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How Can the Franchise Successfully Transfer from Film to Television?

It’s a long-held, coveted fan opinion: the only way to have a faithful book-to-screen adaptation is through a television show. The television medium allows for a longer, more drawn-out re-imagining of the source material. In this, some of the more “die-hard” book fans call for an equal, 1:1 exchange where each book is a season, and each chapter is an episode of a season. There would be (in theory) enough airtime for every piece of dialogue, every wardrobe change, and all the details that would otherwise be considered fan service in a larger cinematic adaptation.

On April 19, 2023, Entertainment Tonight announced that Lionsgate Television is developing a television adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight franchise. Twilight is a four-part fantasy romance series that sold over 160 million copies worldwide. It became the face of the vampire era in young adult media, sandwiched between fantasy works and dystopian tales.

The book follows Bella Swan as she enters a romantic relationship with Edward Cullen, an immortal vampire. Their tumultuous relationship involves their respective families, many covens of vampires, and a nearby pack of werewolves. Three books and a $3.4 billion dollar movie franchise later, Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate TV are seeking to reinvigorate the supernatural Romeo and Juliet tale.

This announcement came in the wake of Warner Bros. green-lighting a television adaptation of the Harry Potter franchise. The upcoming Twilight adaptation reaffirms a growing movement to adapt franchises to a limited series or television format, ultimately following in the footsteps of Amazon Prime’s Lord of The Rings prequel series, Rings of Power, and Disney+’s television adaptation of Percy Jackson and The Olympians. This shift leaves audiences to wonder how these stories, particularly Twilight, will make the leap from film to television.

Update November 15, 2023: Twilight is about to celebrate the fifteen-year anniversary of the first film’s release, so this article has been updated by Yosra Ben Lagha with more reasons why the franchise could benefit from a television reboot.

Who Is Involved in the Twilight TV Series

Summit Entertainment

In 2023, The Hollywood Reporter claimed that Stephenie Meyer is “expected to be involved in the television adaptation.” Alongside Meyer, Wyck Godfrey, a former executive at Temple Hill Productions, and Erick Feig, the former co-president of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, are both attached to executive produce.

In addition to Meyer, the upcoming series has Sinead Daly attached to write the script. Daly, primarily known for their work in Tell Me Lies, The Walking Dead: World Beyond, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, and Netflix’s The Get Down, is currently working with Lionsgate TV to define what exactly the upcoming series will look like.

Will the adaptation offer a new, nuanced take on Twilight? Will it be a remake of Meyer’s books, offering more or different details than the film franchise? Will it include Life and Death and Midnight Sun, Meyer’s more recent publications in the same fictional world? There are many questions to be asked and variables to consider.

The Characters of Twilight Were Underdeveloped in the Movies

The Cullen family meets Bella in Twilight (2008).
Summit Entertainment

Several things were cut from the initial film franchise that would have enriched the world and characters of Forks, Washington, and the larger Twilight canon. In the films, when Bella (and, by extension, the audience) meets Edward Cullen’s family, there is little to no compelling reason to root for their characters.

Their complicated familial relationship is shown, but because Bella and Edward are the primary focus, the development of minor and background characters was ultimately cut from the film. In the end, the story was told, but the heavier themes, the complexity, the irony, and the complex character development were all lost.

Extremely charismatic characters with amazing stories that were brutally overlooked in the movies, like Alice Cullen, are expected to have a few episodes especially made for them. In the movies, Alice is depicted as a sad-eyed, high-spirited vampire who can read the future and who is constantly helping her brother escape a looming danger.

The TV series could tell the audience that behind Alice’s sad eyes, there’s a very disturbing family dynamic. As a young girl, she discovers that her brutally cold stepmother killed her mother and plans to kill her as well. When she tries to escape, her father accuses her of madness and checks her into an asylum. The saga continues until Alice is made into the vampire that we know from the films.

Similarly, in the film adaptations, the parents (Carlisle and Esme Cullen) aren’t as developed as in the novels. Carlisle is a paternal authority figure in the Cullen family and a pillar of the Forks community, while Esme is a maternal authority figure for the Cullens. However, if more of Carlisle and Esme’s tragic backstories were included, it would color the events of the saga in a more vivid light.

