(Note: This will contain spoilers.)
In a review for Stephenie Meyer’s novel "Eclipse," the third installment of the popular Twilight Saga, USA Today stated, “Move over Harry Potter,” as "Eclipse" was an instant best-seller that sold more copies than "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the final book of J.K. Rowling’s popular series. And I, who have read all the Harry Potter and Twilight books (in other words, I know what the hell I’m talking about and can form an honest opinion considering both series as a whole), had to stare at this statement for a long time to allow the meaning of those words to sink in. So, to those of you out there who agree with this review, I just have one question:
HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND!?!?!?!?!?
Okay, now that I’ve got that out of my system, allow me to present this clearly and logically. There is no way that "Twilight" can be considered superior to "Harry Potter." Or for that matter, any fantasy book series geared toward children and young adults. And, because I really just can’t this go, I’m going to explain exactly what makes "Twilight" an inferior series. Fans of Meyer’s works, beware: I’m not going to be nice. So let’s get started.
Before I start in on why "Twilight" is not a good series, I think it’s important for you to understand my own personal history with the franchise. I first read the books in my junior year of high school, about the time when the first film was being released. And I fell in love with it. I’m not kidding. I even had a "Twilight" jacket (which, to my horror, I’m wearing in one of my yearbook photos. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to live that down.) I’ve often wondered since then why I loved the books so much, and I have attributed it to the hype surrounding the first film. Yes, hype is extremely contagious, and I think it wore off on me when I was reading the books. This is why I was so cautious when "The Hunger Games" became popular, but unlike "Twilight," "The Hunger Games" actually has content worthy of the written page. I started noticing that things were very wrong with "Twilight" sometime between the releases of the first and second films, when I decided to reread the books. And I was so embarrassed about my inexcusable love for the series that I grew to hate even the mention of "Twilight." The only reason I went to see the films (after the first one, at least) was that I was dragged to them. And up until my junior year of college – four years after first reading the books – I loathed the whole franchise.
But now…I have to reconsider. When I first decided to do this review, I was prepared to tear the books to shreds, nitpicking and griping and pretty much condemning everything about the franchise. The problem was that it had been awhile since I’d read them, so to present a complete, logical review, I had to suck up my pride and reread the books and watch all the films. And now I have to confess, my utter hatred was relatively unfounded, based solely on my embarrassment over my brief yet obsessive love for the books. Now I feel prepared to present this review with complete neutrality, logically analyzing each book and movie and formulating an honest, unbiased opinion about them.
I suppose the best way to work with this subject matter is to examine the four books of The Twilight Saga individually and then the series as a whole, and I will make my arguments regarding the whole "Twilight" vs. "Harry Potter" debate. Then I’ll examine the films. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s not waste any more time.
For the ten of you out there who have the great fortune to have never read the "Twilight" books or seen the movies, here’s a brief summary so that you’ll understand what I’m talking about. The Saga is comprised of four novels and one novella: "Twilight," "New Moon," "Eclipse," "Breaking Dawn," and "The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner." The four novels are all told from the perspective of Bella Swan, a blank slate character if there ever was one who moves to the little town of Forks, Washington, to live with her bumbling and awkward father Charlie. There, she meets brooding, pale, emo Edward Cullen, who she discovers is a vampire that, along with his family, have adopted a kind of “vegetarian” lifestyle…that is, they don’t drink human blood, but rather the blood of animals. Through a series of contrived and questionable plot choices, the two fall in love but are tested by a rogue vampire who wants to kill Bella because her blood smells more delicious to him. The first book ends with the rogue being killed and Bella wishing to be turned into a vampire, which Edward refuses to do, as he believes that this is a bad idea (can’t imagine why…). In "New Moon," the second book of the series, Edward and the rest of the Cullens leave Forks because Edward fears he is putting Bella in danger. This results in Bella moping throughout the ENTIRE novel, even after she is reacquainted with her friend Jacob, who she later finds to be a werewolf, whose sole purpose is to destroy vampires. Through a misunderstanding, Edward comes to believe that Bella has died, and he plans to kill himself by revealing himself to mortals, which would be breaking the only law the vampires have with the idea that the Volturi, a kind of corrupt vampire police, will kill him as punishment. Bella manages to prevent this, but the Volturi declares that, as she knows about their world, she either has to be turned into a vampire or die. "Eclipse" follows Bella as she struggles with choosing which boy she loves more, Edward or Jacob, all while dealing with the mate of the vampire they killed in book one, who wants revenge for her lover’s death and intends to kill Bella to achieve this end. The Cullens (who have moved back to Forks) and the werewolf pack Jacob belongs to all try to protect Bella (from herself just as much as from the vampire), there’s a big battle, and the rogue – and her army of new vampires – is killed. Somewhere in all this, Edward proposes to her and they become engaged, much to Jacob’s grief. "Breaking Dawn" is…um…a mess. To go into plot detail would take far too long, so here’s a brief rundown: Edward and Bella get married on go on their honeymoon, Bella gets pregnant, the birth almost kills her, she gets turned into a vampire, Jacobs imprints on her baby (…don’t worry, I’ll come back to that…), there’s a big misunderstanding that brings the Volturi to their home with the intent to kill them all, but then the misunderstanding is revealed and everyone is free to live happily ever after, no one loses anything and there are no consequences for any decisions made. The novella "The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner" is a spin-off about one of the vampires in the army the villain amasses in Eclipse and is hardly worth mentioning except for the fact that, well…it exists.
