We have finally reached the end of an important moment in film history. I know that many people dismiss the Twilight saga for a multitude of reasons – it's about vampires, it is focused on a girl's story, it's a romance, it's just not good, etc., etc. – but to me, that is just a shortsighted look at what this franchise has done.
It has changed Hollywood.
I know that is a bold statement. But look at all the films released, in development or ready to come out: The Hunger Games (which made over $400 million in the US this year), Beautiful Creatures (which opens in early 2013), Angel Fall, Earthseed, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. I'm sure there are others we have not yet heard of. What they all have in common is that they tell the story of a girl and none of these movies would be happening without the success of Twilight. Twilight proved that stories about girls and women could draw crowds and also proved that girls and women were a huge under-developed box office threat.
It also changed Comic Con which had to accept that the girls were here to stay. It changed how people could release movies that star women, and it changed people's thinking and opened up a wider conversation about how stories about women and girls are treated in Hollywood.
But most of all it made money. Lots of it. Sitting in the theatre Wednesday night getting ready to watch the final installment I thought back to the first opening weekend (and director Bill Condon puts a lovely coda on the film reminding us of how far it has come) and remembered how exciting it was when the first film opened to $69 million. This was just four years and over 2 billion dollars ago. Each subsequent move did better than the previous one. The opening of Eclipse was lower than New Moon but New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn Part 1 all grossed in the $300 million range here in the US and a lot more overseas.
And this one will be the biggest of them all. According to Fandango, thousands of shows are sold out for the weekend from big cities to small towns, and the film is on track to gross $150 million in the US this weekend on over 4,000 screens. (It is already raking in the bucks overseas.) 4,000 screens is monstrous. It is on par with super hero movies.
At the screening I was at there were some twihards in the audience and media folks. The fans were defintely on team Jacob and were also cheering for Robert Pattinson. But hardly any cheered for Kristen Stewart. She's still living down the crap from her dalliance this summer but it looks like she has mended her relationship with Robert Pattinson if their happy smiles on the red carpet earlier this week means anything. Hopefully, those still having issues with her will get over it soon as Twilight moves into history and all the actors move onto other projects. She still has tons of great work to do as an actor and it will be interesting to watch her as she matures.
This film has the strongest role and story for Bella. She spent the previous four films as the passive girlfriend, and now she is the active vampire. On the one hand it is disappointing to see that she had to become other worldly to have any strength and power, but then this is Twilight and one needs to suspend disbelief completely or else you will just not enjoy yourself.
So I will gladly take a strong, kick ass red eyed vampire Bella over the awkward Bella who dominated the franchise. As you see the saga conclude (and I haven't read the books) it is clear that the whole thing has been all about Bella coming into her own as a person and finding her own destiny even if it is as an immortal vampire.
I am glad this movie ends with a strong and powerful Bella. That is the perfect legacy for a franchise that has paved the way for women and girls to show our muscle at the box office.
PS- I did a great interview with the film's writer Melissa Rosenberg yesterday. We will get that up as soon as possible.