Watching Twilight For The First Time In 2022: Not As Bad As You'd Think
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Watching Twilight For The First Time In 2022: A Movie Older Than Who It’s For

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BY January 3, 2022

Fourteen years ago, the chaste vampire book series written by Stephenie Meyer debuted on the big screen and caused a sensation. While I was never the intended audience for this story, my (at the time) nine-year-old was the perfect age for the Big But Simple Feelings™ that are the hallmark of this story. It was one of the first book series my kid ever read, and the movies remain a guilty pleasure. Normally, in our house, the holidays are for one film series: Star Wars. Yet, this year we decided to switch things up, and I am watching the movie Twilight for the first time in 2022. Even though I was fully aware of it in pop culture, actually sitting down to watch the films surprised me in a number of ways. The first? It’s not that bad.

In this age of franchises and IP, I am struck by what a feature film factory the Twilight production must have been. They wrote, produced, filmed, edited (complete with complex-ish visual effects), and released five movies in five years. And Summit Entertainment, the distributor, didn’t even do The Lord of the Rings thing where they just made all the movies back-to-back. When they made the first film, Summit didn’t even have the rights to the sequel books. So, that this exists at all feels like something of a miracle. The Twlight Saga were all blockbuster films, but they have a very Roger Corman/B-Movie feel to them that I find endearing.

Faithful readers of Comic Years know that I can find things to enjoy in almost any film. And Twlight has the added benefit of being a thing that made my kid happy. Still, were we unfair to this movie series?

Why I Am Watching the Twilight For the First Time In 2022

Watching Twilight for the First Time in 2022 Movie Kristen STewart Robert Pattinson Edward Cullen Bella Swan Hardwicke Image via Summit Entertainment

Impressed by his turn as Cedric Diggory, I remember being aware that Robert Pattinson booked this film series. “Good for him,” I thought. It wasn’t until the first movie was already out that Team Edward fever hit the Patton household. I never read the books or watched the movie simply because it was my kid’s thing. I know the story, because we talked about it a lot. Yet now my kid is that age where the stuff from early youth is “cringe,” and that breaks my heart. Part of what I love about comic book stories is that no matter how serious or grim they are, there are always at least three utterly stupid things in the story. That’s just fun. Watching this movie for the first time, I realize that Twilight has way more than just three things.

Yet, as someone who unironically enjoys the Arrowverse, my first impression of Twilight was that it’s just a high budget CW show. (Actually, thanks to advancements in filmmaking technology, shows like Superman & Lois objectively look better on a shoestring TV budget.) But I grew up in an age of film and TV where special effects looked ridiculous. (Remember season 1 X-Files, anyone?) And the showcase of vampire “powers” is very silly. Still, it was an effective way to make them look magical and just not real, which is a risky choice when you are making movies which are all beautiful lies. (Oh god, I am even starting to sound like Bella!)

There is a sweetness to these movies. Though, watching Twilight for the first time, I realize that what’s “romantic” in this movie comes across as more problematic in 2022. But, again, this is a story for pre-teens and teenagers. Inane and fleeting things feel like huge life-and-death moments.

Is the first Twilight Movie Any Good, Though?

Watching Twilight for the First Time in 2022 Movie Kristen STewart Robert Pattinson Edward Cullen Bella Swan Anna Kendrick Image via Summit Entertainment

Watching with a harsher critical eye than any young adult romance story deserves, one could easily pan the dialogue and acting throughout the films. Though, I must say Billy Burke delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as a single-dad who doesn’t get what’s going on and only cares insofar as it causes grief with his ex. Also, I feel like it is impossible to not be charmed by Anna Kendrick, no matter the role. Knowing what fantastic actors both Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are, I also admit it felt weird to see the choices they made while portraying Bella and Edward. Though, we now know that they were not given much choice in the matter at all. Robert Pattinson told Howard Stern he was almost fired from the first film for trying to play Edward with seriousness and, let’s face it, consistency.

However, their natural talent makes the performance watchable and, so long as you laugh in certain moments rather than cringe, fun. Knowing as much as I do about the meme culture around these films, I understand why its something fans simultaneously adore and laugh at. (The Star Wars Prequels meme culture is very similar that way.) Also, it’s easy to forget with the ubiquity of sexy vampires that followed this film, that this movie set a tone and took chances.

Meyer’s vampires lose much of the popular lore for the undead. Sunlight makes them prettier. They all get a bonus superpower. Garlic, wooden stakes, and holy water do nothing to harm them. Also, rather than being murderous and lusty, the vampires we are met with are, well, the type of vampires one might expect a practicing Mormon to really like. They are a series of stories about, mostly, resisting temptation.

Watching the Twilight Movie for the First Time and the Last Time

Watching Twilight for the First Time in 2022 Movie Kristen STewart Robert Pattinson Edward Cullen Bella Swan Family Image via Summit Entertainment

Unless the 2022 holiday movie series rotation becomes a permanent thing, I doubt I will be watching Twilight any time other than the first time. I can appreciate what people see in it. And, as I said, it is a thing that made my kid happy for a few years, and I’ll always love it for that. Still, this strikes me as a story best discovered initially at a very young age when the Big Questions™ feel more black-and-white. With that connection from childhood, it’s something I can understand why folks would continue to love even as they outgrow it.

Twilight is not a timeless love story. In fact, the behavior of the romantic protagonists can be viewed as problematic. Still most timeless love stories have that in them. Romeo and Juliet, one of the most timeless and referenced in these films, is even worse. Yet, love stories aren’t “How To” manuals for making life choices (even though some readers old enough to know better think they are). These are vehicles for drama and fantasy, and that’s okay. Because the greatest thing these books and movies can do is kickstart a love of stories. And as they move on to more complex stories about love, life, and supernatural monsters, so we grow as people.

Ultimately, these movies are not for me. Despite my love of all things weird, vampires were never my particular bag. And while I can stomach some teenage romance drama, the central importance of it to the narrative means I’m not connecting with it. (Let me know when Stephenie Meyer publishes the Twilight companion novel told from Carl Swan’s perspective.)

The Twilight Saga is leaving Netflix in 2022, but is available anywhere you can rent or buy films.

What do you think? Did you watch or read any of the Twilight stories? What age were you? Share your thoughts, reactions, and rebuttals in the comments below.

Featured image via Summit Entertainment.

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Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.

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