"Twilight" Sequel Needs a Woman's Touch?

It's now old news that director Catherine Hardwicke isn't returning to the enormously successful "Twilight" franchise, whose success may either be in spite of her involvement or largely because of it, because of bad relations with Summit Entertainment and because of mounting pressures to churn out an adequate sequel by its projected release in November of this year. It's also old news that Chris Weitz ("The Golden Compass") has signed on for "New Moon." But even with all this old news, "Eclipse," the third of four books in the Stephanie Meyer-penned vampire-romance saga whose production schedule should be coming underway soon, still hasn't seen much new news though it's been the subject of much talk lately. (That is, aside from Summit's long-awaited revelation that Dakota Fanning will indeed be in the flick playing Jane with her introduction coming in "New Moon" this fall.) Considering Summit's decision for Weitz to direct this new installment, one begins to wonder if the gender-issue was at play.

I'm of the impression that Hardwicke's contributions to the first film have been propped against her because of how the final product turned out (stilted, messy, inauthentic) which diminishes her own efforts to stay faithful to the novel and balance out some of the characterizations and details in the narrative, as well as to honor the goo-goo ga-ga sexless romance (no doubt for the core audience of tween girls) and the vampire-on-vampire battle scenes and larger set pieces (for their fathers). We've seen before with "Thirteen" and "Lords of Dogtown" that Hardwicke is more than capable of capturing the teenage experience and range of emotions with bravura, so obviously fault can't lie totally with her. As Zack Snyder of "Watchmen" can probably testify after this weekend, adapting a work of literature - and it could be said that Alan Moore's "Watchmen" is leagues more literary than the entirety of the "Twilight" series - is hard. It was likely Summit's high hopes for the film to do well and please both hardcore fans while attracting new ones, and the hopes to produce the remainder of the franchise and compete with Warner Bros.'s "Harry Potter" that doomed Hardwicke's participation, as the environment Summit set up for the filming of the flick seemed always to be tense and angsty, as Nikki Finke reported when news about Hardwicke and Summit's breakup broke. Sounds an awful lot like the life of an adolescent.

This brings us back to the original question: Who is suitable, and available, to direct the remaining sequels? "New Moon" poses a few obstacles for Weitz that were established in the first film, namely, that the entire middle portion of the book features nothing of Edward or his suspense-riddled dilemma with Bella, and a huge amount of the film's following is latched onto the otherworldly handsomeness of Robert Pattinson, as well as to the chemistry between him and co-star Kristen Stewart. Instead, Bella is to have a stint with Jacob (who is no longer being recast but now offers new questions of whether Taylor Lautner will work as an older werewolf) for much of the plot, only to see Edward return at the end. Quite a snag, it is. With the exception of James Bond, few franchises which place romance in the foreground of the narrative have been passed between directors, and even more infrequently between directors of the opposite sex. Romance is hard to draw out not only for the actors who must feign attraction (or not, as has been seen often) but also for the director who must imbue the relationship with enough urgency, usually with the aid of impending tragedy, and intensity so as to not offer even the slightest chance for audiences to accuse inauthenticity or cheesiness. So I offer my own question to add to the mix: Would a woman's hand and vision be needed to bring this love triangle to certain successful fruition?

Not that only women have produced the best cinematic projections of love or are the only ones capable of extrapolating nuance and severity from romance, but if a woman were attached, Summit and its marketers would be more likely to accommodate forays into the amorous affairs between Bella and her gentleman callers more thoroughly rather than pursue the male counterpart with expenses going to special effects (werewolves, remember?) and action sequences. It remains to be seen what Weitz can conjure up in "New Moon," but press around the film already seems to have the notably-heightened action in greater visibility than the romance. The material also yearns for a woman's touch with so few female directors out there, and is one of the few very marketable, very lucrative franchises that could propel women as worthy targets for studios ("Sex and the City," "Devil Wears Prada" and "Mamma Mia!" were all major hits targeted primarily at women). With women as the core, a woman at the helm seems a given.

Drew Barrymore (yes, that one) has been rumored to be in the running for "Eclipse," denied by some sources, but the rumor is rather persistent (even appeared on local news this afternoon) and is definitely gaining some traction out in the blogosphere as a news item. The same source, Kellan Lutz, notes that the director Summit is currently courting, as with on "New Moon," is male yet again (though the name escapes him), and offers his take on the capabilities of directors based on gender: "I don’t think there’s any difference between male or female directors, as far as who can relate." We've definitely seen failures of women to make female-oriented or -friendly films ("Deep Impact") and great films about women directed by men (anything by Pedro Almodovar), but does Lutz really have a point? Is there no difference in the sensibilities of men and women directors?

Whose name would you offer Summit for the third film in the series?

UPDATE (3-12-09): Variety reports that the director for "Eclipse" will be Guillermo del Toro protege Juan Antonio Bayona of the superb "The Orphanage" marking his first English-language film. Not what I would've guessed to be his next project, but it'll certainly be interesting to see what he does. He's already got the macabre elements down. And, whoops, did you see my credibility go out the door on that one? All this talk about how audience and filmmaker should, for once, align for the sake of giving female directors a stronger voice and presence in Hollywood (it's 2009 and how many can we name off the tops of our heads?) and Summit goes the opposite direction. I just hope Catherine Hardwicke lands on her feet and gets back to some great dramas.

IMAGES from: Stephanie Meyer
IMAGE from: Huffington Post

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