Did you get all that? Good. There will be a quiz later. So let’s get started on the actual review.
When I mention the "Twilight" series and my dislike for it, I often get a wide variety of responses, and I’ve found that it, by and large, depends on what sex I’m associating with. Guys tend to agree with me, and some females do too, but more often than not, girls can’t understand why I don’t like "Twilight." Responses usually sound something like, “Oh you never read the books, you’re a guy, you wouldn’t understand, blah blah blah.” Yes, I am a guy. A heterosexual male who feels absolutely no attraction to sparkly vampires and hunky werewolves. But I am examining this series on the content: the story itself, the characters, the conflict, the resolution, the whole nine yards. And as I have read all the books, yes, I damn well know what I’m talking about. And to snub all of you who would call me a "Twilight"-hater, allow me to say this: the first book isn’t that bad. In fact, I’d even call it okay. It’s not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s harmless enough, and there was enough mystery and suspense to keep me invested to the end, more or less. When I forced myself to reread it for this review, I discovered that the book is written in such a way that it is incredibly engaging. It’s easy to read, and the story is interesting. There are some developed characters (not many, but a few) and a decent conflict (once it finally decides to show up…I’ll get back to that). Bella, who is easily the most dislikable protagonist I’ve read in a long time, isn’t particularly offensive yet, although she is still incredibly idiotic. But she doesn’t do anything too terrible in this one. The vampires are interesting, and Alice in particular is a lot of fun. I liked the father, Charlie. Overall, I can’t say I’m sorry I read the book again. Again, it’s not great, but for a quick, entertaining read, it was fine. It did its job. And I was fine with that. Except…
…sparkling vampires. What???
Okay, I’m all for originality. True, I have never read a vampire novel where the vampires sparkle. That is totally and completely original, and kudos to you Meyer for coming up with an original idea. But…sparkling? Really? There is all this buildup as to what Edward looks like in the sun, and I was honestly expecting something much more impressive than looking as though he was dipped in glitter glue. Underwhelming to the extreme. And plus, it doesn’t even make sense. Meyer goes to great lengths (not kidding, either; I’ve never read a book where the main character is described in such repetitive detail like this) to tell us that Edward’s skin is as smooth as marble. But he also sparkles like a diamond. A diamond sparkles because it is multi-faceted. In other words, NOT SMOOTH. So the whole sparkling business is contradictory in and of itself.
Another issue I have with the book is the romance itself. Well, more specifically, the development of said romance. What exactly makes Bella and Edward fall in love? Bella has this fascination with Edward, trying to figure out what he is, and then suddenly, poof! She’s in love with him. Why? Half the time, he’s been a royal jerk to her. Is she a masochist? Or is it because he looked at her funny? I don’t know, there doesn’t seem to be any logical backing to the relationship, so when it finally does become romantic, I can’t totally suspend my disbelief. This carries on into the actual relationship, too. Edward spends his nights watching Bella sleep like some psychopathic stalker, and when she finds out, she’s happy about it. I don’t know, this doesn’t seem like a logical reaction. Terror might be more appropriate. Then again, Bella seems to lack simple human intelligence. Despite the constant warnings from Edward that he’s dangerous, she still hangs around with him. What an idiot.
I have one more big complaint about this book: the third act. The novel’s climax comes completely out of nowhere. The rogue vampires that are suddenly the antagonists don’t show up until several hundred pages into the story. It’s almost as if Meyer forgot that the story needed a conflict and suddenly realized that she had to come up with some kind of climax, so she shoehorned these guys in, made one of them decide to hunt Bella (for reasons that are shaky at best), and set up a hastily cobbled-out ending. I have a hard time taking it seriously because there has been no buildup to it. It comes right the hell out of nowhere, so when the conflict suddenly does rear its ugly head, it’s so sudden that there’s no real emotional backing for it.
