Released between 2008 and 2012, The Twilight Saga, based on Stephenie Meyer‘s vampire-themed fantasy romance novels, is known for being both loved and hated by two very conflicting audiences. Whilst I feel like I always have to justify myself when I say that I like the Twilight films, there’s no denying that I do. Yet I find myself on very neutral grounds about the Saga on a whole, both loving and hating it for many different reasons, with the films not doing the books enough justice but also having some distinctive film-making qualities.
Now the books may not be amazingly written, but they are a lot more enjoyable than the films because they don’t put their appeal in adolescent girls as much. This is where the adaptations go wrong for me, albeit where they make all of their money from, making the story more soppy and pathetic than it reads.
But the films also have their qualities, mainly with their incredible soundtracks including music from the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club, Bon Iver, and Vampire Weekend, and some fairly decent cinematography, with the Saga including some of my favourite movie scenes of all time.
Hence my neutral stance; some of the instalments really come to life in the right way on screen, but others not so much. I’ll try to explain this better in my reviews below as I continue to rank the Saga:
1. Twilight (2008)
A teenage girl risks everything when she falls in love with a vampire.
“I don’t have the strength to stay away from you anymore.”
If there is only one film to enjoy out of the franchise, then it is definitely this one. As the first film in the franchise, this is a pretty decent adaptation and introduces the well-cast characters brilliantly. I much prefer Stewart’s other work but she certainly fits the role of Bella Swan well, and Pattinson is definitely going up from here but he, too, is the main key to the success of this franchise.
What I like most about this film is that it has an almost indie (don’t hate me for saying that) edge to it. The scene at the end of the film with Iron and Wine playing in the background is my favourite from the whole franchise and is one of the main reasons that I enjoyed this film so much.
2. Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011)
Returning home from their honeymoon, Bella and Edward are forced to face the Quileutes and a potential threat from the Volturi as the newly-wed couple’s unborn child poses a threat to the Wolf Pack and the townspeople of Forks.
“I opened my eyes and found his open, too, staring at my face. It made no sense when he looked at me that way. Like I was the prize rather than the outrageously lucky winner.”
Whilst Breaking Dawn was my least favourite novel, this instalment is one of my favourites. The rest of the franchise played the sexiness down completely, and my main concern was that – with a premise of marriage, sex, and babies – this instalment would be the worst yet, appealing only to its younger audience and skipping over its more adult themes of passionate sex and the fear of death. Fortunately, Bill Condon gives us a decent adaptation, and the film was actually quite sexy and even pretty frightening in places (as much as it can be, anyway).
3. Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012)
After the birth of Renesmee, the Cullens gather other vampire clans in order to protect their child from a false allegation that puts the family in front of the Volturi.
“I thought we would be safe forever. But “forever” isn’t as long as I’d hoped.”
With this final instalment, I cannot help but feel a little sad that it’s all come to an end. The first film will always be my favourite instalment, but the final two Breaking Dawn chapters come close behind, and that’s because, for the most part, it sticks with a focus on its more adult themes. With Bill Condon changing the ending of Stephenie Meyer’s final novel here, in part two of his Twilight adaptations, this is one of the smartest moves the franchise has made, bringing in a sense of emotional engagement and something for its fans to appreciate. Of course, it’s never going to convert its haters, but we knew that a long time ago. This final instalment may not be the greatest of films, but it brings a decent end to the franchise and is a fairly good adaptation overall. The action is alright, and the CGI is okay; it certainly has its cringy moments still, but what the hell, I liked it.
4. New Moon (2009)
Edward leaves Bella after an attack that nearly claimed her life, but in her depression, she falls into yet another paranormal relationship – this time with werewolf Jacob Black.
“You promised you wouldn’t do anything stupid or reckless. / You promised it would be as if you never existed. You lied.”
This is where the franchise took a horrible turning point that I’ve always found it difficult to forgive it for, as this is where the franchise started appealing more to its younger audience. Whilst the novels weren’t so childish in their attempts to tell the story of a girl who has to choose between a werewolf and a vampire, it didn’t come to life in the right way on screen. Yet there was still something I really enjoyed about it at the same time. The soundtrack, yet again, is incredible and there are a number of scenes that I felt really captivated the right emotion – the seasons changing around Bella, the montage of her waking up screaming – but the second half didn’t really work so well and that’s what really let this film down.
5. Eclipse (2010)
As a string of mysterious killings grips Seattle, Bella is forced to choose between her love for vampire Edward and her friendship with werewolf Jacob.
“You have to consider the idea that I might be better for her than you are.”
This was undeniably the worst in the franchise, I feel, as not enough happened and it is easily forgettable compared to the rest. Although it was good to see the story visually acted out on the big screen, I don’t think I would have enjoyed this film if I hadn’t read the book beforehand. Eclipse is filled with action, but the storyline becomes cringy as the focus is put on the selfish love triangle of the main cast. Whilst the acting makes a noticeable improvement, especially from Lautner, the Saga continued to emphasise the morals behind the story rather than the excitement described through the detailed scenes in the book.