Joke on them all you want, but the Twilight Saga movies are now a major part of film history. They helped build a studio, contributed to the discourse on genre and its audience and have certainly influenced Hollywood's production slate for the next decade if not longer. With the final installment of the series, Breaking Dawn -- Part 2, hitting theaters this weekend, it's time to look back on the half-decade phenomenon and also think about what it means for the future of movies and moviegoing. Was it good or bad for film culture?
Surely on a business level, the adaptations of Stephenie Meyer's young adult novels were one of the best things to happen to the industry in a long time. And not just because the films themselves have brought in billions of dollars worldwide. The merchandising, much of which was fueled by the Team Edward/Team Jacob cults and Summit Entertainment's encouragement and exploitation of such an incredibly marketable culture of fandom, elevated its value in a way that distinguished it, especially from the Harry Potter craze it seemed initially intent on or content to copy.
Where Twilight does follow in the footsteps of the wizarding world franchise, though, is still noteworthy. We've seen with these two series the hunger that young moviegoers have for ongoing -- though finite -- properties that they can sort of subscribe to. And grow up with. Depend on. While film series of the past have tended to slowly die out with worse and worse sequels, something like the Twilight series is expected to be improved, climactically, throughout, and finish up rather neatly.
There's some tie to the modern trend of serialization in cinema that is attempting to mimic popular TV series, yet it's more than that. The Marvel movies, for example, don't so much have a community fanbase of likeminded souls the way the Twilight series does. Just as the Harry Potter and Twilight books were seen as pumping blood into the publishing business while also rousing the pleasure of reading in young people, their respective film series have done similar for the film industry and the pasttime of moviegoing. Fans couldn't wait for even opening day, and while Thursday midnight screenings didn't begin with Twilight, the practice has surely flourished as a result of this as-soon-as-possible mentality (not to mention the night-owl nature associated with vampires).
But to the non-fan, many of those things that are thought positive for industry and youths looking for a collective interest can be seen as negatives for the movies overall. The quality of the films on their own merit didn't initially seem to be of concern to the producers, because there was a built-in audience like never before, and their popularity regularly contributed to the growing subversion of the significance of film criticism. Meanwhile, like with the Harry Potter franchise before it, there is now such a massive attempt to find "the next Twilight" that numerous wannabes are on the horizon crowding the release schedule with fantasy romances favoring concept over creative competence.
Personally, I've known the benefits and annoyances of Twilight's popularity as a movie blogger around since their inception, how it once boosted our sites with traffic at any mention of Robert Pattinson and also diminished the integrity of certain places that went too far with the baiting of fans. It took me a while to finally give the series a chance, and when I did I found it a lot more of a guilty pleasure than expected. As trashy entertainment, there's nothing wrong with the films, and the fun that fans have had with it is something we all should appreciate and perhaps even envy, especially if we come from the Star Wars generation.
Great and not-so-great cinema and highbrow and lowbrow film culture will always be around, while excitement and enthusiasm for the movies like we've seen with the Twilight films and their Twi-hard fans isn't that common outside the regular movie geek circles (and individuals), and regardless of whether or not I like all or any of the movies, I think the movies would have had a great void these past five years without them.
Have the Twilight films been good or bad for the movies and moviegoing?
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