Yet despite these problems, "Twilight" isn’t that bad a book. It had a climax that actually kept me on the edge of my seat (even if it did kind of come out of nowhere with no buildup whatsoever), and I was actually looking forward to reading the next installment of the series.
If you’ll pardon the pun, it sucked. Badly.
"New Moon" is the prototype of a “bad sequel.” Which, when you think about it, is rather rare. Books take much more thought, planning, and detail work than movies do, and it isn’t that often that you’ll find a bad sequel in the literature world, particularly compared to how many bad film sequels there are out there. But "New Moon" somehow made it to the shelves. Personal story: I read the sneak peek for "New Moon" in the back of the first book before actually reading the sequel. The first chapter ends on a cliffhanger, and I was so excited to see what would happen next. Then I finally read the book, and I can honestly say that the first chapter is the most exciting of the entire novel. That should say a lot, folks. The biggest problem with "New Moon" is that it is BORING! There are pages upon pages of Bella just moping after Edward leaves her, and it is incredibly tedious to sit through. Then there’s the werewolf thing, which I honestly found much less impressive than the vampires. What made the first book work so well (relatively speaking) was its mystery. I was engaged in figuring out what Edward was, and learning about the traits of the vampires was genuinely interesting. Meyer tried that again with the werewolves in "New Moon," but to worse effect. For one, it takes up less time of the book, and for another, it’s, well…just not as entertaining. I remember thinking, “Werewolves, really? You’re adding werewolves to your story now? What, is the third book gonna include zombies?” It just seemed so random and unnecessary.
But the real problem I have with "New Moon" is the main character. I mentioned earlier that I thought Bella is a thoroughly dislikable character, and it’s here that she first starts to become insufferable. When Edward leaves, she spends months moping, and all I could think was, “Girl, GET A LIFE!” So her boyfriend broke up with her. It happens all the time, it’s not the end of the world! Believe it or not, most high school romances don’t last, so this is nothing new. I don’t care if Edward was special or whatever. She’s eighteen, for God’s sake! There is potential that she’ll meet someone else. Oh, this girl irritates me. And then when she realizes that she can “hear” Edward’s voice when she is in a dangerous situation, she starts intentionally doing risky things, riding a motorcycle and even cliff diving, just so that she can cling to her desperate and pathetic delusions. Not only is this pathetic, but this is a terrible message to send out to teenage girls. If your boyfriend dumps you, move on! Going all suicidal in an effort to hang on to his memory is not a good option! But then we have the coup de grace: she begins manipulating Jacob. She realizes that he has feelings for her that she cannot return, but instead of trying to let him down gently, she continues letting him chase after her (if you’ll pardon the pun) like a dog with its tongue hanging out. Surely she knows that she’s only going to hurt him! But instead of doing the right thing or, hell, even being a friend, she leads him on just so that she doesn’t get lonely because the idiot girl doesn’t have a social life beyond her precious vampire ex-boyfriend. I really, really, REALLY can’t stand Bella in this book. She alone makes this one of the worst books I’ve ever read. Add to that the fact that it’s boring and doesn’t really have a proper climax, and I can almost call it the worst book of the franchise. Almost.
"Eclipse" was a step in the right direction, but "New Moon" caused some pretty irreparable damage. While, thank God, it’s not as boring as the second book, it still suffers from several of the same problems, particularly the main character, who is just as using, self-absorbed, and conniving as she was in New Moon. But you know what, I’ve bitched enough about Bella (for now, anyway), so let’s take a good look at our two love interests, Edward the vampire and Jacob the werewolf, because as it turns out, they are both just as morally reprehensible as the girl they are vying for. Edward is a super control-freak that doesn’t let Bella make a move that he doesn’t approve. She can’t go visit Jacob because he said so, and he even goes as far as to disable her truck’s engine so that she can’t see him. I realize that werewolves are dangerous creatures, but hey genius, she spends most of her time with a coven of freaking vampires! This is nothing new! It was in "Eclipse" that I first started to think that Edward and Bella’s relationship could pretty much be considered abusive. I know he’s trying to protect her and all, but seriously, the lengths he goes to in order to keep an eye on her are astounding! Jacob is really no better. I thought he might actually be better for her in "New Moon," but in "Eclipse," I saw just as much of the control-freakishness in him that I did in Edward. Apparently being a vampire’s girlfriend automatically puts Bella outside his social sphere. He avoids her and is intentionally cruel to her just because she chose Edward over him. He is a total and complete jerk to her, and he stays that way throughout the entire novel. This is why I can’t stand to hear girls going through the Team Edward/Team Jacob debate. NEITHER BOY IS A GOOD PERSON! I mean, I hate love triangles as a general rule because they are clichéd and overdone and tedious to the point of insanity (not to mention that there’s nothing at stake, so why the hell should I even care?), but this one takes the cake. Most love triangles (i.e., the ones that work) are relatively ambiguous: they do not make the choice so obvious so that we are left in suspense over the decision. “The Hunger Games” worked that way, more or less (although that one worked better because the love triangle was in the background; the story had actual stakes). Or, less often but still doable (if the author knows what the hell they are doing…which Meyer does not) the triangle might have an obvious choice, and at the end of the novel or series, the girl (or boy, depending) will make the right choice, the same one the reader knows she should make based on the characters. But in this case, Bella would be better off leaving town and meeting someone new, because neither of the love interests is remotely likable. Girls, here’s a newsflash: ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS ARE NOT ROMANTIC! I mean…I can’t believe I have to actually say those words, but these books are about a romantic relationship in which both male leads have abusive tendencies. And this is the book series that is being proclaimed as one of the best romances of the 21st century!? I really and truly do not understand how that is possible.
