Did Twilight Ruin Fantasy?

...Or just drain some of its life force?


This post was inspired by the newly released teaser trailer for Catherine Hardwicke‘s upcoming release Red Riding Hood. In this ‘breathtaking vision’ of the fable, a pair of mismatched lovers; one a ‘different’ young girl, struggling to supress he inquisitive nature, the other a gorgeous young man with funky hair and a bad streak; fight for their love to be allowed by other who rebuke it. The boy is supernatural and the girl will break any rules to discover his secret, there are clans out to kill the beast and the film is set in the forest… sound familiar?

I wonder would these parrallels become clear to me had I not been informed the Director for Red Riding Hood was also the directer of Twilight, but I was, and I am. See instantly we have a problem – Hardwicke, with more credits to her name as a designer than a director we could hope for stylish fantasy flick, but such comments would be deluded after witnessing Hardwickes most successful screen project Twilight. Now here is where I was about to exploit how such an accomplished production designer could get the styling of a movie so wrong, however after researching Hardwicke more thoroughly I find only two titles in her eighteen design credits that I have heard of-one of which is Three Kings, the other Vanilla Sky. Now of these two Three Kings was probably slightly better recieved by reviewers, though I must confess to actually rather enjoying Vanilla Sky when I watched it. Though to stay on topic, both these features hardly allowed Hardwicke to flex any really designer muscle, though the high concept future elements of Vanilla Sky could have done this, the direction is noticably muted and understated, limiting any flashy designer effects. Perhaps it is these limitations that impeded Hardwicke with the effect implementaion in Twilight; cheap blurring effects for speed and painfully obvious wirework stunts for the acrobatics took the only joy I probably would have got from watching Twilight out of the movie. Sadly from the teaser trailer of Red Riding Hood I feel that this boat is already heading down the same river; deep into post-production, every shot has that overly-glossy feel the first Twilight film had and though we see so flashes of the beast himself, I’m confident of a badly colour-graded CGI monster.

Of course fantasy films are not merited wholly on their effects (even if they are more so than others) but of the content also; sadly Hardwicke seems to go weak at the knees for scripts that match two lovers who were just-not-quite meant to be with a fantastical twist. At 0.51 seconds into the trailer for Red Riding Hood, the painfully good-looking boy says five words that will be sure to make any 15 year old girl swoon: ‘I’m no good for you’. Like some box-office spell, no doubt it is the tortured love affair between the two protagnists that will draw in the majority of the films audience but personally, it will keep me away. The scripts modern fantasy dramas seem to follow now are becoming more like a one and a half hours worth of dialogue punctuated by two fight scenes and a lot of snogging; anyone can seemingly buy this script and just change the names (though I think Hardwicke may be recycling her copy); as seen here in my attempt to reconstruct a scene about one hour and fifteen minutes into any Hardwicke fantasy:

Girl (A): You can’t kill him!

Alternative Love Interest (B): I have to A, he’s no good for you… he’ll KILL you!

A: No B, he LOVES me!

B: You’re deluded A! He’s trying to trick you! You should be with me!

A: What!?

B: I’ve always loved you A, why can’t you see I’ma  much better fit?

A: I don’t love you B! I love C!

B: Fine, then I guess I’ll have to kill him…

A: You can’t, by now he’ll be miles awa-

Love Interest (C): Hello A… Hello B.

B: Hello C.

A: What are you doing here C!?

C: I’m here because I love you…


And so the dreary narrative continues…

It’s not just the dialogue though; Twilight is also singlehandly the excuse for the resergence of the fantasy genre… and I don’t mean that in a good way.

The Wolfman: I truely pity anyone that paid money to watch this film, I was lucky to be able to watch a copy rented by my friend and I can hounestly say it was  one of the worst fantasy films I have ever watched, ranking highly also among my worst ever films list. Such effects laden films cannot and should not be rushed through post-production; not only are the effects extremely poor though, the characters are all cheaply acted with everyone embodying some sort of world weary tone to their performance followed up by a ridiculous narrative involving emplanationless murder and Anthony Hopkins’ hairy face (for those of you that havn’t watch the film lets just say he, like Benicio Del Toros lead, doesn’t like the moon too much).

