Ah, yes. The Twilight Saga. Famous for its sparkly vampires and 6-pack abs werewolf-men.
Basically all of us remember the hype for this book (and later film) series when it was coming out. However, it was also met with very harsh critique and just overall pure hate.
Most of it came from the then-underground meme world of iFunny, when it would label the movies as “bad” and Kristen Stewart as an emotionless robot of an actress. As a result, I have to say I was very shocked. Now, I feel like those critiques, while totally subjective, weren’t really fair. Why? One party blindly praised the movies and the other hated them to an extreme level.
So here I am, resurgence of Twilight on the horizon, challenging all of those people by rewatching the series with a careful, objective, yet compassionate film student’s eye, and seeing just how bad (or actually good) The Twilight Saga really is.
To begin with, let’s talk about story structure and plot.
The saga begins with a story mainly about our protagonist, Bella Swan, and her move from Phoenix, Arizona, to Forks, Washington. Here is where she meets Edward Cullen, a hot, mysterious, distant boy that interacts with no one. Not only is her fancy stricken (due to this being an adaptation of a romance novel), but her curiosity is as well. So after a near-death experience where she’s saved by Edward by him stopping a moving car with his bare hands, Bella embarks on an investigative journey to find out the truth about him. After much independent research and a trip to the woods with Edward later, she finds out that he and his family, the Cullens, are in fact sparkly vampires. This then sets the course for what is going to be the adventure of Bella’s life.
So, let’s break it down.
Firstly, the setting is extremely important when taking the quality of a story into consideration. And the story-world of Forks, Washington is a very intriguing one. It’s a small town with a rich, supernatural, and mystic history.
Second, the fact that vampires’ skin shines like diamonds in this series is interesting storytelling. In the first movie itself, Edward says: “Everything about me invites you in. My face, my voice, even my smell. … I’m designed to kill.” In this way, Stephenie Meyer twists the story of vampires. She completely changes the game and challenges stereotypes about them while adding in that there’s a purpose for everything she’s imagined. Coming up with something like that takes so much creativity and talent, and I admire her for it.
Finally, this plot is solid. It works out well, and if you watch the movie closely, the flow of the story, the complexity, and just the overall sense it makes really absorbs you into it. And that’s what I subjectively identify as a great story.
Other than that, the actual cinematography of the films is a huge factor for keeping the audience engaged, and it does a very good job at that while also excelling in visual storytelling. As soon as the first movie begins, it gives you a wonderful view of the breathtaking, dark, sepia landscapes of Washington. But in the next movie, we move to Rome, Italy, and as you can see in the picture above, where the contrast is simple yet captivating, and the composition is beautiful, making it a very unique film series to watch. What better way to capture Rome than just like that?
The visual aspect of the films is also on point. When you look closely, these movies are directed very well, and the shots are amazing.
Now, about characters. From Alice to Charlie, they all have their own backstory, evolution, and none of them are completely flat. They all have a purpose, and they’re extremely interesting, including Bella. This is because she is also a mystery. No one knows what she’s thinking, especially not Edward, and that draws us in to get to know her more.
However, many readers (and viewers) of The Twilight Saga believed that Bella was a character that was written as a one-size-fits-all for teenage girls everywhere.
However, I can argue that her character is not empty at all. Why?
Bella Swan is:
- A good investigator
- A feminist (in the most basic, second-wave sense)
- Introverted (like her dad)
- The books-over-interaction type
- The “suffer-in-silence type”
- “Not good at dancing”
- Funny (dark humor)
Those qualities listed, we can see that while many people argue that Bella is a flat, empty, emotionless character, she’s actually just a grungy girl who prefers to be alone. All of which means she’s actually got a personality.
As for Stewart’s acting, it could’ve honestly been better, but I think that most of it works out for the character that she was playing, as Bella seems very deadpan with her humor, and shy, unlike her classmates.
Now, I get it: Twilight definitely has a lot of room for laughs and ridicule. This includes the question of inherent vampire pedophilia, Edward’s constant and creepy stalking, and the intense stares between Bella and Edward.
So here are a few reasons why it’s simply not perfect.
The way that Edward and Bella fall in love was honestly very forced. It happened fairly quick in the movies and you basically had no clear reason as to why, really, Bella and Edward were meant for one another other than they’re both messed up. They had just met, and after a few interactions they were already in love? That’s where I see a flaw. How can someone romantically love another unconditionally after having just met? It’s just a pure fairytale and I get that.
Another theme about these movies is unconditional love. Although it can be argued that Edward being a vampire represents the darkest sides of him as a person, and Bella not being afraid of him means he is finally accepted and loved for who he is, Bella not caring that Edward has killed people before because she loves him is pretty unrealistic and terrible from her part as a person.
Finally, throughout the whole series, you’re left wondering, “What makes Bella so special?” and you’re never really told why. There’s nothing that distinguishes her from a grungy girl, and it perpetuates the “I’m not like other girls” trope that minimizes women.
In conclusion, these are okay movies that take you on a journey into a complex fantasy world that seems very realistic and has the potential to mesmerize the audience with a really good, creative story.
It’s definitely got room for improvement, but to label the whole saga as plain terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad? No way!