Here’s what I can tell you about Twilight Forever: The Complete Saga: no box-set will ever recreate the excitement you had while seeing these movies for the first time among hundreds of your peers. Having seen every one of them at a midnight showing, I can attest that there is very little a Blu-ray can do to recreate the experience. Twilight Forever sure tries, however, adding in fan-friendly bonus features and packaging it all up in a photo album flipbook that holds each movie and bonus feature disc in a different cast vignette. If you’re into Twilight, there’s a good chance you already own all of these movies – but let’s be honest, you’re probably going to want this box-set anyway. Hit the jump to read my full review of Twilight Forever: The Complete Saga on Blu-ray, the newest addition to your Twilight collection.
I first heard about Twilight during the winter of 2007 when a friend was given the first book as a holiday gift; we read the description and laughed at the ridiculousness of the premise, but as she was taking a week-long road-trip soon after, she decided to try the book on for size. By the time she came back, she’d bought (and read) the second and third, and insisted that I, and everyone we worked with, did the same. Though I never really considered myself a YA reader, author Stephenie Meyer’s creation hooked me immediately. It was endearing and inventive, and having once been a teenage girl myself, I understood what Meyer was trying to say. Though Bella and I would eventually have our differences (as I tend to have with every YA heroine that refuses to believe she matters), I saw her story through to the end. You can say what you like about the series, but Meyer’s books tell a common story in an uncommon way, which is the root of its expansive appeal. Fair warning, spoilers for the Twilight series follow.
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, Twilight is a small film with an intimate view, mirroring the personal quality that Meyer’s first book creates. It is also an extremely faithful adaptation, which might be one of its faults. The reality of book adaptations is that what works on the page doesn’t always work on screen; you can tell me that a vampire sparkles in the sunlight and I’ll believe it, but when you show me a vampire that glitters like a MySpace Bling-y graphic [note: I’m old], it becomes a little hard to swallow. Some of the dialogue, taken directly from Meyer’s work, is embarrassing and disjointed; the first time I saw it, at midnight with all of my (adult) friends, I covered my face in embarrassment. I then saw it three more times. The film is a little awkward and a little unbelievable, just like Bella’s story. Though not a great film, it clearly captured general audiences’ attention, which is probably it’s more important attribute. It also gets less embarrassing the more you watch it – I know this from experience.
It’s hard to fault Chris Weitz for directing what amounts to a pretty barren movie, narrative wise; the source material provides little more to work with, acting mostly as an intermediary between the new love in Twilight and the action in Eclipse. The film works in much the same way, solidifying the emotional connection between Edward and Bella and setting up the much-hyped love triangle with Jacob. What Weitz did add – including the fight scene between Edward and Felix, when Edward’s face starts to crack (one of my favorite images in the entire movie) – he improved. The problem, of course, is that the Twilight fandom is such a devoted entity that too many changes run the risk of angering and possibly alienating the series’ key demographic, theoretically ruining the popularity of the franchise. When I read the book, I flipped through the pages after Edward left to find out when he would return – I knew Meyer wouldn’t break them up, which is why New Moon feels sort of like a waiting room. That’s what it is.
Hearing that David Slade would be directing Eclipse was energizing – it is my favorite book in the series, and in the hands of someone who likely wouldn’t treat it with kid gloves (he did direct 30 Days of Night after all), I felt like it could actually be pretty great. After seeing it in the theater, a friend I’d seen the other two movies with remarked, “I don’t even know how to make fun of this one.” Eclipse is a pretty good film, darker and more interesting than the others, with an actual plot and acting that doesn’t feel entirely forced. I like Twilight, don’t get me wrong, but I wouldn’t call any of the franchise’s cast members incredible actors. Slade made Eclipse feel like a worthwhile experience, which is what the book deserved. He also left out all of the creepy stuff, like the introduction of imprinting on children, and added in some interesting stuff, like the forming of a newborn army. Slade focused on the story instead of the fans, and it worked for him and the movie – interestingly, to absolutely no backlash from the devotees (did you hear that, New Moon?).
Breaking Dawn – Part 1
I like money just as much as the next guy, but the desire to break up books into two parts – especially books that have very little content (I’m looking at you, The Hobbit) – is incredibly annoying. Not a lot happens in Breaking Dawn as a whole, so slicing it up was always pretty pointless. Here’s what happens in Part 1: Edward and Bella get married, there’s an 80s-style montage of Bella shaving her legs and deciding what lingerie not to put on, Bella gets pregnant by what can only be explained as magic, the fetus Rosemary’s Baby’s her, and then Jacob imprints on their daughter. Also, Bella dies. It’s okay, though, because there’s a whole other movie to figure that business out. Director Bill Condon’s adaptation is visually striking, and it makes me laugh in a more genuine way than any of the previous films, but it’s not really a movie. That’s not Condon’s fault; there is not enough content in Meyer’s final book for two entire films. I watched the extended cut available on this box-set and I would be lying if I said I could figure out what had been added from the original version without looking it up. This makes me a very bad fan, but also says a lot about the movie; those 8 minutes add nothing.
Breaking Dawn – Part 2
I’m not going to lie to you, I really hated Breaking Dawn the book. It has a terrible cop-out ending, and is filled with infuriatingly perfect scenarios. Everyone finds love! No one dies! Bella is a perfect vampire! Any one of these things – including magic vampire sperm – can be forgiven, but all of them together makes you shake with rage. What Condon did in his adaptation of Part 2 was crazy and amazing, and it improved upon Meyer’s work considerably. It almost made me forgive. Remember when I mentioned that no box-set could compare to seeing these movies in the theater? That’s because for all of the screams when Edward walks on screen and the gasps when Jacob takes off his shirt, nothing compares to the literal shock when Carlisle’s head is ripped off in the jaw-dropping third act of Breaking Dawn – Part 2. I have never seen such a visceral reaction to any movie in a theater, and I once sat through a screening of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince where a single girl audibly sobbed for 20 minutes. To be fair, Part 2 still isn’t a good movie; it’s mostly the collecting of vampires and a very pretty Kristen Stewart running really fast, but for me the inventive ending makes up for the story’s overall lack of content. If you haven’t read the book, that great fight scene Condon created is definitely not canon – in Meyer’s version, they all just hug it out. The fighting, and even the-everybody-surviving, is infinitely better in the movie.
The Twilight Forever collection includes all of the bonus features that were included on the previously released Blu-rays of the individual films, as well as over two hours of brand new extras created exclusively for this set:
- The Twilight FAN-omenon Featurette is the most fan-oriented portion of the bonus features, focusing largely on the impact of the film in pop culture and the incredible fan response from the beginning. The 35-minute featurette includes cast interviews and newsreel footage (largely from Comic-Con), but the most interesting part is probably recognizing the fan interviewees, most of which hail from popular Twilight websites and blogs.
- The Twilight Saga: Breaking Character is a blooper reel of sorts, covering most of the movies and including outtakes from cast interviews (including one with Robert Pattinson and Stewart in which she chides him repeatedly for flubbing his introduction), and other in-between-scene footage. There haven’t been many outtakes of the films made available, so this 8-minutes of never-before-seen behind-the-scenes footage might quench a very specific thirst. It’s also kind of adorable.
- The Cast Retrospective is the most lengthy and meaty of the new features, as it recounts all five films through over an hour of retrospective interviews and on-set footage, though the main voice is producer Wyck Godfrey and the director of each film (sans Slade). Most of the actual cast footage has been previously seen, so there is not much to see on that front, but overall the retrospective is an interesting enough watch, especially if you want to see the cast recount their personal “worst day of filming” stories from each film.
- The Twilight Saga: Edward’s Story is a look back on Edward’s story throughout the series, comprised of all the Edward scenes from the films edited together in chronological order.
- The Twilight Saga: Jacob’s Story is exactly the same as the Edward’s Story feature, except, you know, with Jacob.
Overall, the box-set is a worthwhile purchase; it’s well packaged, the Blu-rays are of great quality (even Twilight, which was completely filmed in gray and blue hues), and the new bonus features offer some fun surprises for longtime fans. Since I purchased every one of these books in hardcover (so they’d match, obviously) I’d also say it’s reasonably priced. As the ultimate collection of the complete series, Twilight: Forever offers the chance to recapture some of the excitement you felt when first watching the films. Think back to being in a darkened midnight movie theater, surrounded by your friends and anticipating the mix of excitement, emotion, and embarrassment to come. Or, in the case of Breaking Dawn – Part 2, that one fight scene where everybody dies… kind of.