Related: Why Twilight is Problematic and How the New Series Can Tastefully Change It

In his mortal life (circa 1600 A.D.), Carlisle was the son of a pastor and vampire hunter. He took up the “family business” of hunting vampires, and eventually, he was bitten in the process. Carlisle had disdain for vampires in the first place, so he was horrified by his newfound immortality. Later, he turned Esme into a vampire after she threw herself off a cliff, devastated by the loss of her newborn baby. Carlisle found her just before she died, and he bit her.

Did Carlisle view turning his family as an act of mercy due to his religious upbringing? Did his compounding horror and disdain at being a vampire fuel his search for a “vegetarian” (animal blood) lifestyle? As a mother who lost a child, does Esme empathize with Bella’s struggles in Twilight: Breaking Dawn on a level that the rest of the Cullens could not?

Since a TV series allows for more side character screen time, audiences could get a multi-faceted view of the many iconic Twilight characters. With these untold backstories (and many, many more) included, the story of Twilight becomes richer and more captivating.

Using Midnight Sun and Edward’s Perspective

Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen in a classroom scene from Twilight.
Summit Entertainment

In 2020, Stephenie Meyer published the fantasy novel Midnight Sun, a companion novel to the 2005 book Twilight. Midnight Sun retells the events of Twilight from the perspective of Edward Cullen rather than that of the original narrator, Bella Swan.

The novel sold one million copies within its first week of publication and was met with an overall positive reception from critics. What’s more, though, is that Midnight Sun offers more to the canon ahead of the Lionsgate adaptation.

A 2022 Independent Newspaper book review explains what new details are offered in Twilight: Midnight Sun.

“Alice and Edward’s brother-sister relationship is unpacked to the sweet, nurturing nitty-gritty, particularly how her power of foresight helps him read his future with Bella. With more insight into Edward’s mind-reading powers, you learn to like and dislike certain characters in equal measure, too – Bella’s school friend, Jessica, comes off as particularly annoying. You also get a sense of the anxiety Edward feels as he tries to assimilate into the world as a supernatural creature.”

In a television adaptation, this retelling of Twilight in Midnight Sun could be used to show the dichotomy between Edward and Bella’s relationship. Episodes could serve as natural breaks in the story, and the narrator could switch periodically or even within an episode.

This storytelling tool would have been incredibly difficult to incorporate into a cinematic adaptation — especially considering the limitations of the average film runtime. Midnight Sun demonstrates that as Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment prepare to make the leap to television adaptations, there are many different opportunities to tell Stephenie Meyer’s beloved story.

The Twilight TV Series Could Improve On the Source Material

Bella's Bedroom in Twilight
Summit Entertainment

The movie series did tell the story well, hence its dazzling and unquestionable success, but it also changed quite a few essential details from the original source but also stuck very close to it. A television show has the chance to do something new. After all the movies were worldwide phenomenons that many people saw, so why retell the exact same story but just longer? Why not use the log gap between the release of Breaking Dawn Part 2 and the new television show to take the franchise in a new direction?

It also presents the chance to correct some issues with the original source material since the original story’s publication or even as recent as the latest film in 2012. Meyer expressed on more than one occasion that she would have loved to make certain changes to her source material, like making Edward confess his love to Bella much sooner than when she made him do it.

Related: Why Twilight Could Work Better as a TV Series

This new opportunity to reimagine Twilight could benefit the franchise overall. The book series can include elements from the original source material the movie left out but also expand on it in ways both the books and movies never thought to. A great recent example is AMC’s Interview with the Vampire, which both adapts but reimagines Anne Rice’s classic vampire story. It reworks some elements from the original source material and it actually makes for a more interesting take on the material. Twilight could benefit from that.

Although the release date is far from being revealed as the project is in its very early stages, the best way to prepare for the hotly anticipated series is to rewatch the Twilight movies or to grab the books.

Stream The Twilight Saga on Prime Video


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