Let’s talk about the imprinting thing. It first makes an appearance in "Eclipse" but doesn’t really become a major plot point until "Breaking Dawn," but…that book has so many issues I have to tackle that I might as well start early. Meyer explains that werewolves imprint on people – that is to say, they fall in love at first sight. But it gets creepier: they don’t always fall in love with people their own age. In fact, in "Eclipse," we see a werewolf who has imprinted on a two-year-old. Oh, she tries to explain it away: the werewolf will be whatever the girl needs him to be: a big brother, best friend, whatever until she is old enough to be considered a love interest. It’s all good because werewolves don’t age while there are vampires in the area (gee, how convenient), so they can wait as long as they need to. Yet despite this bullet dodge, the whole concept is still incredibly creepy. I have a real problem with some guy looking at a two-year-old girl and thinking, Yeah, you’re gonna be my girlfriend in fifteen years. It’s just…eeeewww…
The one thing I can actually say in favor of "Eclipse" is that it’s the only one of the four "Twilight" books to set up its conflict IN THE BEGINNING OF THE NOVEL! I’ve already discussed how "Twilight" doesn’t have a real conflict until the third act, but "New Moon" also has an aimless, meandering plot until suddenly they have to rush off to save Edward. "Breaking Dawn" does basically the same thing. So, with that little segway…
"Breaking Dawn"…where oh where do I even begin…? Remember how I said that "New Moon" could almost but not quite be considered the worst book of the series? Yeah, "Breaking Dawn" gets that particular honor. There is so much wrong with this book that I don’t think I can even address everything. It’s not just the worst of the series, it may just be the worst young adult novel ever written. That should speak volumes, because there’s a whole lot of shit in the world of YA literature, so this thing’s gotta be bad if I can consider it the worst.
The best way to describe the plot of "Breaking Dawn" is a continuous repeat of the phrase, “We have a crisis! …oh wait, never mind.” That pretty much sums up the entire book. For example: oh no! Bella is now married to Edward and she’s afraid the sex might hurt (I’ll come back to that…). Oh wait, never mind, she’s fine. Oh no! Bella is pregnant with a half-vampire baby that is killing her from the inside! Oh wait, never mind, she gets turned into a vampire and survives. Oh no! Jacob is left all alone because Bella chose Edward over him! Oh wait, never mind, Jacob imprints on Bella’s baby and his heart his healed. Oh no! The baby is growing up at a remarkable rate and we’re not sure if she’ll live longer than a decade! Oh wait, NEVER MIND, it turns out she’ll stop growing after a few years meaning she’ll be immortal just like her parents. OH NO! Bella will never be able to see her father again because humans can’t know about vampires! OH WAIT, NEVER MIND, she can still see him, he just can’t know all the details about why she looks so different, and as long as he never knows exactly what she is, he’ll be fine. OH NO! Since Bella is a new vampire, her bloodlust is going to be impossible to control! OH WAIT, NEVER MIND, Bella is apparently gifted with amazing self-control and manages to stop herself from killing humans. OH NO! The Volturi thinks that Renesmee (Bella’s baby) is one of the illegal immortal children (babies that are turned into vampires that have no sense of self-control and thus have been banned with lethal consequences for lawbreakers) and are coming to kill the entire Cullen family as punishment! OH WAIT, NEVER FUCKING MIND, they talk it out and the Volturi leaves, giving the book no proper climax and the ultimate let-down ending.
