The Twilight Saga consists of five feature films (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn: Part 1, and Breaking Dawn: Part 2) based upon the bestselling book series written by author Stephenie Meyer. There is little doubt that this has been one of the largest pop-culture series released in cinemas in the past decade: after all, the first film in the series surprised with an outstanding opening to the tune of almost 70 million in ticket-sales and was a fan-favorite success that went on to make over 200 million on DVD. To call this anything short of a massively successful pop-culture phenomenon would be to undersell its popularity.
The worldwide fandom was enormous and the film's continued to receive stellar numbers. Its popularity managed to turn a small studio (Summit Entertainment) into a major Hollywood player. It also proved how much significance there is to female audience ticket-sales to the Hollywood system, which has so often under-valued making or marketing films to women. Fandom for these films was enormous all the way to the end of the series, and may live up (perhaps) to the "Twilight Forever" title given to this lushly designed complete collection release.
The critical responses were quite mixed for the entire run of films, but it was clear that audiences responded mostly positively to the series debut. It managed to exceed all of the expectations by box-office spectators and was decently received by some critics, even while it received it's fair share of lukewarm responses.
None of these films were met with much critical success. At best, it could be argued that the overwhelming reaction from the critical community has been one of indifference to the film series as a whole. A few critics have been more favorable to these films, but overall, mostly negative or mediocre-grade "barely-passing" reviews have been give to every installment in Summit's Twilight Saga franchise.
Having never read the books on which the Twilight films are based, I can't say much to compare the books and the films, though I have it on good authority from family that the books and films are pretty similar to each other. I'm not going to go too in-depth when it comes to discussing the plot of the series as it's rather simplistic. (On a side note: I don't really consider these to be plot-heavy films in the first place, they are all more-or-less part of an extended melodrama that feels episodic and more akin to a mini-series event than a fully-fledged theatrical film series).
In Twilight, the story begins by introducing Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a teenage girl who lives with her divorced dad, Charlie (Billy Burke), and who attends a new school where she meets a reclusive dreamboat named Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), who she learns is a vegetarian vampire, so-to-speak, who only drinks animal blood. She begins to have a major crush on Edward while wondering if the two are destined to be together forever. This crush magnifies in significance when Edward demonstrates to Bella his glittering body, that is as sparkly as diamonds when he steps directly into a brightly light day. In other words, if you imagined a vampire-movie with your typical perceptions of vampire mythos you'll find the results are much different. The Cullens are nice vampires who are ridiculously wealthy and pretty much all of them enjoy a good game of baseball, which seems to be vampire's favorite pastime too. Meanwhile, some baddie vampires are annoyed with the Cullens for connecting with Bella, and things go down between the two sides. There is also the introduction of Bella's friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner), who seems to have as big of a crush on Bella as she has on the vampire Edward.
In New Moon, the story seems to revolves around Edward trying to break-up successfully with Bella and not managing to do so effectively. He wants to be apart from her to protect her from the Volturi, a powerful coven of vampires who don't like humans and vampires mixing much. Meanwhile, it turns out Jacob is a wolf who can transform back and forth between his human form and wolf form. Also, Jacob pines for Bella, but Bella pines for Edward, but Edward is rejecting Bella. So-forth and so-forth. This entire film basically feels like an extended story focused on whether or not Bella will wind up with Edward or Jacob as her boyfriend. And theoretically, it's the introduction to the baddie vampires (the Volturi). Mixing in several moments that aspire to drawn a connection to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, this is an enormously overstuffed melodramatic sequel with terrible special effects, worse acting, incoherent plotting, and tons of sequences with a shirt-less Jacob (who made many girls successfully swoon).
The follow-up also had an unbelievably good opening weekend in the box-office: to date it is the largest advanced ticket seller in the history of Fandango as the ticket pre-sales outdid the numbers received for Star Wars: Episode 3 - The Revenge of the Sith. So.. more people were eagerly anticipating the follow-up to Twilight than the conclusion to the prequel Star Wars series? Really? (I'm surprised by this statistic, but apparently it is so.)
