The "Twilight" franchise has kept fans riveted through three films now. And things are about to get interesting.
So far, the story of teenager Bella Swan and her vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen, has been tame: occasional violence, never sex. But "Breaking Dawn," the final book in Stephenie Meyer's popular series, veers into territory so extreme that even faithful readers were shocked.
"Breaking Dawn" created a controversy that went largely unnoticed upon its release in August 2008, a few months before the first film generated widespread mania. The story - about to be spoiled here - begins with Bella and Edward consummating their marriage, which leaves her happily covered in bruises. She winds up pregnant with a half-vampire fetus that begins killing her from within. Edward wants an abortion; Bella refuses.
The capper: The baby eats its way out of Bella's womb, leaving her near death.
Though "Breaking Dawn" became a No. 1 bestseller, some bloggers and fans were turned off by what seemed like sanctioned spousal abuse and a blatant anti-abortion agenda (Meyer is a Mormon who describes herself as "really, really religious"). Gawker called the novel "creepy," and a Newsday reviewer singled out the birth as "one of the most grotesque scenes I've ever read." Readers were vocal about their disappointment, and a book-returning protest gathered steam on Amazon.com.
When "Breaking Dawn" begins filming this fall - it's being split into two movies - director Bill Condon ("Dreamgirls") will face some challenges. Is the average tweener ready for violent sex? And an even more violent birth? The beginning of the end of "Twilight" is scheduled for release November of next year.