By now, Sunday's sudden and stunning news that "Twilight" director Catherine Hardwicke would not return to helm "New Moon" has had time to sink in.
Consider what her departure means for the franchise.
Hardwicke was key in casting Kristen Stewart and breakthrough star Robert Pattinson as the young lovers in Stephenie Meyer's romantic vampire saga, and she's got a proven track record in dealing with themes and issues concerning young people ("Thirteen" and "Lords of Dogtown.")
Perhaps more important, Hardwicke, who in fact is still on the promotional tour for the film, which has grossed almost $140 million in the U.S. alone, is something of a "Twilight" fangirl herself. The night before the Los Angeles premiere, she visited fans in line -- many of whom had been there for a couple of days -- posing for pictures and signing autographs. She was also at least partially responsible for getting the film's initial script, which she compared to "Charlie's Angels," nixed in favor of a more faithful telling.
Now she's gone and fans what to know what happens next. There are few schools of thought:
Not to fret, different directors can keep a series fresh. Just look at the "Harry Potter" movies, which began with the straight-forward adaptations of Christopher Columbus, went through a darker if more emotionally powerful period with Alfonso Cuaron ("Prisoner of Azkaban"), got an adrenaline boost from Mike Newell ("Goblet of Fire"), and have matured under David Yates ("Order of the Phoenix" and the upcoming "Half-Blood Prince.") Ditto other successful franchises such as "James Bond," the "Bourne" movies.
Movie watchers have already begun discussing who should take over. RopeOfSilicon.com has five female suggestions, among them Kimberly Pierce, who directed "Boys Don't Cry," and Mira Nair from "The Namesake." Earlier this month, Film.com weighed in with its top choices, including young upstart Sarah Polley and long-shot Sofia Coppola.
It doesn't matter who's behind the lens, as long as screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg sticks around. Rosenberg is credited with condensing 500+ pages of story into a two-hour film, helping to eliminate some of Meyer's clunkier passages of prose and injecting more humor into Meyer's story (i.e. the exchanges between Charlie and Billy, the dialog among Bella's human pals, details such as the wall of graduation caps.) Critics who had positive things to say about the film were grateful.
On the flip side, taking such liberties infuriated some Meyer devotees, and could do so to an even larger extent in "New Moon." Rosenberg reportedly achieved a way to squeeze in more screen time for Edward, even when he's supposed to go MIA for the majority of the second book.
The cast will be back -- what could go wrong? Pattinson and Stewart aren't going anywhere. Does anything else matter?
We have a problem, Forks. Whether or not you fell in love with Hardwicke's vision, the director's finger was on the pulse of "Twilight" fans. She relentlessly scoured Oregon for Bella's and Edward's perfect meadow, the pivotal scene for most readers. She made sure Stewart and Pattinson would steam up the screen -- on her own bed, no less. She made sure the book's many characters were all accounted for, even arguably expendable folk such as Eric.) She even went so far as to film a scene from "Midnight Sun," Meyer's as-yet-unfinished retelling of "Twilight" from Edward's perspective, which will be included as a bonus for fans on the film's forthcoming DVD. Will Summit Entertainment be able to find another director so in touch with teens and just as passionate about the source material?
What do you all think? Is Hardwicke's exit a good or bad thing for "New Moon"? Does it make a difference? Who do you want to see take over?
-- Denise Martin