In Eclipse, the third feature in the series, the story gives some back-story to the Cullens and brings more to the table about the feuding sides between the vampires and werewolves. Its storyline is also developed with Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) helping to bring together something new: an army of newly-transformed vampires opposed to the Cullen vampires. However, the storyline's focus remains on whether or not Bella will end up being in the relationship with Edward or Jacob. By the end of the film it turns out she loves them both. However, she loves Edward more and wants to become a vampire and be with him forever.
In Breaking Dawn: Part 1 Edward and Bella become married, make love, and Bella has her firstborn child while transforming into a vampire. They have their honeymoon, and things become weird when Bella almost dies before her transformation, and then when the baby Renesmee is born Jacob "imprints" on the baby (which is described as a "werewolf thing"), suggesting that she will grow up to be the soul mate of Jacob. Creepiness ensues.
In Breaking Dawn: Part 2, Bella is now a vampire and goes running around looking for blood, Bella is now thirsting for it. She jumps around and kills a jaguar after looking for something to eat and she resists human blood. She has lots of conversations with the Cullens about this and that, and they all spend most of the final film's run-time having conversations (for at least the first hour or so). Tons of new characters are introduced right before the conclusion, none of whom are memorable characters that make any impression on the series storylines. (Why so many new characters right at the end? Why should anyone care? All the fans probably want would be more time with the characters already presented throughout the entire series run.)
Jacob continues to look creepily at the baby Renesmee, who is beginning to grow at a faster than normal rate, and the Cullens and others prepare for what is supposedly going to be this big-battle between them and the Volturi clan. The ending is then an entirely anti-climatic one, but it wraps up the series and the story of Bella and Edward, oh, and it suggests that Jacob will always be at their side watching after Renesmee. The Cullens smile. Everyone's like "it's all cool and easy-breezy". Run-credits: the film showcases every main actor who ever appeared in the series as each character. The end. Time to go home now, folks! And no more wonderful appearances from Anna Kendrick, the funniest side-character in the film series, who is relegated to this sequences of cast credits at the end of the saga.
Well, if you couldn't tell by my descriptions of these films stories, I'm not exactly a fan of the series (though I understand some of its appeal). I was pleased when the first film did well as Hollywood doesn't make enough films aimed directly at a female audience, and this was an important break away from that pattern for a higher-budget franchise, one that had a female leading character, and which also fit genre embellishments with vampires, werewolves, and more. I thought Catherine Hardwicke did the best job in the series as a director with the first film's stylistic approach, and with some authentic characterization absent from future films in this series. When Hardwicke was replaced by Chris Weitz for the second-film, it seemed as if Summit's decision was an example of sexism towards female directors, which I was bothered with at the time and still am today. The series was supposedly supposed to "pick up" from the first film, quality-wise, as lots of complaints about quality were thrown to Hardwicke. This seems ironic in retrospect when the series never had another film as well made as the first.
I can't say that I am entirely pleased with the results of the film series. From a stalker-ish attitude by Edward presented early on in the series, to Jacob's apparently unhealthy obsession with Bella, before having his disturbing "imprinting" about a future with Bella's newborn child, things became quite weird by the end. Then there's the fact that Bella's character is barely given a storyline or characterization throughout the series and that similarly the other characters are seemingly blank canvases of characterization, with more emphasis on stereotypes. Add in an abundantly over the top "heartthrob" style performance by Pattinson and the abundance of the oddly-placed shirtless scenes with Taylor Lautner, terrible CGI sequences that distracted from the films, snail-pace storytelling, and a villainous clan of vampires known as the Volturi, who seem to do just about nothing at all throughout the course of the series. I mean, seriously, they basically do nothing at all when it comes to the main characters, which makes their part in the story feel unnecessary. Stewart, who is the most talented of the three leads, also seems to be a less enthused actress as the series goes on. She seems less and less interested in her part as the story progresses and the performance quality does seem to decline. Given the writing quality, which becomes increasingly terrible, it's not that surprising. These films aren't that interesting.
