Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why: Twilight Has Filled A Niche and No One Can Fill It

This is not a good thing, mind you. I don't want anyone to read this title and go, "Oh, wow, Jacob likes Twilight, now." I have not recently suffered a blow to the head or started huffing paint...not to say that Twilight fans do any of those things. They do worse, they read the books.

There's been a meteoric rise in book-to-movie adaptations of YA novels, Young Adult books for the uninitiated, over the last few years. There has been even more in the last year since the final Twilight movie slumped, still-born and repulsive, out of the box office. For those of you out there, shaking your fist at me for being so heartless and cruel, let me remind you that Dynasty had already done a similar trope in their final hours of fame, and, as poorly received as it was back then, it hasn't gotten better with age.

Where was I? You'll have to forgive me, I could go on for hours about how awful the series is, but I simply wanted to make a point. This is not a review to cast a light on the spectacle of Twilight, because honestly, bad reviews do more for bad books than good ones, and every time I say the name of the series I can hear Stephanie Meyers' pockets filling with more ill-gotten money than a Nazi during Blitzkrieg. The point is that the series created a fandom with marketing and influence that I haven't seen since Star Wars came out with the second trilogy, with fans more obsessed than the people on Trekkies. And why is that? Who knows, it was the wrong place at the wrong time, and once that sparkly vampire was out of the box, it just kept glowing no matter how deep I buried it.

But, why is it that with all the Twilight, (cha-ching, dammit Meyers!) off brand movies coming out, none of them have been able to match the success that their predecessors have made before. I always think of it like a flight of geese: Meyers was the brain dead goose that somehow got to the head of the flock and made it easier for all of its less popular geese-cousins to follow in it's wake. Now Meyers has gotten tired and moved off to the side, and rather than a smarter goose taking the lead and getting the rest where they need to go, they've flown into the arctic, had their wings frozen and exploded in mid-air. And then someone came around and made a nasty facebook post about them.

So what did the Twilight Series do that the others just aren't getting? Well for one thing, everyone else is writing with a plot. Look at a general plot like Game of Thrones. The plot was central to the story without being the majority of it. The characters of the story revolved around the plot, and character development and conflict revolve around the characters. A good climax to the story comes along and effects the majority of the characters if not all of them, and ends with the reader wanting more. Regardless of whether you like a story-driven or character-driven book, you can all agree that a plot is important to a book. I like to think of it as a galaxy: the plot is the sun, the characters are the planets, development are the moons and the climax is a set of meteors about to destroy everything. Goofy as it sounds, it's apt for the point I'm about to make.

For Twilight, they skewed the entire galaxy, making it seem like they have a plot, but in reality, in it's place is only conflict. Rather than a plot-sun, Twilight's galaxy model revolves around conflict and little "forbidden romance" tropes to draw in readers. Think about it, the characters are in school but do they ever actually talk about school beyond the Romeo and Juliet sections Meyers forces down your throat in an attempt to sound worldly? No, she's got vampires and werewolves and a forced love triangle so weak it makes people wearing "Team Jacob" t-shirts look like people who wear "Vote Gore" buttons. Around their conflict-sun, float little character planets with no real development. 200-year-old Vampires don't really develop,  and when you try to make them it is contrived, and "Dynasty-Level-Weak". In exchange of a climactic meteor shower, a plot-shower is in it's place, spitting at the planets, hitting some, but mostly just aiming wastefully aside like a group of children spitting at someone off a balcony. They're not likely to hit you, and it's somewhat amusing to watch them try.

And that is the reason, in my opinion, that all of these other YA book-to-movie adaptations are failing, or at least not cashing in as well on the waning popularity that Twilight got. Books like Beautiful Creatures and (shudder,) City of Bones, are trying for the otherworldly romance of a "normal" protagonist and a soft-core gooey supernatural love interest. They think that this is the source of the popularity, a plot about whether they can make it or not, but in reality, 90% of Twilight is just about how wrong their relationship is and how they can make it work anyway. That's not a plot, but that's what sold Twilight, and that's why others have been failing in its wake.

So, what do we do? I know we are all getting a little tired of the YA movies coming out, and to be honest, after Percy Jackson 2.0, I just want the Hunger Games movies to be over so that I can get back to avoiding the movie theaters for awhile, at least until X-Men: Days of Future Past comes out. And, to be honest, I think that's what movies need to do: wait. Wait for the next fad so they can cash in on something moderately original and not so embarrassing. Because to be perfectly honest, if I find out they're going to try Eragon again, I might just blow a fuse and start throwing paperback copies of The Hobbit from the nearest water-tower 'til they lock me up in the looney bin.

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