[15 Anniversary 4K UHD Review]
Twilight hit theaters in the United States on November 21st, 2008.
Those good at The Maths can deduce, then, that the film is celebrating its 15th anniversary. In celebration, a grandiose boxed set of 4K UHD discs (the sequels are making their debut on the format here) are releasing as a Best Buy exclusive (perhaps one of the last of their kind). The first film and its physical media release is covered in depth here.
In 2008 I was a 28 year old bachelor who had no reason in the world to be interested in the Twilight books and movies, which were aimed squarely at teen girls. Mind you, I bore them no ill will and always loved a book series that got young people reading. As those 15 years have passed, however, series stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson have grown into some of the most revered and wildly accomplished actors of our time. And the swirling rumors of just how gonzo these vampire/werewolf love stories become in the latter entries has intrigued me. The time has come for me, a roundly middle aged husband and father who knows nothing about Twilight, to take a deep dive into this series and recount my adventures to you in written form. I’m going to write about each film as I see it, knowing little about what will happen in each successive installment.
There will be full spoilers throughout. Won’t you join me?
[Read my full coverage of the sequels here]
I wasn’t sure if I would get it… but I think I get it!
This is teen girl angst unleashed upon an expansive fantasy landscape. And that’s totally okay!
When Kristen Stewart’s Bella Swan arrives in Forks, Washington to stay with her divorced Dad for a while, she’s the immediate center of attention of literally every character in Forks, Washington. It’s like the town was just sitting in frozen stasis waiting for her to arrive. There’s a fully formed group of friends, including Anna Kendrick’s Jessica, that immediately accept her and talk about nothing but her. There’s her sheriff father (Billy Burke as Charlie Swan), his townie friends at the diner, and Gil Birmingham and Taylor Lautner as Billy and Jacob Black (old family/childhood friends who literally come bearing the gift of a classic truck restored by hand just for Bella). I do know enough about Twilight to know that there’s going to be some vampire vs. werewolf angst coming down the pike. Even I couldn’t escape the #TeamEdward vs. #TeamJacob rows of the late aughts.
And then, there are the Cullens. The pasty and gorgeous vampire clan essentially have a Bollywood style, windswept introduction as they enter the high school for the first time and Jessica narrates their entrance to Bella personally. Robert Pattinson’s Edward Cullen is the last to appear, and I immediately get it. This guy is a James Dean-ass vampire. Aloof, cooler than cool, and the immediate new obsession of our teen girl protagonist.
The longing, the aching, dramatic, pubescent desire of Bella Swan… it’s the raw nerve at the center of this story and at the center of the entirety of Forks. I’m aware that author Stephanie Meyer created a phenomenon with her novels and that the film series only elevated that fandom to a fever pitch. Meyer’s somewhat overdramatized accounting of teen angst, desire, and repression is likely a byproduct of her roots in the Mormon faith, and I can recognize and identify with some of the feelings Meyer and Bella are grappling with as someone who myself came up in the era of “purity culture” in the evangelical church. There’s this air of mystery to sex and dating that everyone experiences. But when you add a religious zeal to the proceedings, the longing, the withholding of ones purity/virginity, the promise of a one, true, holy and God-ordained love, is the most exciting thing imaginable for a teenager.
And so, Bella wants nothing more than Edward and to know and understand his deep dark secrets. Edward, of course, is like a hundred damn years old, so of course there are some real concerns to be considered around this kind of grooming behavior that this ancient creature is displaying towards this child. But let’s just acknowledge that and move on for now. The purity culture dynamic that most strongly and immediately makes itself known is the fact that Edward and his vampire clan have chosen to abstain from feasting on human blood. They are trying a different path, feeding only on animals. Edward describes the lifestyle as almost eternally unsatisfying. And his own assessment of himself and his “strength” hinges upon whether he can resist his intense desire to drink Bella’s blood and turn her into a vampire. So longing, sex, and abstinence are directly at the center of this fantasy romance.