As I said, I can see why there is some appeal to the Twilight saga, though. Each stars a female protagonist. There is plenty of romance and dramatics. Each features two guys that many girls would find attractive in one way or another with the dueling Team Edward and Team Jacob debate ensuing. There are lavish production qualities too: great cinematography; some lush visuals by the directors. The music is pretty good in each movie too.
In fact, it felt at times as though someone took a bunch of music out of my iPod and put it right into these films: I mean, come on: Radiohead, Beck, Bat for Lashes, Sia, Linkin Park, Iron & Wine, Vampire Weekend, Unkle, The Black Keys, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, St. Vincent, Feist, Ellie Goulding, and Passion Pit. What's going on here? I just listed fourteen artists which I'm a fan of. Each has music in one or multiple Twilight films. Who took a look at my iPod and put a bunch of my music into the Twilight films? (Seriously, I want to know. It makes no sense.)
In the end, I guess I do understand why some may find a certain dumb-fun quality to these films. However, the entire saga derails by the end with the weirdness of Jacob and the overall lack of a good story to tell in the first place. I mean, not to spoil things, but don't expect much in the end from the conflict with the Volturi. The main problem is that these characters feel flat -- they all lack in dimensionality.
It's too bad this is the film series couldn't live up to the first one, which was genuinely fun even with a number of elements that I found slightly underwhelming. This series was not ever going to be a great one but it just became worse and worse as it went on. Academy Award winner Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Dreamgirls), who was director of the film two films, brought his unique visual style to the table. It's too bad the acting and story wasn't worth the journey taken.
I thought a revisit of the films might prove to be more rewarding for me, and I hadn't seen the final film in this series prior to working on this review. Unfortunately, I was not impressed in revisiting the Twilight Saga. It's too simplistic with it's entirely underdeveloped characters and storylines. The writing is just so weak. If you do enjoy these films, then this is a nice collection: but it's something that reminded me ten-fold why I thought these films were problematic in the first place. Based on the merits of the films themselves, I don't recommend the Twilight Saga to anyone but established fans.
Each film in the set is presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfers. This is amazing considering when the films first started to arrive o Blu-ray. This is certainly a remarkable set in the PQ department. These are astonishingly detailed presentations with crisp detail, smooth texture, top quality encoding, and the overall brilliant cinematography is well realized on the format.
The first three films received DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentations (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse). The last three films received 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentations. Each offers impressive clarity and dimensionality with added surround quality and lossless presentations. The last two films are the most sonically dynamic of all.
This collection contains every supplement ever made about the Twilight Saga in one box-set, as well as the extended version of Breaking Dawn: Part 1. That's an enormous amount of content for any collection. Please see individual reviews of the films on DVDTalk for some specifics on these individual releases, repackaged here. The content detailed below is about the NEW content exclusive to this collection (and all of it is in glorious High Definition):
Twilight FAN-omenon is an almost forty-minute long featurette about the rise of the stars, fandom, and more. This piece features interviews with cast and fans about the series.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Character is a collection of some interviews and behind-the-scenes moments. 8 min.
Cast Retrospective (1 Hr. 6 min.) features interviews (largely with archived footage) about the films and series history.
Lastly, there are two clip-shows featuring the biggest highlighted moments for two characters: Twilight Forever: Edward's Saga and Twilight Forever: Jacob's Saga.
Twilight is... Twilight. If you've never seen any of these films and are interested in them, then start with renting the first one. If you're a die-hard fan who wants fancy packaging and every supplement ever created for the series then by all means: buy it. This is a beautifully done collection that seems perfect for serious fans. Fans will cherish it. Everyone else, including fence-sitters, are encouraged to look elsewhere. I'm recommending the set based on its top quality PQ/AQ/Packaging/Extras and not on the films themselves, so keep that in mind in considering a purchase.