All right: specifics. Let’s start with the sex, because oh dear Lord, there is way too much sexual content in this book. I understand that teenagers have knowledge of sex and there’s no point in pretending it doesn’t exist, but this is a wildly inappropriate subject matter for a young adult novel. Granted, the sex is never explicitly described, but it shouldn’t even be referenced! Save it for the ADULT romance novels, okay? But apart from the inappropriate angle, it’s also a physical impossibility according to the lore Meyer sets up for her vampires. Throughout the first three books, it is made quite clear that Edward and the other vampires have no heartbeat, and therefore there is no blood flow. That’s all fine and good, but…how to put this without being crude…um…sex kind of requires blood flow. A man is not able to perform unless he has a heartbeat and blood flow, as an increased blood flow to that particular region of the male body is what produces an erection. Without that, there is no sex. Furthermore, all of Edward’s physical functions have pretty much shut down: his respiratory system, his digestive system, his circulatory system, all of it no longer functions because he is a vampire. So…why is it that his reproductive system is fully functional??? The only word to describe this is sloppy (and please keep your sex puns to yourself). Once an author sets up the lore around his or her fantasy world, it’s generally a good idea to, you know, STICK TO THAT LORE!
Let’s talk for a bit about the pregnancy subplot that takes up a good chunk of the book. Again, this is a wildly inappropriate subject matter for a book targeted for a preteen-to-teen audience. Bella is fighting to keep her baby, even though everyone else thinks she should abort because it can and will kill her. Guys…I’m not going to get political, I respect your individual beliefs, I don’t care what side of the pro-life/pro-choice debate you are on, but…this is not the right medium to address this topic. The abortion issue is a very serious subject that requires a great deal of thought. Putting it in a young adult novel about sparkling vampires is NOT the right way to address it. This is a topic that is best reserved for adults, adults who know what they are talking about and can have a serious, grown-up discussion, not for a series of books about a whiny, unlikable protagonist and two borderline-abusive paranormal love interests. There is no faster way to make sure that I don’t take this subject seriously than to put it in such a set of circumstances.
The imprinting thing…yeah…it’s just as creepy here as it was in "Eclipse," if not more so. Here we have a teenage boy basically falling in love with a newborn infant. And yes, I know Meyer tries to explain it away, but no amount of explaining is going to make it less disturbing. No matter what way you look at it, there’s no getting around the fact that Jacob – and everyone else – knows that someday, he and Renesmee are going to be mates. And given the fact that Renesmee is just a child, it’s very, very, VERY sickening.
All right…let’s talk about the climax…and I use the term loosely because "Breaking Dawn" doesn’t even have a proper climax. In fact, I’d go so far as to call it an anticlimax. The last half of the novel is loaded with ominous foreshadowing building up to this massive battle that is about to take place between the Cullens (and the wolfpack, because yeah, they’re best friends now) and the Volturi. The day of the battle finally arrives, and there are chapters – yes, plural, not singular – of the characters just talking it out. Everything is revealed to be a huge misunderstanding, they present proof that Renesmee is not a threat, and the Volturi leaves. The only person to die is the informant who ratted out the Cullens without checking her facts first, and really, it’s no big loss because this is literally the first time you meet her so there’s no emotional involvement. There is no battle, there is no bloodshed, there is just a massive sense of letdown. With their names cleared, the Bella, Edward, Jacob, and the rest are free to live happily ever after. Now I have a massive problem with this ending, and not just because it’s shitty storytelling. The happy-ever-after ending promises that none of the characters will have to deal with any of the consequences for the decisions they’ve made throughout the series. And believe me, there should be some freaking consequences, considering how bitchy Bella is and how controlling Edward is and how much of an ass Jacob is. But no, they all get off scot-free and don’t have to sacrifice anything. No lessons are learned, no one has to give up anything, and the characters do not have to pay for their bad choices. This. Is. Stupid. It’s a terrible message to send out to such an impressionable audience. People, choices have consequences, and there is simply no getting around that. To get what you want in life, you have to make choices and you have to make sacrifices. The people you hurt are not always going to forgive you easily, if at all, and choosing to live one way means that you will have to give up living another way. EVERY CHOICE YOU MAKE HAS CONSEQUENCES!
…okay…I’m calm…really, I’m fine…okay…
Let’s look briefly at "The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner," the spin-off novella of "Eclipse." The best word to describe it is “pointless.” It’s far too short to have any real meaning, the characters don’t have time to develop properly, and you know from the very first page how it’s going to end, so there’s minimal emotional value to it. I take particular umbrage with the love-at-first-sight romance, but really, when compared to the other crap this series contains, it’s a tiny problem to deal with. Overall, I can’t say the book has anything bad in it, at least not like the rest of the books do. It’s just that there’s nothing really noteworthy about it. It is not memorable and not worthy of your time.
All right. That completes the overview of the books series. Let’s look at some specific issues before moving on to the film adaptations.
On the whole, the series simply isn’t worth reading. The first book was just okay at best, and they just go downhill from there. The writing style is pretty engaging, and Meyer’s prose is easy to read, but the content of the story is simply not worthy of the written page.
