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Summit Entertainment / 2008 / 122 Minutes / Rated PG-13
Street Date: March 21, 2009
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Reviewed by High-Def Digest Staff
Friday, March 20, 2009
As a supposedly mature, adult movie critic, it's far too easy to dismiss 'Twilight' out of hand. I'm clearly not the target audience for this tween vampire romance, one that's so full of hoary cliches, shopworn conventions, and obvious pandering to the youth demographic that it should, on many levels, leave one's artistic sensibilities offended. Yet, I believe that every generation needs its own cinematic myths, those generic genre movies that speak to universal truths about being a teenager. I'm sure there are better young-adult romances, let alone vampire movies, than 'Twilight,' but far be it for me to begrudge the millions of young moviegoers the world over who have embraced this movie as their rite of passage.
The first in a series of young adult novels from author Stephenie Meyer, 'Twilight' tells the tale of new girl in town Isabella "Bella" Swan (Kirsten Stewart). Uprooted by her mother from Phoenix to Forks, Washington, to go live with her father, Bella immediately falls for her mysterious, eerily pale-skinned classmate, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). At first, Edward seems to want nothing to do with Bella, but then, seemingly defying all laws of physics, he rescues her from near-death in an auto accident. Obsessed, Bella sets out to discover Edward's dark secrets -- and, of course, will fall in love with him in the process, resulting in the ultimate, tortured love story of teenagers kept apart by the cruel twists of fate.
It should be obvious to anyone over the age of 12 years-old what will happen in 'Twilight.' No offense to Meyer, but there is nary a shred of originality anywhere in the story and characters of 'Twilight.' Sure, Bella (especially as played by Stewart) is a spunky and likable heroine. And current teen heartthrob Pattinson is adequate in the role of Edward, resulting in a nice chemistry between the two. But there is nothing about this take on vampires that surprises -- every twist and turn has been done before, in other books and movies, and usually better. The film also does little with its own mythology -- these are generic bloodsuckers doing little to tweak the legend and lore we all grew up with. (About the best Meyer can come up with is to endear us to Edward and his clan, by having them only drink animal blood rather than feast on humans.) Even the production values are chintzy -- 'Twilight' often looks like a glorified TV movie, with lame CGI effects right out of a Sci-Fi Channel original.
So, how to explain the inexplicable -- 'Twilight' is a phenomenon, a series of novels that are all best-sellers and a sensational box office gross well over $100 million domestic. I chalk it up to the simple, undeniable power of these types of primal stories. Teens always want and need to see their struggles of idealized love represented on-screen. I will give Meyer, as well as the film's director Catherine Hardwicke, credit for being able to accurately recall the angst all teen girls and boys feel at those first pangs of attraction. If nothing else, 'Twilight' is fairly good at capturing those tough emotions. The world Hardwicke creates, while again rather cheap in terms of production value, at least feels like a real community. Thanks in particular to Stewart, Bella and this slightly surreal universe where no one in high school seems to notice a clique of pasty vampires walking among them, actually seems kinda real.
Is 'Twilight' a good movie, even of its type? To be honest, not really. But like so many teens-torn-apart-by-love touchstones before it, whether it be 'Rebel Without a Cause,' 'Titanic' or 'The Notebook,' 'Twilight' has simply caught the zeitgeist. It has been able to fuse the vampire myth with a Romeo & Juliet-like tragic love story, and the result is, apparently, pop culture-tastic. I still don't know exactly why teens have flocked to 'Twilight' -- perhaps it's just herd mentality? -- but I can't say 'Twilight' is so bad that it's undeserving of such popularity. I do wish Meyer and Hardwicke tried to bring a little more that's fresh with the material, but I've seen much worse teen flicks than 'Twilight.'
Summit Entertainment provides a very nice 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1) for 'Twilight.' The film suffers a bit of an artificial look, but is otherwise quite eye-popping and visually attractive.
