This week sees the beginning of the end for one of the most popular franchises of the past decade. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, the last of Stephenie Meyer's books divided into two movies by the studio Summit, promises to be a controversial end to a controversial series.
The vampire/werewolf/humanlove triangle has earned millions of fans (and billions of dollars) around the globe, but they have also had their share of detractors, as well as criticism. So, is Breaking Dawn: Part One, released in the UAE today, a victory lap for a fine series of movies, or a welcome end to just another over-hyped Hollywood craze?
Released in 2008, Twilight was an overwhelming success at the box office, thanks largely to a teenage audience who were either fans of the book or enamoured of the film's British star, Robert Pattinson. A sequel followed, and by the time the third instalment, Eclipse, was released, the series was close to making US$2 billion (Dh7.3bn) in worldwide box-office receipts - a success that few could argue with. The movies sparked a vampire "craze" in Hollywood, with many films and TV series developed, such as True Blood and The Vampire Diaries. Even the Harry Potter franchise, another multibillion dollar series, planned its release dates to avoid conflict with Twilight, after the first film capitalised on Warner Bros moving the release of The Half-Blood Prince from November 2008 to July 2009.
The most vocal supporters of the series are, of course, the infamous loyal fan base, unofficially nicknamed "Twi-Hards". From creating their own terminology (the phrases "Team Edward" and "Team Jacob" are now widely used to reference someone who is a fan of either Robert Pattinson's or Taylor Lautner's characters in the series), to the hordes of fans who visit the town of Forks, Washington, where the books are set, they make their presence felt wherever the actors are. There are more extreme samples of fan devotion: Pattinson admits fans regularly ask him to bite them, while even relatively minor characters of the franchise have been subject to some odd behaviour. Kellan Lutz, who plays Emmett Cullen in the films, revealed at a press conference: "[A fan] asked for an autograph and asked if she could take me home, then she yanks out this big old pair of handcuffs!" Similarly, the security of many of the film's cast has become an issue, with fans becoming more and more determined in their quests to meet their idols.
As with any successful brand, the voracity of fans is just one of the many negative aspects of the series that critics of the films have targeted. Portrayed as rabid, almost violently protective of the saga, they have been lampooned in many areas of popular culture, even in a short satirical video by Cam Gigandet, the first film's villain, in a comedy video where "fans" mistake him for his character and attack him.
The sombre tone of both the books and even the acting ability of the stars have been the subject of fierce criticism and satire. The popular series Supernatural pokes fun at the awkwardness of both Pattinson and Kristen Stewart's performances in their episode Live Free or Twi-Hard, while The Simpsons mocks the films in one of its Halloween specials in a segment called "Tweenlight", where the Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe plays a Pattinson-like character named Edmund. Critically, the films have always been met with a mixed reception, with the consensus being that while they may delight fans of the books, newcomers to the stories will find little to enjoy.
The success of the series may also prove a negative factor to its principle stars, Pattinson and Stewart, as the threat of typecasting looms large in their "post-Twilight" careers. Stewart, in particular, has made efforts to distance her future projects from the series, with the New York Daily News reporting that the success of the films had "caught her off guard", leading her to turn down the coveted role of Lois Lane in Zack Snyder's Superman. Pattinson himself has stuck to drama roles outside of the franchise, although many critics have commented it is difficult to separate the actor from his most famous role outside of the films.
The series ends with Part 2, expected out in November next year, and studios are already preparing franchises with the intention of grabbing the attention of the Twilight fans. Front runners include the adaptation of Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, and Stephenie Meyer's non-Twilight book The Host. Something both fans and critics can agree on is that, regardless of the merits of the series, the final instalments promise to be a huge box office event. In particular, how the director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) plans to portray the final book's controversial and graphic scene, where Bella is almost fatally injured giving birth to a half vampire, half human child, is the source of some speculation. It remains to be seen whether the series will stand the test of time, but the immediate legacy will be that, for a few years at least, much of the world has gone vampire crazy.