CELTIERA Fox promised me she’d be at school yesterday.
That promise was made at about a quarter to 10 on Thursday evening, when the night, for a few hundred of us at the Empire cinema in Greenbridge, still had quite a way to go.
Thirteen-year-old Kingsdown School student Celtiera was seated with her mum and had just watched Eclipse, the third instalment in the phenomenally successful Twilight series of films, based on Stephenie Meyer’s supernatural romantic fantasy books.
We watched the first movie in the saga at three o’clock that afternoon. By 2am yesterday we’d seen all five, concluding with Breaking Dawn – Part 2, the eagerly awaited final instalment.
So, five films in 11 hours, ending way past most people’s bedtime – and Celtiera was definitely going to school just six hours after the final credits had rolled, was she?
“Yes, I will be going to school,” the Stratton teenager insisted.
Celtiera is clearly a fan of the books and the films – she’s a Twi-hard, as devotees are known. But why sit through all five movies, back to back?
“Well, I really like Taylor Lautner,” she said.
Ah, good old Taylor. Taylor plays werewolf hunk Jacob in the films and elicited whoops of delight from this largely female audience when he first took his T-shirt off to reveal sickeningly well-defined pecs, six-pack and biceps. It’s people like Taylor and the series’ other heart-throb, Robert Pattinson’s brooding vampire Edward, that have earned the films a strong female fanbase. So Taylor was one reason why Celtiera was at this movie marathon – why was I there?
I have a confession to make: I have been a film writer on this newspaper for more than 20 years, and have never seen a Twilight movie. I have not been around for press screenings available, and I’ve never had an inclination to see any of them in my own time.
Twi-hard? I should have Twi-ed harder.
When my editor learned they were screening all four Twilights ahead of the midnight showing of Breaking Dawn – Part 2, and that I had not seen any of the films, he said I should go.
“No pressure,” he said. “It’s completely up to you.”
Well, seeing as he let me leave the office one Thursday afternoon a few weeks ago to attend a Skyfall preview in London, I owed him this one. And it might be fun… mightn’t it?
There were some wise words from colleagues before I set off. Web editor Steph, clearly a closet Twi-hard, said at some point I would have to choose Team Edward (vampires) or Team Jacob (werewolves) – at the time I didn’t know what she was talking about. And at the cinema, photographer James said: “Nothing happens in these films for about two hours, then all hell is let loose.” That advice could come in handy if I felt the need for a snooze.
And with that in mind, when I arrived at the cinema I intended to find quiet corner on the back row, where I could doze off inconspicuously if necessary. But no – Michelle, one of the managers, informed me she had set aside the best seat in the house for me, and it was bang in the middle of the auditorium.
And as 3pm fast approached, I suddenly found myself surrounded by lots of jabbering women, clutching boxes of popcorn and cups of drink. And these Twi-hards weren’t the teenage girls I was expecting – women in their 30s and 40s made up a large proportion of the audience. Taylor’s pecs clearly have a lot to answer for.
But to say buff male bodies is the main reason for the films’ success is to insult the intelligence of their audience. The books are the reason many people see the films in the first place.
Support worker Natalie Shannon, 24, from West Swindon, loves the books.
“I never watch a film before reading a book on which it is based,” she said. “The book always comes first and I love the Twilight books.
“And I really like the films, which is why I want to see them all together. And I’m so excited about seeing the last one.”
Sitting next to Natalie, Cara Shand, a 26-year-old student from West Swindon, was almost, like me, a Twilight virgin. “I’ve only seen two of the films,” she said. “They are really good, they’ve got everything – action, thrills, romance. I just hope I stay awake for the last one.”
For Celtiera and her mum Sam, Twilight has been a shared experience. “We both started reading the books,” said Sam. “And we’ve seen all the films. It’s great to get the chance to see them one after the other on the big screen.
“It’s quite tiring, but so far so good. But it might be a different story at 2am.”
Celtiera said: “I love the films – I really like the storylines. I am looking forward to the last one and if it’s anything like the book, it will be amazing. I just hope I’m still awake.”
I hope at 2am Celtiera was still awake and did find Breaking Dawn – Part 2 amazing.
Remarkably, I was still awake. I had sat through five Twilight films and, apart from a few seconds of dozing during New Moon (the second instalment), I didn’t fall asleep once.
Hundreds of us poured out into the Greenbridge night (hundreds more were doing likewise on the other side of town, at Cineworld at Shaw Ridge), tired but happy.
I probably looked like an extra from a Twilight film – my contact lenses felt like they were fused to my eyeballs, there were bags beneath my eyes that you could put your Christmas shopping in, and my stiff legs made me walk like a zombie.
But hey, I did it – I completed the Twilight film marathon, which I reckon was quite an achievement. The film critic in me wasn’t greatly impressed with the movies – the first, Twilight, was good; the rest were mostly long, boring, and soppy (let’s just say a Twilight DVD box set won’t be on my Christmas list this year).
But what do I know? The cheers, tears and sighs as the final film reached its conclusion yesterday morning said it all. Twilight was a twiumph.
And for the record, I’m a Team Edward man.
And Kingsdown School teachers, I hope you were gentle with Celtiera yesterday.