Twilight mostly clicks and works for me so far because it’s the kind of thing that absolutely hangs on its casting and chemistry. The teen idol heartthrob phenomenon of Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, and others, sort of simultaneously turned the film series into a global smash and also made it cool to hate and make fun of. This is the way with all teen fandom. I’ve admitted that part of my own interest in seeking this series out is due to the fact that Stewart and Pattinson have deftly broken through the teen idol barrier and become true artists with agency over their own careers. Other stars from this series went on to less stellar success. But damn if the smoldering and mystery between Stewart and Pattinson doesn’t cook. The Twin Peaks-like allure of the pacific northwest all around them, the extremely pasty white hoodie wearing Hot Topic mallcore vibe that defined a generation splashed up on the big screen, it is all there and while I know it isn’t made for me, I’m here for it.
Meyer and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg also tap into pre-existing vampire and werewolf lore to drape this high school romance in the trappings of a fantasy world that has intoxicated us for generations. Edward Cullen is no Dracula, but we immediately slide into the thematic explorations of previous vampire storytellers like Bram Stoker and Anne Rice. We get that vampires are sexual. We get that a teen girl fantasizes about being the center of attention and creating a feeling in a boy that he describes as nothing short of a heroin high. Twilight is about longing, desire, the need for acceptance and answers, and about which hottie to choose from when both hotties’ entire personalities seem to be “I’m hopelessly in love with you”.
While I’m intrigued and fascinated and couldn’t be happier to be exploring this series, I will say that the visual effects and overall visualization of Edward and the Cullen family’s vampire abilities are awful here. While director Catherine Hardwicke did this series a real solid with her casting and the overall look and feel, Iron Man (fascinating that the MCU launched with this title in the very same year that Twilight hit theaters) this is not. There’s allusions to Edward’s abilities being like those of a superhero. But every time the vampires are supposed to be doing cool shit like running crazy fast, or scaling a tree, or hitting a baseball into the heavens with their super strength, it looks terrible. Today I think we have higher expectations for action, choreography, and how super heroic antics are portrayed on the big screen. But it’s safe to say that Twilight is succeeding when it’s relying on its heartthrobs and failing when it’s trying to be action packed.
Much like our friend Bella, I’m somewhat emotionally torn regarding this physical release. On the one hand this feels like undoubtedly the definitive home video edition of these films. You’ve got brand new 4K UHD scans, Blu-rays, AND Digital Codes for all of the films. Each film is packed with bonus features that I must confess I haven’t delved into yet. (A five film commitment is all I can break off at the moment). AND this Best Buy exclusive has new art work emblazoned across this Steel Book presentation. It’s all packaged in a sturdy looking cardboard box with an individual compartment for each film. And therein lies the rub. These damn movies are stuck in their box. Like, the movies do not come out. I’ve learned so far that if I use a lot of banging with my palm, gravity, and a little luck, I can get enough Steel Book to pop out that I can pinch and pull and get the movie out. I am not exaggerating. This is not a bit. I’ve owned many a Blu-ray box set in my day, and I’ve never encountered a problem such as this. It’s deluxe and definitive and damn near impossible to pull discs out of.
(Provided By Lionsgate)
4K UHD and BD:
Twilight Tour…10 Years Later featurette (10 mins)
A Conversation With Stephenie Meyer (23:34)
Music: The Heartbeat of Twilight (5:35)
Becoming Edward (7:28)
Becoming Bella (5:23)
Catherine Hardwicke’s Vampire Kiss Montage (2:43)
Catherine Hardwicke’s “Bella’s Lullaby Remix” Music Video
Edward’s Piano Concert (2:34)
Twilight Cast Interview: Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson
Twilight Cast Interview: Cam Gigandet (5:41)
Twilight Cast Interview: Edi Gathegi and Rachelle Lefevre
Twilight Premiere On The Red Carpet (7:36)
Cast Interviews On The Red Carpet (4:56)
Stephenie Meyer Talks About The Twilight Saga (34:45)
And I’m Out.
The Twilight Saga 15th Anniversary Steelbook Best Buy Exclusive releases 11/14/23 at Best Buy