Midnight Sun was a bestseller for Twilight author Stephenie Meyers upon release in 2020 — so why is it the wrong sequel for the blockbuster franchise in 2021? Based on the bestselling novel series of the same name, the Twilight franchise was an unexpected success upon its arrival in cinemas. Given the popularity of the source material, some industry insiders expected a sleeper hit, but few could have foreseen the massive cultural phenomenon that the Twilight franchise became from 2008 until 2013.
The first Twilight movie received solid reviews, but critical responses to subsequent franchise installments were mixed at best. However, this did not stop the Twilight series from dominating the box office, with each sequel earning a huge payday despite inconsistent reviews. That said, by the time the series ended in 2013, it was clear that the Twilight zeitgeist had been and gone, meaning viewers hoping for another sequel would be left waiting a long time.
However, a sequel of sorts is exactly what Twilight received in 2020, as author Stephenie Meyer released her Twilight retelling Midnight Sun. Selling over a million copies in its first week of release, Midnight Sun told the familiar story of small-town girl Bella Swan falling for immortal teen vampire Edward Cullen — only this time, the twist was that the tale came from Edward’s perspective. The POV switch was a huge success, becoming an instant bestseller. However, although retelling the original Twilight through new eyes proved lucrative for Meyers, movie goers should not get excited about the prospect of a Midnight Sun movie just yet. The stars are older (and busier) now, the story is over-familiar, and the nostalgia for the franchise would not be capitalized on with a straight retelling — all reasons that, despite its bestseller status, Midnight Sun would fall flat at the box office if adapted for the screen.
Why Midnight Sun Succeeded As A Novel
Midnight Sun, like the earlier 50 Shades of Grey retelling Grey, offered a new perspective on a popular series by retelling the original Twilight‘s story from Edward’s POV. Some more cynical reviewers argued that any nostalgic cash-in on Twilight would have sold well, but the novel does offer a unique and original spin on the plot that nonetheless remains true to the action of the original. Like the gender-flipped Twilight retelling Life & Death, this new novel gave readers original insight into one of the saga’s most important characters while also providing a nostalgic throwback for those who would not be interested in a new installment but have fond memories of the original novel. As Midnight Sun’s plot retold the events of the original, viewers were already familiar with the story, making it more of an exercise in character-building than plotting. However, this is not an approach that would translate well to the big screen for numerous reasons.
Why Midnight Sun Would Fail As A Twilight Movie
For one thing, Midnight Sun covers the same events as the original Twilight and only those events, and the intervening decade and a half means that the movie’s actors are far too old. Thus, Edward, Bella, and the supporting cast would need to be recast despite Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and other Twilight stars being one of the movie saga’s most iconic components and main selling points. For another, many of the events have already been seen in the original movie adaptation, and Catherine Hardwicke’s canny direction ensured the original movie was not focused on Bella to a stifling extent — which ironically makes an Edward-centric retelling redundant since his POV is present in the Twilight movie adaptation.
The original novel could withstand a retelling without becoming redundant, since the first novel in the series never allows readers into Edward’s head and Bella’s narration dominates much of the narrative. In Hardwicke’s movie, Bella’s voiceover takes a backseat after the first few scenes and the action speaks for itself, meaning Edward’s screen time gives viewers plenty of insight into his character. Some of Twilight’s best villains were still short-changed by the original movies, but the novel version of Midnight Sun offers no new insight into them, meaning that a movie adaptation would be an exercise in repetition.
What The Twilight Franchise Should Do Instead
Bringing back Pattison and Stewart (not to mention Taylor Lautner) for a direct sequel is the move most likely to draw people back in, but a new Twilight installment that takes place after the original saga would require an original story from Meyers. This may be too much to ask given the busy schedules of the original actors, the definitive ending of the original saga, and the disastrous performance of Meyer’s only non-Twilight movie effort The Host. However, a prequel television show that focuses on the Cullen family’s backstories, a TV spin-off that fleshes out to the supporting cast’s intriguing characters, or even a sequel that skips a generation to focus on a now grown-up Renesmee could all work as unexpected avenues to revitalize the franchise without relying on big names who have grown out of the series. The Twilight movies begin when Edward and Bella meet in 2005, but there is a rich and compelling backstory to the series that is only glimpsed in the truncated action of the movies.
The tragic backstories of Rosalie Cullen and Carlisle Cullen, for example, or the many vampire wars that fill out Twilight’s timeline would be compelling standalone stories for a television series to tell, and ones that could recapture the atmosphere of the series without requiring the original cast. It is unlikely that Pattison or Stewart would return to Twilight at this juncture of their respective careers and Meyers has not displayed much interest in a direct sequel to the saga, but filling in the backstories of Emmett Cullen or Jackson Hale would allow Twilight fans to see new period pieces set in the world of the series while also bringing an underrated element (its expansive lore) of the franchise to life. The Twilight universe has enough material to fuel numerous small-screen projects and would be well-suited to the serialized format of television, rather than the expensive folly of a Midnight Sun movie adaptation.