Underworld Evoloution: The franchise really didn’t need this sequel, though I feel it would probably have been made anyway seeing as we have already seen one more poor sequel, soon to be followed by another; but I’m still going to blame Twighlight… somehow.

Avatar maybe? Ok, so James Cameron’s script may have been in development for however-many-years but does it really benefit from having it’s two characters so objectivley opposed? This journey of discover crap is starting to become so formulaic that I’m starting to fall asleep! I must admit though, Avatar wasn’t really my favorite film, overly simplictic in it’s story and shallow characters meant that it was just a really long CGI advert… but that’s another rant altogether.

Twilights 2 + 3 (and the soon to come 4th): Perhaps the biggest injustice to cinema served byt he twighlight series is the brand itself. Of course these would not have been made had there not been an absoloutley MASSIVE demand, but the quality of cinema in all these flicks is very low indeed and for anyone who has isn’t a (pre)teen girl, these films are just becoming a chore.

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I do appreciate this is only a short list and some of it is not even fully justified but we do see Twilight everywhere… constantly. And whilst I have no problem acknowledging a billboard of the beautiful Kristen Stewart I do have a problem with trying to avoid the eyes of the flawless Robert Pattinson. So maybe a psycologist could look at me and tell me how I have some complex about not being the adored teen idol of millions and that really I want to be just like Edward Cullen. But I think I have a point; as fantasy is slowing being overtaken by graphic novel adaptations now (another topic entirely), we have been subject to Twilight’s legacy for nearly 5 whole years now and it’s impact into modern Hollywood filmaking has been massive. Maybe it’s not a bad thing, maybe Twilight really is better than Nosfuratu and we are all blessed by it’s existence. All I’m saying is when something has such a massive impact on cinema and all you can see are the cheap knockoffs such as Blood and Chocolate and the (admittedly self-mocking) Vampires Suck, you just kinda wish they fantasy market left it at Van Helsing and pretended the whole thing never happened. But it doesn’t matter what I say, Twilight is here to stay and it’s stars are going to love in masions made out of money for the rest of their lives.

All I’m saying is, were I left alone in a room with Edward Cullen…. I’d make him eat his hair.


Matt  :)

CGI VS Real Life

Go to AEtuts+.com

Hey Guys,

Here is a slightly old tutorial from AEtuts+ that shows you how to use expressions to control the movement of individual letters helping to create a realistic simulation of the word dangling from rope. Whilst the tutorial itself is very good it also leads me onto a point that I would urge you to listen to.

I have seen many, many videos on the internet during my internet browsing experiences, and though I would never claim to be a master or expert of motion design or film, I would say that the best video effects I have seen are the ones that are stripped back to their most raw elements. To clarify, if you learn the lessons of this tutorial you will no doubt benefit from the skills it demonstrates and I would still urge all readers of this article to learn those lessons-but also consider, how would the effect of the dropping letters be comprimised by just setting up the effect yourself and filming it?

As our species’ technological advancements race ever faster towards the future, look back at the most basic skills you may of learnt when you started filming or creating videos; is it fair to say that we are letting CGI (computer generated effects) overly dictate the way we insert challenging effects into our film, tv and advertising?

These thoughts came to my mind because I have seen this effect replicated in a similar way by an amatuer filmaker on his vimeo account (watch it here) and though his props are fairly cheap, I genuinley thinks it looks better the way he did it (please leave a comment letting me know what you think by the way!). A more commercial example of this is the blood effects in The Expendables; for anyone that hasn’t seen it, Stallone for some reason decides to replicate all blood splatters digitally. Sadly for Stallone the blood effects look very, very cheap-clearly identifiable as CGI even for audiences who aren’t familar with what to look for; this is only one example of many other injustices by film companies, substituting the real for the simulated.

So that’s me done; don’t get me wrong, I still have a huge interest in computer effects and would love to work in design in the future but is there a line which we, as designers must become aware of, so that we can stop ourselves from crossing it?

Please leave a comment below with your thoughts.


Matt :)