You can throw out a lot of what I wrote about Twilight a couple of days ago, it turned in some fantastic numbers over the weekend for Summit and did far better business that I ever thought it would. I still believe that success of this magnitude is ultimately determined by how wide an interest net a film casts, basically how many different kind of people does it appeal to, and how many of the can the studio get to show up to see it. The thing that strikes me is how much better Twilight seems to be doing than Quantum of Solace. The quoted production budget for Solace was a wicked (and probably excessive) $200 million, while Twilight only cost $37 million to make -- a bargain by comparison. The Bond flick did $67 million in ~3400 theaters last weekend, while vampires and teen angst did $70.5. I don't know which of the two will have more holding power, but Solace dropped nearly 60% from its first weekend which isn't exactly great news if you ask me.
There were rumors that a script based on New Moon -- the next book in the series that Twilight is based on -- had already been written before anyone knew whether or not this was going to be the next great franchise, or another dud-with-great-hopes.
New Line wanted to take The Golden Compass, based on the first book in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, and turn that into a franchise they could bank on as well. Problem is, Compass didn't just bomb, it cost way too much money to make to begin with and really turned New Line -- the studio that produced the Lord of The Things trilogy -- into a hapless shell. And I think that's something people just don't pay attention to like they should. Twilight cost $37 million to make, while Compass cost $180 million, not that much less than was poured into a Bond flick everybody knew was going to do huge business.
I just don't think you can justify spending that much money on a first film no matter how high your hopes or expectations are.
There's a pretty good post on one of the LA Times blogs I track about how a script and rights fell into Paramount's lap via MTV, only to have it slip away because nobody at MTV had the authority to renew what was probably a relatively cheap option, and nobody at Paramount had the guts to pull the trigger on production or even to purchase another option. One of Fox's offshoots passed on it outright before it went to Summit, and you just know that both of them -- especially Paramount -- are wondering how any of this happened and more importantly, who they can blame for it.
And yet things like this happen all the time, and none of it is as interesting as reactions to the film itself. A lot of people went to see it but I've yet to see anyone online rave about it. To the contrary, Twilight only received a score of about 56 on Metacritic (out of 100). Entertainment Weekly gave it one of the best reviews by score but what they said was anything but complimentary:
On screen, Twilight is repetitive and a tad sodden, too prosaic to really soar. But Hardwicke stirs this teen pulp to a pleasing simmer.
TV Guide complimented the successful adaptation from book to film, which is anything but automatic, but there weren't any reviews that topped 75/100 and there were quite a few that were..well, brutal is putting it nicely. Film Threat gave this review in the form of a question:
Q: When is a vampire not a vampire? A: When it goes out in daylight, sees itself in a mirror, doesn't drink human blood, and still manages to suck.
The Wall Street Journal called it absurd while Christian Science Monitor says Kristen Stewart bit off more than she could chew. Variety called it "disappointingly anemic", which seems like a compliment compared to what USA Today said, knocking the casting, acting, makeup, and the "laughable dialogue".
Regardless, the folks who put this film together accomplished what they set out to do, so good for them. Congratulations on proving me and other critics wrong.