Bestsellers to Blockbusters: Sparkly Vampires and Shape Shifting Werewolves and a Clumsy Girl, Oh My!

In late 2007 a legion of teen girls, and some adult women, were eagerly awaiting the release of the fourth book in the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn.  Then the news of a movie deal came and Twilight Fever went worldwide seemingly overnight.  Like Harry Potter Mania before it, Twilight has/had a massive following of fans obsessed with the characters.  Battle lines were drawn in the Team Edward and Team Jacob war, not unlike the war over whether or not Hogwart’s Professor Snape was good or evil.  Thankfully though, the fever seems to have died down with the release of the final installment of the Twilight Saga Movie franchise, Breaking Dawn Part 2.  So whether you’ve read them or not, only seen the movies, are a Twihard or Twihater, or just don’t care let’s review the popular series.

The Twilight Saga: Books,2005-2008; Movies, 2008-2012

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 poster

Brace yourselves, I have actually read this series.  In some circles, that’s a good thing, but in other circles not so much.  It was actually recommended to me by a classmate in my Intro to Shakespeare class my last semester of community college.  I’d never been one for vampires having never really gotten into Buffy and she promised me it wasn’t your typical vampire story or vampires.  That I’d like it.  She even brought in her copy for me to borrow.  I read it in about two days, and admittedly I did like it.  The sparklying was a bit funny and the whole blood typing in Biology a bit unrealistic, but I was intrigued and wanted to know what happened next having misinterpreted the end scene and thought that Edward had bit her neck to turn her.  Silly me.  I read threw New Moon and Eclipse and then patiently, as opposed to the rest of the world, waited for Breaking Dawn.  In the beginning I was Team Edward, but eventually I didn’t care and thought she should leave both of them for, well anyone that wasn’t from Forks.

For those who have been living under a rock for the last four years, Twilight is the story of Bella Swan, a Junior in high school whose mother remarries so she moves in with her father in the small town of Forks, Washington.  She then meats a collection of human characters rarely scenen in the subsequent books and Edward Cullen, her Biology partner.  She thinks he doesn’t like her because he runs out of class as fast as humanly possible, which is saying something for a vampire.  She soon finds out that he does like her, but he tries to tell her not to like him.  Then he saves her life leaving a massive dent in the car of the classmate that almost killed her.  She gets curious, does some investigating, and he admits that he’s a vampire, and wait for it, reads minds except he can’t read hers.  Hence, his interest in her.  They begin to date, another nomad vampire wants her for dinner, Edward and his family save her, and they go to Prom and officially are a couple.  The next books deal with their romance, him being an “old fashioned” guy aka a gentleman in my opinion that won’t do anything but kiss her much to her chagrin in later books, if she will get turned, a love triangle with her best friend who turns out to technically be a werewolf, and eventually a wedding, and oddly a child.  And here I thought vampires couldn’t have children.  We are also introduced to the entire Cullen clan, all vampires.  Charlisle the patriarch and a doctor, Esme his wife and the matriarch of the clan, and Edward’s “siblings” the initially cold and distant Rosalie, the joking Emmett, the quite Jasper, and the fun loving, petite, and clairvoyant Alice.

The movies are quite accurate to the books.  The only one I haven’t seen in the final one, which I hear changes the ending of the books in a major way.  The movies seemingly fix all the dumb stuff in the plot, at least in my opinion.  No blood typing in class, which in today’s world would NEVER happen thanks to blood born illness, and other small details are changed, for the better.  The casting was pretty good too, they could have gotten a better actress for Bella, or at least a more experienced one, but after seeing Alice on screen I loved her more.  And seeing Dakota Fanning as Jane made me a fan of the character, whom I hated before I now love and even have a t-shirt of that says “This May Hurt Just a Little.”  I also love the casting of Christopher Heyerdahl as Marcus of the Volturi whose voice and height make him perfect for such roles (For those unfamiliar with him, he is best known to SciFi and fantasy fans as Todd the Wriath from Stargate: Atlantis and Bigfoot and Jack the Ripper in Sanctuary, as well as other roles in various shows and movies).   Plus, who can resist Peter Facinelli as Carlisle and wouldn’t want him as their doctor?

I actually prefer the movies and think this is one case were the movies are better than the books.  While I liked the overall plot of the books, a girl meeting and falling in love with a vampire, and even her world where some vampires were “vegetarians” sustaining themselves on animal blood in an effort to live among humans, and of course the almost royal Volturi, they really could have used another editing…or two.  The writing is not the best, and for someone that has a degree in English, Meyer should know better.  One of the basic rules of fiction writing is not to build up to a climatic ending and not follow through, and that’s exactly what she does in Breaking Dawn.  Thankfully, the movie fixes this travesty from what I hear (I really have to see it but I hear several main character bite the dust, pun intended).  The ending felt like she was rushed for a deadline and didn’t know what to do so she tied it up too perfectly with a little bow.  Maybe she couldn’t bare to kill off any of her characters, but J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins don’t seem to have a problem with that in their equally popular series.  Characters literally drop like flies in those two.

The books also receive tremendous criticism due to Meyer’s Mormon background.  They say that she promotes abusive submissive relationships of her religion.  They say Edward is a stalker, which he kind can be seen as, that he’s abusive in some ways.  It’s a real shame we never got to read Midnight Sun, which is Twilight from Edward’s point of view, since in the few released chapters on her site he does admit to being stalkerish.  As for Jacob, he came off as a jerk to me and I couldn’t stand him, although I like him better in the movies.   Neither guy is really good for her though.  Others have said they have inappropriate sexual behavior in them, but since there isn’t actually anything but kissing in them – I mean I wasn’t’ even positive they had sex on their wedding night until it was revealed she was pregnant – I don’t’ know what those people are referring to.  In the beginning, I saw Edward as a bit old fashioned, a gentlemen in some respects.  He doesn’t pressure her into sex, insists they wait until marriage, and acts on a date the way too few men today do, which is why I initially liked him and why I don’t understand the censors citing sexual reasons.  Take away the semi abusive and stalker behavior and he could be the perfect boyfriend, if a bit unrealistic.  Nowadays, I don’t care for Edward anymore than a lot of other women my age do.  I think I became Team Volturi by the end of the craze, partly due to the criticism I eventually started to agree with (for the record,I always agreed they were poorly written, I just didn’t see Edward as abusive in the beginning until I examined the behavior better).  I mean sparkling in the sun?  I’m all for them being able to have a way to walk in the daylight in a creative way.  Vampire Diaries has daylight jewelry spelled by a witch, Moonlight had the sun weaken a vampires abilities but not kill them, and other series have gotten around it too I’m sure.  Anything but sparkle, which is probably the biggest criticism out there.

All in all, I consider myself a passing fan, I’m neither a Twihard or Twi-hater.  I like the movies, don’t like the books. It is Alice I most identify with, and she is my favorite character.  Would I chose to become a Vampire?  I think that would depend on which universe you are referring to.  Or maybe I’ll just create my own.

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