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The Twilight ending is one of the best movie twists ever

It's been more than a decade since the vampire movies finished, but we've never forgotten the brave, bizarre, and hilarious ending to the Twilight movies.

Michael Sheen played vampire movie villain Aro in the Twilight movies

In 2012, I had one of my favourite cinema experiences of all time. The two big new movies of the year were The Avengers and the outrageously awkwardly titled vampire movie The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2.

One of those movies embraced a terrific ensemble of beloved characters who had appeared in thrilling action movies over the previous few years and put them in place for a giant battle with war movie scope. And the other one was a superhero movie.

By the time Breaking Dawn Part 2 arrived in multiplexes, Twilight was firmly established as the pop culture punching bag du jour. The books had become a global phenomenon and the romance movies they spawned were just as big, with the four fantasy movies before it earning a cumulative total of more than $2.5bn at the worldwide box office. But, as with many of the best movies primarily enjoyed by teenage girls, the world loved to performatively hate the Twilight movies.

As I settled down into that cinema in November 2012 on opening night – in very Forks-esque chilly weather – for the final movie, I wasn’t thinking about the haters. I was simply ready to see what director Bill Condon, who had clearly relished embracing the sillier excesses of the franchise with Breaking Dawn Part 1, did with the final chapters of Stephenie Meyer’s story. Especially because, and this isn’t a controversial opinion, those final chapters are terrible.

The novel of Breaking Dawn builds to one of modern fiction’s biggest anti-climaxes, drawing the battle lines for a titanic clash between the vampire government of the Volturi and a ragtag army formed of the Cullen family and their hastily assembled allies from the global blood-sucking community.

The Twilight movies came to a head in Breaking Dawn Part 2

The good guys convince the movie villains that our protagonists’ daughter Renesmee is a naturally born vampire-human hybrid and not a prohibited “immortal child”. Then, everyone goes home and lives happily ever after.

It’s such a damp squib that it makes the Game of Thrones ending look like, well, like the Game of Thrones beginning. Naturally, Condon decided it had to change for the movie, but knew it was a risk to pull the rug out from under the fan base.

In a reflective interview with Vulture, he said: “It was always a risk … the worst thing would be if people felt pissed off, like that season of Dallas where it was all a dream.”

In 2012, we didn’t know any of this. That audience existed in the smug anti-tension often experienced when watching movies based on books. We knew the story, so why worry about all of this foreboding talk of a battle to end all battles?

That smugness was shattered when Michael Sheen’s vampire leader Aro collided in the air with Cullen family patriarch Carlisle – and emerged from the scuffle with the hero’s dismembered head. The gasps from the devoted Twi-hards in attendance were audible. This wasn’t what was supposed to happen.

What followed was a glorious ten minute rampage of chaos, in which no fewer than eight major Twilight characters were violently killed off in a variety of inventive ways. It was a unique sensation to be in that audience, where the relaxed smugness of book readers was shaken entirely. All bets were off, nobody was safe, and it was utterly thrilling.

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Then, as Aro met his brutal end at the hands of Edward and Bella, the truth was revealed. All of the bloodshed we had just seen was a vision presented to Aro by future-seeing Cullen sister Alice – a potential future that could happen if he went ahead with the fight.

On that November evening in 2012, the audience laughed and applauded for at least a minute. It was like a Cannes Film Festival standing ovation for trashy supernatural romance.

It’s at this point that the movie rejoined the narrative of the novel, with the Cullens presenting a 150-year-old vampire-human hybrid from South America to prove that Renesmee was not a danger. But frankly, after the spectacle Condon had delivered before that, nobody paid much attention to Meyer’s limp, convenient conclusion.

So why bring this up now? Everyone has forgotten Twilight, it seems, with its days as the perceived biggest threat to western culture behind it. Simply, it’s worth looking at the Breaking Dawn Part 2 finale as something we don’t see very much at all – a franchise property willing to upset its fans.

As Condon said in that earlier quote, everyone involved in the Twilight finale went in with their eyes open. The devotees who devoured Meyer’s books like vampires presented with bare necks could easily have despised the changes. But Condon and his team did it anyway.

Bella and Edward had a happy ending when the Twilight movies finished

It’s difficult to imagine any of the Marvel movies, or DC movies, or Star Wars movies taking a similar risk. Certainly, in the wake of the enormous and somehow still raging backlash to The Last Jedi, safety and fan service is the order of the day.

But for one glorious evening in 2012, anything was possible. Blockbuster movies could be strange, surprising, blood-thirsty, and willing not just to kill their darlings, but to dismember and burn them just to make sure. We’ll never see the like again.

Twilight might have been and gone, but there are plenty of exciting 2023 movies to keep you busy. We’ve got you covered on everything you need to know about The Meg 2 release date or the Barbie movie release date.

Or, for more from the young adult fiction world, find out about the Fantastic Beasts 4 release date or the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes release date.