After leaving the Wednesday night screening of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1, a few fellow film critics and I were unanimous in panning the new movie.
"Painfully bad." "Wretched." "Awful." And those were some of the more gentle adjectives we used.
Only a few minutes later, as I walked to my car, I overheard two 20-something women gushing over Breaking Dawn: "It was so good," one said.
Their positive reaction to Breaking Dawn as opposed to mine is further proof that I'm not the audience the film seeks. I know this. The filmmakers know this. And Twilight fans know this. But that shouldn't matter. Why can't these movies be good for the sake of being good?
I read to my daughter most nights before bed. As smart as I'd like to think my daughter is -- and she is -- I'm not reading War and Peace to her or Cat's Cradle. I stick to the basic children's books including Dr. Seuss, Berenstain Bears, and the delightful works of Eric Carle and Marcus Pfister.
While I'm not the target audience of her books either, I enjoy them because they don't talk down to her, even though she's 5 years old and just starting to read. These authors and illustrators respect their audience, and imbue their works with linguistic artistry, creative concepts, and dazzling designs.
The Twilight movies should be the same way -- not necessarily aiming for Oscar gold, but far from settling for a Razzie. So why does it feel like these movies were thrown together, with little creative discussion other than how many times Taylor Lautner has to take off his shirt?
Because Summit Entertainment, the studio behind the Twilight franchise, doesn't care what I think about these movies. It doesn't matter how savage critics are to the Twilight films, the movies still make gobs of money -- more than $1.8 billion worldwide. This means the studio has little creative or financial motivation to make anything other than average to tolerably bad movies -- just good enough so that Twihards don't revolt.
Look at the track record: The first Twilight is OK. The Web site Rotten Tomatoes rates it 49 percent positive reviews. The second one, New Moon, is wretched. Rotten Tomatoes rates it 27 percent positive. The third one, Eclipse, is good, easily the best of the lot. Rotten Tomatoes rates it 49 percent positive. Yet it's New Moon that's made the most money of the films so far. Maybe Summit Entertainment found inspiration in that. That would explain why Breaking Dawn, which opens today and is also poorly reviewed, is so painful to watch.
Acceptable and tolerable movies shouldn't be the goals of filmmakers. And certainly that's no way to treat a loyal fan base. Look at what New Line Cinema and Peter Jackson did for J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and Warner Bros. and four directors and two screenwriters did with the J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. The studios took an active interest in appeasing fans -- and critics -- with quality films that didn't insult (read: talk down to) audiences, and they were rewarded handsomely at the box office and with quality films that should be favorites decades from now. With the Twilight movies, it's hard enough to get through two hours the first time.
No one will ever accuse Stephenie Meyer of writing literary masterpieces with her Twilight novels. But she never insulted her readers either. Not the way these movies insult film critics. And not the way these movies insult fans.
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734. Follow him on Twitter: @bladepopculture.