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TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN part 2… Why the whole series was a big success

Posted on November 23rd, 2012
Posted on November 23rd, 2012

by Coop Cooper

It’s difficult to do a review on the film adaptation of the final installment of a popular teen novel series, especially when you have no significant interest in it. No matter what you say about it, the target audience will still see it – and probably adore it – even if non-fans held captive in the theater would sooner watch paint dry. Since this is the case with “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2” I’ll forgo the traditional review and rating in favor of offering a theory of how the series became such a phenomenon both in young adult literature and in film.

For those counting, “Breaking Dawn Part 2” picks up after Bella Swan’s (Kristen Stewart) near death experience while giving birth to her half-vampire daughter with the benevolent vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). In an effort to save her, Edward converts Bella into a vampire at the last moment, thus bringing her fully into the fold. Other vampires, especially the ancient and despotic Volturi Clan, see the child as a threat and conspire to destroy her. Bella, Edward and the child’s bound werewolf protector, Jacob (Taylor Lautner) attempt to assemble enough sympathizing vampires and wolves to defend the child from the imminent attack.

If you’re unfamiliar with the series, the above synopsis might sound absolutely ridiculous. Nevertheless the movie is sure to break some box-office records thanks to the young women who grew up with the series and middle-aged moms who got caught up in the hoopla. I’ve tried to wrap my head around how this could have turned into such an unstoppable money-making freight train when there are so many other worthy (or at least on par with the series) properties out there. I have come to the conclusion the writer of the books, Stephanie Meyers, may have unwittingly turned a writing weakness into a strength.

Young adult books are known for their easy-reading prose that doesn’t overcomplicate the language or concept and does not require complex character development, at least for the first novel. When “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (the 1st in the book/film series) released in theaters, I gave it a positive review but noted it contained a noticeable lack of character development. While J.K. Rowling vastly improved this development over the course of the “Harry Potter” series, Meyer with “Twilight” did not. Turns out it didn’t matter because the fans of the books and films projected their own positive attributes onto these vampire/human/werewolf characters. Stay with me here…

Whether she knew it or not, all Meyer had to do was create archetypes for these characters and let the fans fill in the blanks with the personalities and fantasies they experience in school and in real life. Every single one of these fans know a guy like Edward in their own lives: The dark, mysterious, handsome loner who might bring a little magic into their mundane routine if he would just notice them. They also know a guy like Jacob: The reliable friend who would do anything for them, but can’t compete against the affections of the dark horse. Of course most teen girls feel like Bella: The awkward, clumsy girl who could be happy and reach her true potential if she could just find her soulmate. Add to that a couple of perfect and loving families, acceptance from the ‘cool kids’ (both vampires & werewolves), a love triangle and opposition from some mean bad guys… and you have a winning formula.

It doesn’t matter if these characters are only superficially fleshed-out because the reader identifies so closely, they will transpose attributes from their high-school crushes, the other people they know and their deepest desires into these characters. They invest in the story because they feel like they are a part of it. Even at minor levels, this is magic. For fans of the “Twilight” series, this is magic on a global scale as the book sales and box office numbers can testify to.

Now that the series is over, there is a rush in Hollywood to find the next big literary/film phenomenon to rival it. Many have tried to copy the formula and nearly all have failed (with the notable exception of the “Hunger Games” series). Now that those “Twilight” readers have come-of-age, one could speculate the growing popularity of the sexually-charged 50 Shades of Grey book series owes a debt to the “Twilight” series and their maturing fans. That’s the current ticket for women of the younger generation and there has already been wild speculation as to who will star in the film adaptations. Keep in mind that it won’t end there. Once a franchise has run its course, a new one will always crop up.

Now if only us guys could find a must-read, male-palatable, blockbuster book franchise to follow. “Star Wars” doesn’t count.

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