Let’s examine the vampires for a moment, as I love vampires as horror monsters and feel the need to nitpick about these particular creatures. On the one hand, they are very original. They have skin that has crystallized (which explains the sparkling, even though they’re smooth… whatever, I’ve already complained enough about that…), ice-cold skin, red eyes that turn to black when they haven’t fed (the Cullens’ eyes are gold, as their diet is different), and are considered beautiful, which is their greatest weapon. They lure their prey in with their beauty and mystique before going in for the kill. Apart from that, they are incredibly fast and super-strong, making them practically invincible except to other vampires and werewolves. And…that’s where my problem lies. They are too perfect. If biology taught me anything, it’s that every living creature on earth has its weakness. There is always a way for an ordinary human to kill or maim a predator. Even in other vampire fiction, this holds true. Dracula may be powerful, but religious objects are harmful to him, and a stake through the heart will kill him. Anne Rice’s vampires are vulnerable to sunlight and will burn to ash if touched by the sun’s rays. If you were to run into most fictional vampires, you would actually stand a chance at surviving. Not so with Meyer’s vampires. If they choose you as their next meal, you’re a goner unless there happens to be a werewolf nearby. This makes her vampires too perfect and not nearly flawed enough to be believable.
I’ve already complained about the main characters. Bella is a whiny, self-absorbed, conniving, using little bitch that I can’t stand at all. Edward is mopey, emo, controlling, and borderline abusive. Jacob is also mopey, controlling, borderline abusive, and just an all-around jerk. But what about the side characters? Well…to be truthful, I don’t really care for them. The one exception is Alice, who is bubbly, full of zest, and a fun character to read. But the others…either I didn’t care or I didn’t like them. Really, none of the other vampires in the Cullen clan are well-developed. Carlisle is the generic good father figure, Esme is the sweet, maternal figure, Emmett is a brainless jock, Rosalie is a bitch (granted, you learn why in "Eclipse," but it didn’t help me like her any better), and Jasper is a spaz. Yes, they all get backstories, but their development really goes no further than that. The werewolves are even less defined: they’re usually just stereotypical teenage boys: quick-tempered, jocular, and not very interesting. The human characters fare no better. Bella’s high school friends and pretty one-dimensional, and the guys in particular come off as whiny, petulant, and needy (especially Mike. God I wanted to choke him…). The only other recurring character to talk about is Charlie, Bella’s father, who, to his credit, does get some development, just not in a good way. In the first book, he’s a bumbling fool who doesn’t know how to deal with a teenage daughter. Okay, that’s fine. But by "Eclipse," he became kind of insufferable. He dislikes Edward for leaving Bella and breaking her heart, so he favors Jacob more, and I can understand that. What I CANNOT understand is a scene in "Eclipse," when Jacob pretty much forces himself on Bella and kisses her. She punches him in response and breaks her hand. When Charlie finds out what happened, his response to Jacob is not, “Boy, what were you kissing my daughter for!?” His words are, and I’m not kidding: “Good for you, kid.” No. No no no no no no no NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! No dad in the history of dads has ever been HAPPY that his daughter has been kissed, especially unwillingly! And come on, the broken hand is a heavy indicator that it was not consensual. No father thinks like this! A more appropriate response would have been for Charlie to grab a shotgun and chase Jacob off the property (and I would have cheered him on, too). But no, instead we have this little scene, which makes no damn sense and doesn’t make me like Charlie’s character in the least.
But the biggest problem with the series is its total lack of consequences, as I stated earlier. Bella makes a great deal of choices in these books, all of which have enormous consequences. But she constantly makes bad decisions because she “knows what she wants.” That is a load of bull. No one at the age of seventeen or eighteen knows exactly what they want in life. No one. I’m 21, and I still don’t know exactly what I want to do with my life. If I had followed through with every decision I considered making when I was a teenager, there’s no telling how much shit I’d be in right now. And the choices Bella makes in these books are life-altering. She is convinced that she wants to be a vampire, even though everyone tells her that it would be throwing her life away. She would never be able to settle for long in any location, never make any new friends, and would have to watch as her mortal family dies away one by one. But does she listen? No, because at the enlightening age of eighteen, she feels that the pros outweigh the cons. And you know, that wouldn’t be so bad, really, if she actually had to deal with the consequences of those actions! For example, by choosing Edward, she ends up shutting Jacob out. In normal life, this would mean that she would never see her best friend again, and particularly in light of the huge feud between vampires and werewolves in this series, she’s pretty much guaranteed that Jacob would no longer be part of her life. But no. Jacob imprints on Renesmee, meaning that he’ll always be around, his feelings are not hurt by Bella’s rejection (not to mention all the crap she put him through), and they can all live together as one happy family. Another example: by becoming a vampire, Bella has to trick her father into believing she’s dead in order to protect him from the Volturi, as he cannot be aware of the existence of vampires. This means Bella has to hurt Charlie in the worst possible way in order to get what she wants. But no. Jacob (in a really stupid move that definitely didn’t make me like him any better) reveals his wolf-form to Charlie and tells him that Bella is alive but different. He then visits Bella and is told that, as long as he doesn’t know precisely what his daughter has become, he’ll be safe and can still see her. This whole need-to-know bit is particularly offensive to me, as it means that Bella doesn’t have to live with the consequences of her choices. She can be a vampire and still see her father, and no one has to lose anything. This is not the way life works, and I think this is a bad message to spread among the teenage girls who love these books so much.
