Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Wide Awake Past ‘Dawn’

Having read every single one of the novels, it’s no surprise to me that droves of teen-aged girls as well as much older women are huge fans of the Twilight movies. A series of events led to my previewing the fourth installment, Breaking Dawn: Part 1, a week before it premiered on the Friday before Thanksgiving. I had been a die-hard Barnabus Collins fan as Dark Shadows, a gothic soap opera, took over the daytime airwaves with a veangance. But this film is obviously filled with CGI and a TON of special effects, including make-up that the crew at Dark Shadows would have loved to have had. 

What makes this series of films enticing is the love triangle between the 3 lead characters, Edward the vampire, Jacob, the werewolf and of course Bella, the misfit girl who is torn between the two... even though she does tend to lean much further over to the vampire side of things. Team Jacob, in spite of it all, still holds out for Bella to finally have a catharsis in which she leans back to the werewolf side. The competition among the Twi-hard fans is pretty amusing actually. Seeing grown women and their teenage daughters profess their undying allegiance to either Team Edward or Team Jacob is also rather hilarious. On the news one night, I briefly saw an interview with some fans who actually flew in from Europe to camp out for the premiere at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. However, is the hype for the Twilight Saga losing steam? Given the year-and-a-half gap between Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, I don’t think so. 

Opening weekend at the box office grossed $221.3 million domestically, trailing slightly behind New Moon’s $230 million opening weekend, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Worldwide, it raked in $283.5 million. What is it about this family of vampires who break traditional notions of vampire characteristics that has captivated millions? Since when can vampires be out in broad daylight and since when have there been good vampires who care more about romantic chivalry than sucking blood? The concept would make F.W. Murnau, 1922 silent film Nosferatu director, and many others shake their heads in disgust. Although good looks and sex have been thrown into the vampire-movie mix over the years, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series redefined the mainstream’s portrayal of a vampire and fantastical rivalry with werewolves. Unfortunately, Meyer can’t be credited as the pioneer of the vampire and wolf rivalry. Len Wiseman’s 2003 film Underworld about a werewolf hunter pits werewolves and vampires against each other first. Underworld also tried to pull together a set of films which, at first, appeared to capture the film noir mystique. But once the films fell into the trap of replacing story with detailed CGI gore... and actress Kate Beckinsale quit after the first film... essentially the rest just became sequels for the sake of building a franchise.

But Breaking Dawn: Part 1 has followed the novels very closely, just as its predecessors. And that is where the adoring fans were going, to watch the characters they had read about so many times just pop out of the pages waiting to culminate and stir the novels even further. There are several stand-offs in this film. During one particular 30-second square-off all I could think was, "Oh Dear God... who gets killed?” only to be awoken from my novel memories [Yes, I read them all folks] when Jacob comes out and causes everyone to stop fighting because he “imprinted” on Bella’s half-vampire baby, which means he will serve whatever role he needs to in her life as she grows up. In the movie, the werewolves’ goal was to kill the baby. So to bebrutally  honest, the Twilight movies are here to stay in the ranks of highly successful book-to-movies. 

Even the books are still successful— perhaps, dare I say it?...even more than the Harry Potter series. Although the quantity of Harry Potter books sold has been higher, the Twilight books have had more staying power in the top 10 on USA Today’s Best-Selling Books List, according to a USA Today article. The final installment in the saga, Breaking Dawn: Part 2 is scheduled for a November 2012 premiere.

Will there be records broken? Count on it. Will the merchandising continue to soar? More than ever. In fact, I wouldn't at all be surprised if the last film in this saga surpasses one or more of the top ten films of all time.

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