4. The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)
Second to last place goes to New Moon (alternative title: ‘Bella Gets Ghosted’).
New Moon was tonally all over the place and set some pretty questionable precedents.
Bella is attacked by Edward’s brother Jasper during her eighteenth birthday party when she cuts her finger on a piece of wrapping paper. Fearing for Bella’s safety, Edward decides he shouldn’t be in Bella’s life anymore and so chooses to dump Bella in the middle of the woods at night-time.
Director Chris Weitz’s decision to take New Moon to a dark place was admirable, his portrayal of Bella in mental and physical pain after being abandoned by Edward and the rest of The Cullen Family felt entirely realistic and raw. The sequence in which Bella sits motionless in a chair while the camera circles around her unmoving body perfectly captured her pain and isolation. The seasons change quickly around her, indicating the feeling of losing time and the blending of days that seems to occur when one is consumed by depression. We also see Bella experiencing night terrors, visions and a desire to put herself into positions of danger to feel closer to Edward. Kirsten Stewart’s portrayal of Bella in this state was entirely careful and measured, and so created new layers to the timid girl we came to know in the first movie.
Bella develops a loving and trusting relationship with her old childhood friend Jacob Black, whom she wholly relies upon to get through this dark time in her life. Then, just when it looks like Bella is freeing herself of Edward’s hold on her, Jacob inexplicably pulls away from her, causing her to slump back into isolation and depression.
Jacob reveals himself to be a werewolf, and it seems like Bella cannot catch a break from the slew of mythical hotties who possess both undeniable power and unpredictability that greatly endanger her life.
The film paints Bella’s dependence on these boys as romantic, when in actuality her attachments to them are quite distressing, as she is unhesitating in forgiving both Edward and Jacob when they cause her vast emotional and physical pain. Outside of her relationships with the boys, Bella’s life is empty and uninteresting to her; this seems like a great concern to her father and her small group of mortal friends, but seems of no importance to Bella herself. Perhaps Bella’s subservience to these powerful boys was not a great message to be sending to teenage girls.
High points included the exploration of Bella’s mental health, and the mutual strength Bella and Jacob find in one another when they give each other room to talk about their problems. Low points include the film’s desperate and blatant attempts to mimic “Romeo and Juliet”, and Taylor Lautner’s terrible wig.
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3. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012)
The second instalment of Breaking Dawn was both experimental and fresh – although it had its fair share of cringey teen romance, the film had a lot of fun exploring Bella’s new life as a vampire – and we were finally able to stretch our legs in Edward’s mystical and previously unknowable world whilst slowly putting the final pieces of the story in place.
After a lengthy fight sequence in which we saw the brutal demise of Jasper, Dr Cullen and the majority of the werewolf pack, the action abruptly stopped, calmly revealing that everything we just saw was Aro’s perception of Alice’s vision. Thanks to Alice’s ability to tell the future and Aro’s gifts in mind reading, Aro knew that if he was to continue on his current course, he would lose the fight and his life in the process. On paper, this fight and its many casualties is a bonkers move on Condon’s part, but on film it works perfectly. We get a massive, emotionally taxing finale and the tidy and happy ending we all secretly wanted; we get to both have our cake and eat it.
The film took on an overwhelming number of characters, and although they each offered fun and interesting personalities, the franchise’s finale didn’t have space to fully develop them all. This was an experimental and fun release, but might have taken on too much.
Overall, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 was a pleasant and tidy ending to the massive vampire franchise that many were glad to see the back of. Highs included Rami Malek as Benjamin, and lows included the weird banter surrounding Bella and Edward’s sex life.