Okay, so let’s address the whole "Harry Potter" vs. "Twilight" debate. I think you can gather by now which series I think is superior to the other, but that’s not the real topic I want to discuss here, because I think it’s a bad comparison to begin with. "Harry Potter" is a fantasy/adventure series geared toward children, even though it’s mature enough to be enjoyed by people of all ages, whereas "Twilight" is a paranormal romance series geared toward teens. We’re dealing with books of two entirely different genres and target audiences, so the comparison isn’t really fair. A better comparison might be between "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games" trilogy, as they are both fantasy series with a teen target audience. Or perhaps "Twilight" vs. Anne Rice’s vampire novels, as they are both about paranormal entities (I hesitate to call "The Vampire Chronicles" romance novels…). Yet the result is still the same: "The Hunger Games" and "Interview With The Vampire" (the only book of "The Vampire Chronicles" I’ve actually read…) are both superior to "Twilight" in every way because they have genuine stakes, consequences, better characters, plot, and actually have some life lessons to give. But hey, let’s actually look at "Harry Potter" for a moment. Within its seven books, it has more plot, more character development, a genuine conflict, believable dialogue, interesting subplots, consequences that the characters have to live with, and better life lessons, whereas "Twilight" is shallow and has no life lessons, the characters are bland and forgettable (when they aren’t intensely dislikeable), and the plot goes nowhere. There are no sacrifices made and no consequences to deal with. So yes, even though it’s a problematic comparison, "Harry Potter" always has and always will trump "Twilight."
And…this is the part I don’t want to do. But if I’m going to give a fair, nonbiased review, I’ve got to take a moment to point out the good in The Twilight Saga. And yes, there are some good points worthy of note. Not many, but a few. For starters, the vampires are original, even if underwhelming and badly designed. But more importantly, it raised a desire in teens to read more. What happened when they finished the "Twilight" books? They moved on to other books, like "The Hunger Games." It introduced them to other (and better) vampire novels. I’m a prime example: "Twilight" was my first exposure to vampire fiction, and when I was done, I moved on to Stephen King’s "‘Salem’s Lot" and, of course, Bram Stoker’s "Dracula." As much as I hate to admit it, I have to thank "Twilight" for introducing me to my favorite of the horror monsters. "Twilight" also made vampires a more widely beloved subgenre, even if finding a good vampire book became a thousand times harder because of it. Suddenly the young adult section of the bookstore was loaded with books about the undead, and while about 90 percent of them are crap, it raised awareness of the genre. And by extension, it saved well-known vampire novels from obscurity. Would books like Anne Rice’s "Vampire Chronicles" and Charlaine Harris’ "Southern Vampire Mysteries" be as popular as they are today without "Twilight"? I find it doubtful. Also, thanks to some not-so-subtle references, The Twilight Saga led teens to classic literature. Each book, Meyer has stated, is loosely based on or inspired by a classic. "Twilight" is based on Jane Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice"; "New Moon" is based on Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet"; "Eclipse" mentions Emily Brontë’s "Wuthering Heights"; and "Breaking Dawn" has elements of both "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" and "The Merchant of Venice," both by Shakespeare. With all these references to other books fresh in young readers’ minds, there was a great rise of interest in classic literature. Hey, at least we can hope they’ll discover that the classics are better than this crap, right? And finally, books like "Twilight" supply a demand. There is a market for mindless, gratuitous entertainment, and "Twilight," with its no-consequences romance fantasy, helps fill that void. There is a strong argument to be made for "Twilight" as a guilty pleasure, something that you know is bad but can’t help but enjoy. And you know what, if that’s the case for you, then go right ahead. Indulge yourself in the escapist fantasy of sparkly vampires, just as long as you can recognize that they aren’t good books at the end of the day.
