If you’re not in on the “Twilight” phenomenon, get with it! Because you might not understand the huge significance of a bestselling series written by a stay-at-home mom/first time author (with scripts penned by a Jewish screenwriter) becoming the biggest global franchise since “Star Wars.” Wait…what? Did she really just say that? “Star Wars” is one of the most successful film franchises of all time!
Yes, that’s right. And “New Moon,” the second installment in “The Twilight Saga” just beat out “Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith” as the no. 1 advance online ticket seller of all time, according to Fandango.
Think it’s just a silly tween vampire movie?
According to Time Magazine, author Stephenie Meyer has sold 45 million books in the U.S. and 40 million more worldwide. Her books have spent 235 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, 136 of them at No. 1. The movie version of Twilight, which came out a year ago, made $350 million, Time reports, though other figures clock in at more than $380 million. Right now, as Nikki Finke reports, fans are camping out in Westwood awaiting tonight’s “New Moon” premiere.
This excerpt from Time’s review of the first film deftly points out the timeless, age-blind appeal of “Twilight”:
Defiantly old-fashioned, the film wants viewers to believe not so much in vampires as in the existence of an anachronistic movie notion: a love that is convulsive and ennobling. Bella could be any Hollywood heroine in love with a good boy whom society callously misunderstands. She’s Natalie Wood to Edward’s James Dean (in Rebel Without a Cause) or Richard Beymer (in West Side Story). Cathy, meet Heathcliff. Juliet, Romeo.
This brand of fervid romance packed ‘em in for the first 60 years of feature films, then went nearly extinct, replaced by the young-male fetishes of space toys and body-function humor. Twilight says to heck with that. It jettisons facetiousness for a liturgical solemnity, and hardware for soft lips. It revives the precept that there’s nothing more cinematic than a close-up of two beautiful people about to kiss.
A recent article in the magazine aptly titled “It’s ‘Twilight’ in America” beautifully (and somewhat appallingly) explains how the franchise’s success irrevocably alters the lives of its stars, who in this case, have gone from unknown to the world’s most rabidly consumed faces:
At the heart of all this are Stewart and Pattinson, who have gone from obscurity straight to superstardom. People wait for them outside buildings. People try to follow them home. “In Vancouver shooting New Moon, I tried something,” Pattinson says. “It’s the only city in the world where hoods are not fashionable. If you’re wearing a hood, you’re going to mug people. So I wore a hood, and then I’d sort of spit on the ground a little bit and do a little bit of shaking around as you’re walking. Everyone moved to the other side of the street.”
If there’s an irony to the success of Twilight, it’s this: life as the idol at the white-hot center of the hottest entertainment franchise in the world isn’t that much different from being a vampire. Pattinson has become the immortal object of global fandom’s hopeless yearnings. What began deep in Meyer’s unconscious mind has become Pattinson and Stewart’s reality. They’re living the dream.
Read my interview with “The Twilight Saga” screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg here