Featured Blu-ray Review: Twilight Forever: The Complete Saga Box Set
November 5th, 2013
Twilight came out in 2008 to a mixture of high buzz and abject horror. There were a lot of people who were major fans of the book series by Stephenie Meyer, while others consider Stephenie Meyer the worst author of all time. That might be a bit harsh. The first movie opened with mixed reviews, but smashed through all expectations with nearly $200 million domestically. A year later, New Moon came out and despite earning just 27% positive reviews. That's awful any way you look at it, but even so, it earned nearly $300 million at the box office. Clearly this franchise is critic-proof and I'm under no delusion that any of my criticisms will stop anyone from buying this 10-disc Blu-ray box set. I'm so convinced that no one will change their minds over my opinion of the movie that I'm going to keep that portion of the review to a minimum and concentrate on the extras instead. After all, anyone interested in this box set has already made up their mind about the movie and just want to know if this box set has enough extras to be worth the price.
Short review: For the most part, the Twilight franchise is dreadful. The central romance between Bella and Edward is abusive, not romantic. I'm not going to go into major details here, because there are tons of websites that talk about this subject, including Psychology Today. Edward is obsessive, demanding, insulting, creepy, etc. Bella is also abusive; she tries to kill herself so Edward will return to her. This is not romance. Because the central romance doesn't work, the rest of the story is at a real disadvantage. There are some parts of the overall vampire story I like. Granted, the Volturi is nothing new in Vampire literature, but at least it gives the films some overall storyarc you can pay attention to while the romance dies. However, even this goes off the deep end by the last two movies. Breaking Dawn, Part 2 at least has some good action (and a fake-out that works). On the other hand, Part 1 is awful in every way. Unintentionally funny is the best way to describe it.
The story is terrible, but it is also filled with weak characters. Bella is a real blank slate. Stephenie Meyer says she wrote Bella that way so her female readers could easily place themselves into her. This is an understandable goal for a book, but it makes for a terrible character to watch onscreen. Kristen Stewart got a lot of crap for her performance, but let's face it, it would have been really hard for any actress to breath life into this lifeless character, while she has given good performances in other movies. (Into the Wild and Adventureland are just two such examples.) Almost all of the actors in this franchise struggle to rise above the material. Michael Sheen is one of the few actors I thought did well in his role. Anna Kendrick is good, but generally doesn't have a lot to do. Jodelle Ferland is in Eclipse only, but I liked her performance. On the other hand, there are some actors who are just bad in this movie, and every other movie I've seen them in, but I'm not going to pick on anyone.
Overall, there are a few elements that work, but nowhere near enough to justify watching the entire franchise, or even the best movie individually.
Disc one has Twilight, including audio commentary track with Catherine Hardwicke, Kristen Stewart, and Robert Pattinson. There are also three music videos. Up next are five extended scenes and five deleted scenes. There is a Picture-in-Picture track with nearly an hour of behind-the-scenes footage, footage that you can watch separately if you want. You can jump to the first time Bella meets Jacob or the first time she meets Edward. Finally, there's an eight-minute look at the film's Comic Con presentation.
Disc two starts with a 24-minute long interview with Stephenie Meyer, who admits she only took one writing class in university and she did that cause she needed one to graduate. It's pretty obvious her background isn't in writing. There's a 6-minute featurette on the music. There are twin featurettes on Becoming Edward and Becoming Bella. There's a three-minute montage of Vampire Kisses. There's a music video and a clip with Edward playing the piano. Up next are a ton of interviews with the cast, including some on the film's red carpet premiere, etc. In total, there's more than an hour of extras on this disc, which weren't included when the film was first released on Blu-ray. (I think it might have been part of an exclusive retailer release.)
Disc three has New Moon, which is arguably the weakest of the franchise. (At least Breaking Dawn, Part 1 had unintentional comedy to laugh at.) There is a commentary track here as well, this time with Chris Weitz and Peter Lambert. There is also a six-part, hour-long making of documentary. Finally, there are four music videos.
Disc four starts with nearly a dozen deleted scenes. There is also an eight-minute featurette on the Volturi. Fandimonium is a 13-minute look at the fans of the movie. There's an 11-minute look at the music in the movie. There's a 14-minute Storyboard to Screen comparison for several scenes. There's another pair of Jump to... clips. Up next are 31 minutes of extended scenes. There are 21 minutes of interviews, a 41-minute long webcast of a Q&A with some bloggers that happened just before the premiere, as well as a six-minute look at the red carpet premiere itself.
Disc five has Eclipse, which is my favorite of the five movies, although I should probably put favorite in quotes. It focuses less on the dull love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob. (Have I mentioned Jacob as a character? I don't think I have. As a character, Jacob is incredibly dull and that is all you need to know.) Instead it focuses more on the rivalry between the Cullens and Victoria, so there's a real threat and higher stakes here. (On a side note, Victoria is now played by Bryce Dallas Howard not Rachelle Lefevre in a 100% unnecessary casting change.) Also, I do like Jodelle Ferland as Bree Turner. She's the only character I felt empathy for in the franchise. (On the other hand, I did feel sorry for a lot of the actors.) Extras on this disc include two audio commentary tracks. A Picture-in-Picture track that can also be watched as an hour-and-a-half long making of documentary. There are nine deleted and extended scenes, with audio commentary track. We again have the Jump To... extras, this time with more options. There is also a photo gallery and music videos. This disc also has a BD live portal, but it's just ads for other releases.
Moving onto disc six and Breaking Dawn, Part 1, which is easily the worst film in the bunch. This is the book that all but the most diehard Twilight fans will admit doesn't work, and the first part has very little at stake to compensate for all of the stupidity. However, it is so bad that it is fun to laugh at, so many rank it above New Moon, which is much duller. It's the extended edition in the box set and the only extra is an audio commentary track with the director, Bill Condon.
Extras on disc seven start with a six-part, hour-and-a-half long making of documentary. Jacob's Fate is a seven-minute featurette on Jacob Black and an eight-minute featurette on the Wedding. There's more Jump to... options and four music videos.
Disc eight has Breaking Dawn, Part 2, which is arguably the best of the five films. It has a lot more at stake than the previous films, as the moopy romance is no longer an issue. The love triangle is gone, because Jacob is now obsessed with Renesmee, Bella and Edward's really young daughter. Like I said, there's a lot of stupidity in the final book. Fortunately, they changed the ending of the book, so there's more action involved, but there's still a cheap ending. Extras include an audio commentary track, plus yet more Jump to... options. There's a seven-part, full-length making of documentary, which can be watched as a Picture-in-Picture track. Two Movies at Once is a six-minute featurette on making the final novel into two movies. Finally, there is a music video.
Disc nine starts with Tingles & Chills, a nine-minute featurette on the special powers of the various vampires. Carlisle's Contacts is a 12-minute featurette on the new vampires in the movie. Judge, Jury, and Executioner is a six-minute featurette on the Volturi. Being Charlie Swan is a ten-minute featurette on Billy Burke, who plays Charlie Swan, Bella's father. Up next is a 20-minute look at the film's Comic Con appearances. Finally, there is a six-minute featurette on the "Black carpet".
The final disc has all new extras, starting with Twilight FANomenon, a 36-minute long look at the fan support for the franchise. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Character is eight minutes of the cast goofing around behind-the-scenes. Up next is an hour-long retrospective, with the cast, crew, etc. There is an 110-minute long look at Edward's Saga, which is all of the scenes with Edward. There is also a 104-minute long Jacob's Saga.
The technical presentation is great, but it is also the same transfer as before, so there's little that needs to be said. It's not the best first-run release I've reviewed, but still great.
Twilight Forever: The Complete Saga Box Set is a ten-disc set that is loaded with extras. However, some of these extras are rather weak, like the Jump to... options. If sitting down and watching 110 minutes of just the scenes Edward is in makes sense to you, then you are not really interested in the story. That said, if you don't own the movies on Blu-ray yet, then the Box Set is probably worth the price, as $45 for five movies and a bonus disc of extras, plus a nice package isn't a bad deal.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Filed under: Video Review, Twilight, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2