All right, I think I’ve beaten the books to death enough. Let’s look for a moment at the film adaptations. This shouldn’t take long, as the movies follow the books pretty faithfully, and as a result, they suffer from most of the same problems. Bella is still a whiny little piece of work, Edward is still a control freak, Jacob is still a jerk, there are still no consequences for any of the characters, etc. However, the films have the added bonus of being delightfully awful. Some of them are so bad they’re good. They take less time and investment than reading the books, so they’re easier to enjoy.
"Twilight" fits the bill perfectly as far as enjoyable awfulness goes. Apart from the bland, unimpressive cinematography and meandering plot, it’s got some really bad acting in it. Kristen Stewart in the role of Bella Swan is just awful. I mean this girl never shows any emotion throughout the entire film. In the few scenes when she’s supposed to be terrified, it comes off as forced and unconvincing, which is also a good way to describe the special effects. It was obviously a low-budget picture, and it shows plainly. Yet it is these things that make the film so easy to enjoy. You can sit comfortably in your chair and laugh at the terrible way this film is executed.
"New Moon" is much less laughable. Like the book, it’s an incredibly boring film that moves at a snail’s pace. For a full listing of what’s wrong with this film, just go back and reread my overview of the book, as it follows the plot almost word-for-word and thus has the same problems. Add that to the fact that Stewart still can’t act and you probably get a good idea of how this film unfolds. But the effects were an improvement, at least…not that it saved the film at all.
"Eclipse" is probably the least awful film of the series. At the very least, some genuine thought and effort went into its production. It’s still not a good movie: it’s still based on Meyer’s writing so it just can’t be salvaged. But it seems as though the director and/or screenwriter knew that what they were making was based on crap, so they decided, “Screw it, let’s just make a movie that will get people in the seats. Just give them a good time.” And they did. It certainly has the most in-jokes of all the films. For example, when Edward escorts Bella to the werewolves’ territory for temporary protection, he remarks of Jacob, “Doesn’t he own a shirt?” as the actor spends most of the screentime shirtless to show off his body for the swooning fangirls in the audience.
"Breaking Dawn" was divided into two separate films. Yeah, because…you know, it has such a detailed plot that it needed two movies to go through it all. Like the book, "Breaking Dawn: Part 1" is the worst film of the franchise, just because it follows the book and shares the same problems, like the sex and the abortion debate and the imprinting and so forth. It also shares the same problems as the earlier films: bad acting, iffy effects (I don’t really care for the sparkling thing, but there are a lot of scenes where Edward is in direct sunlight and not sparkling. It’s called CONSISTENCY, people!), and the like. "Breaking Dawn: Part 2," on the other hand, is the most enjoyably bad film of the series next to the first one. It’s still bad, but oh is it entertaining! It has a wonderful and terrible twist ending, in which the Cullens and the werewolves actually get into a fight with the Volturi, and characters get killed viciously. And I mean characters that people have grown to love, like Carlisle and Seth, not just background characters. Bella gets her one and only badass moment when she and Edward rip off the Volturi leader’s head and set it on fire. It’s kind of corny, but it’s amazing. I remember sitting in the theatre watching this and thinking, “Oh my God, 'Twilight' has a fight scene! They actually went there! They finally gave it consequences! This is awesome!” And then…it all turns out to be a vision of what WOULD happen if the Volturi decided to fight. And then it reverts back to the book’s no-consequences ending (with one added bonus: Jacob looks at Edward and says, “So should I call you ‘Dad’?” Eeeewwww…just…eeeeewwwww…!). I can’t say the ending is good; in fact, I call it a massive cop-out. But it’s an improvement over the book and actually gave the story some kind of climax, so I guess I’ll take what I can get. Now there are some genuinely good elements: the cinematography is excellent in this one, and the pacing is pretty good. But it’s still "Twilight." What can you do?
All right, let’s wrap this up. In conclusion, I’m not impressed by the books; they are stupid and just aren’t worth the time, unless you just want to have a simple, mindless reading experience. Perhaps they can be called guilty pleasures, but I get no joy from them. They have no real plot, awful and morally reprehensible characters, and teach bad life lessons, but I can’t bring myself to completely hate them because they led me to the vampires I know and love today. The films are definitely worth checking out, as most of them fall into the “so bad they’re good” category. But in no way, shape, or form are they better than "Harry Potter," and I would still much rather read Dracula for vampire entertainment.
I hope you have enjoyed this look at The Twilight Saga (you’d better have: thinking about these books like this has resulted in massive headaches on my part). If you like the books, that’s fine, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. But I hope that now, you are a bit more aware of what these books really contain and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to see just how bad they really are. If they’re your guilty pleasures, more power to you. Whatever your stance on the topic, I hope you’ve had a good laugh at my raging, and I look forward to reviewing something a little less headache-inducing. Have a nice day.