram as many songs into the first half an hour as possible (clearly someone realised this was the last chance to shift soundtracks).
This results in the story taking a long time to settle down, which it does quite effectively in the middle section before losing the plot as the characters lose their heads – Highlander style.
Breaking Dawn? More like “Breaking Down” as what started as an interesting fantastical take on the traditional high school romance, ends up with this bizarre mutant slugfest.
Twilight will screen at 7.30pm tonight (Halloween) on TVNZ 2 with subsequent instalments airing each Sunday. They will also be available on TVNZ OnDemand. This is an update of an article that first appeared in 2018.