Commentary: 15 years after 'Twilight,' a trip down memory lane


SEATTLE — "Hold on tight, spider monkey."

Remember that? Remember sitting in a cool, dark theater, popcorn in hand, surrounded by "Twilight" fans, and watching Robert Pattinson use that line and then basically float with Kristen Stewart in a straight line from tree to tree in the forests surrounding Forks? I still laugh at that scene.

And doesn't that say something? It's been 15 years since the film adaptation of the first entry in Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" franchise exploded on the big screen, dragging in everyone everywhere, not unlike a supermassive black hole — and I still watch that first movie. (Be jealous of my two-disc collector's edition DVD that came with special collector cards.)

That film, not to mention the 2005 oh-so-dramatic (and, let's be honest, thematically problematic) book of the same name from which it was adapted, was a cultural phenomenon when it opened to the vampire-obsessed public on Nov. 21, 2008. It earned nearly half a billion dollars at the box office, and each of the four (yes, four) sequels raked in anywhere from $700 million to $850 million. I'll be the first to admit that I contributed more than my fair share to those totals, but it's the first movie that holds a personal record for me (and on which I spent far too much money).

You see, that 122-minute movie is an easy icebreaker for me: "Tell us something fun about yourself, Dominic." "Well, I may have seen 'Twilight' more than two dozen times in theaters." As you can imagine, I get some strange looks — and demands for an explanation.

It released right before Thanksgiving break my junior year of college, easily becoming the topic du jour (maybe only second to travel plans and holiday meals). I made plans to see it with different groups of friends — those at school, those back home. As is typical, plans changed, and the large groups splintered into much tinier ones. Instead of seeing "Twilight" just twice over the next few weeks, I went with multiple groups to see Stewart and Pattinson stare awkwardly at each other for minutes on end.

And then it became a bit of a stress reliever during the final weeks of the semester; one of my best friends and I, needing a break from the rigors of school, once were the only people at a screening, quoting lines to each other and thoroughly enjoying the nonsense playing out in front of us. It's easy to procrastinate when you're watching pretty people deal with their (bloody) problems.

By the time the film finally stopped playing in local theaters, I had seen it at least 24 times (I've lost track of whether the final total was 25 or 26, but it hardly matters at this point). It became both a running joke among fraternity brothers and friends, and an odd point of pride: I'll never be able to explain exactly why I chose to see "Twilight" so many times, but I bet few others can match that number. (Whether they'd ever admit to it is a separate issue entirely.)

"Twilight" was even the reason for my first trip to the Olympic Peninsula. By senior year, my mother had become enamored with the books and the first two movies ("Twilight" and "New Moon"), and she wanted to see where the magic happened. What followed was a weeklong trip to Forks, the setting of the movie (though most of it wasn't filmed there), that was both hilariously disappointing — "tourist trap" would be too kind a descriptor — and now a fond memory. My mom and I watched movies in our rental while the rain endlessly poured outside, hiked to the Pacific Ocean during a rare break in the weather and drove to Port Angeles (Lake Crescent is gorgeous!) to eat dinner at Bella Italia. (We got a few strange looks; we may have been overdressed.) The trip wasn't what we were expecting, but it's something I'll never forget.

"Twilight" is not a good movie, and it hardly deserved all those ticket purchases, but even so, it served as a bridge between me and others: friends who continue to tease me about it, a parent who still watches the movie with me, new co-workers who want to learn something odd about me. I laugh more often than the director likely hoped for each time I rewatch it — the chiming sparkles get me every time — but here I am, watching (and writing about) it 15 years later with a smile on my face. There are far worse ways to be remembered.