So, the other day, I decided to sit down and watch all five films in the Twilight saga, just to see what they were like. I ended up getting through them all in less than forty-eight hours. So, what did I get from the experience?
Firstly, they're not vampire movies. They're chick flicks, with vampires. Just like Ghost was a chick flick, with ghosts. So the series should be judged on how good they are at being chick flicks, not by how good they are at being vampire films. My conclusion? They are surprisingly good chick flicks. Most romances follow the same plot: Girl meets guy, girl loses guy, girl and guy make up, happy ever after. This kind of story only appears in the second film, New Moon. throughout the rest of the series, Edward and Bella are in a relatively stable relationship.
What makes the series different from other romances is the vampire aspect. Admittedly, a human falling in love with a vampire was handled a lot better in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but Twilight address the notion of the human potentially becoming a vampire. This makes a huge difference. For starters the films talk about whether vampirism is a curse or an incredible power. Having to live off blood, and being drawn to humans more than any other animal. In a world where vamps are not fundamentally evil, how does this bode for those who want to live peacefully with humans? And how is a recently newborn vampire supposed to look at her father as anything other than food?
The other thing is the immortality. Edward is over a hundred years old. He may look seventeen, but that doesn't mean he acts like it. How many hundred year old people do you know who agree with sex before marriage? How many centenarians seem 'old fashioned'? Okay, you may not know many at all, but look to the older generation in general. They have these old fashioned values. And so does Edward. He wants to marry her because that is how he was brought up and what he has been taught to value. As one of the modern teenagers says, the only reason an eighteen year old gets married today is if they've been knocked up. I know of very few films dealing with immortality that address these kind of changes in society (though there are plenty that deal with changing technology).
Also, the action scenes, what little there are of them, are surprisingly good. For this kind of film, you'd expect the action to get glossed over, and treated as a necessity rather than anything to be admired. I found myself enjoying the action, far more than I have in many action films where millions have been spent on special effects to make action boring (here's looking at you Michael Bay). The only gripe I have is that the final battle scene is played out inside a character's head and you don't find this out until it's over. Twenty minutes later. It's a cop out. However, I'd watch it again because it was done well.
Which brings me on to my last and final point: They are beautiful films. You turn the sound down and look at some of the scenery, or the way characters are lighted and filmed, the vivid colours and contrast of forests against snow. It's nice to look at. Okay, at many points during the films it looks dull and grey, but this feels right for what's happening on screen: it's a rainy day, Bella's moved to a new school, she's not exactly happy, the screen is washed out a little. Then when things are a little better for the protagonist, the colours are more vivid.
So, the negatives? Ugh, sparkly vampires. It's an interesting concept as to why they can't go out in the sunlight, but it completely goes against their nature, Edward makes a show of all his predatory traits, and then he gets sparkly. Seriously? That's just going to give you away to your prey. Something else could have been done to show why vamps avoid the sun, but can still go out without burning up. Also, the two leads aren't really very good. On the rare occasion they're both smiling, they feel right, but most of the time, they're only a marginally better couple than Neo and Trinity.
So, yeah, I'd watch them again, but they're certainly not in my top hundred films. And they do not deserve the hate poured on them by people who think these are vampire films. After all, they're still better vampire films than the Underworld series.