'Twilight' has been tweaked all over the place. The film hardly ever looks natural -- there are filters used often to either alter some colors, or desaturate others. Hues are at least smooth and don't appear to suffer from any chroma noise or smearing. Fleshtones look relatively bloodless (sorry, couldn't resist!) The source is pristine, but contrast can be very hot, which gives the image lots of pop but sometimes lessens detail. However, this is always a sharp and smooth transfer, with no visible edge enhancement and great depth. There are also no compression artifacts. I can't imagine the target audience for 'Twilight' will be disappointed here.
Alas, I wasn't so jazzed about the audio for 'Twilight.' This DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit) has plenty of bang and bombast, but lacks subtlety and is generally uninvolving.
The good news is that it's certainly a polished and slick mix. Dynamics are smooth and robust, and low bass is more than adequate. The use of rock songs is also nicely done, with quite an uptick in heft to the front soundstage when they kick in. Unfortunately, i found the surrounds rather irritating. Discrete effects barrel in, especially all the standard "horror movie" atmospheric effects, but I found quieter scenes dull by comparison. I always find it annoying when horror flicks "scare" us with loudness -- it gets old real quick, and ruins the rest of the flick for me. Still, dialogue holds up well, and at least balance is in proportion. 'Twilight' could have sounded better to my ears, but I guess it's still good enough?
Summit is offering 'Twilight' as a special edition Blu-ray, day-and-date with a two-disc DVD. All of those extras are here, plus an exclusive or two, too. Most of the video extras are presented in 1080i/AVC MPEG-4/MPEG-2.
- Audio Commentary - Director Catherine Hardwicke is joined by young stars Kirsten Stewart and Robert Pattinson. Good news for kids is bad news for adults -- Stewart and Pattison are not at all serious from frame one, even swapping their names at one point, and generally just goofing about. Hardwicke does her best to impart some information on adapting the story, the film's visual style, and a little bit on the effects. Though I appreciated the youthful enthusiasm of the cast, I can't say they brought much at all to the track, and more often than not they distracted from it for me.
- Documentary: "The Adventure Begins: The Journey From Page to Screen" (HD, 55 minutes) - As this doc is offered both as a picture-in-picture and stand-alone, seven-part doc version, I will discuss it in the exclusives section below.
- Featurette: "Comic-Con Presentation" (SD, 8 minutes) - This short piece gives us a look at the hordes of screaming 'Twilight' fans that packed Comic-Con last year. It's actually quite amusing, with the rabid tweens treating the arrival of Stewart and Pattinson as if it were the second coming.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 14 minutes) - There are only five deleted scenes offered, plus another nine extended snips. I found them all rather inconsequential, though there is a lot more romantic blabber between Stewart and Pattinson, which the target audience should love. Hardwicke provides optional commentary, though she perhaps overstates when she says she included them here because the fans "love the scenes" (how could they, when they haven't seen them yet?)
- Music Videos (SD) - We get three clips: Linkin Park's "Leave Out All the Rest," Muse's "Super Massive Black Hole" and Paramore's "Decode."
- Theatrical Trailers (HD) - Included under a section entitled "Theatrical Campaign," we get the film's theatrical and teaser trailers, and a highly-promotional 'Twilight' pre-release sneak peek vignette.
'Twilight' technically gets an exclusive, though there really isn't any content here that hasn't been repurposed from the standard set of extras.
- Picture-in-Picture: "The Adventure Begins: The Journey From Page to Screen" (HD, 55 minutes) - As mentioned above, Summit has provided two ways to access this 55 minutes-worth of making-of material. You can either watch its seven segments as stand-alone featurettes (accessible via the main menu), or presented as a picture-in-picture track (Bonus View-compatible player required). The doc itself is a bit too fluffy -- the behind-the-scenes material is cool, but the interviews are all pre-release stuff and totally fawning. It's also a bit of a slog to watch as a PIP track, as the movie runs two hours, but there's a little less than an hour of making-of content. Expect lots of gaps of dead space...
- BD-Live - 'Twilight' also comes BD-Live-enabled. At press time, Summit has not yet launched any features for download, nor announced any upcoming content. Watch this space...
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'Twilight' is one of those pop culture phenoms that's probably inexplicable to most, but has hit its target tween audience smack dab in the center of their heads. I found it to be an inoffensive teen vampire romance, if something I couldn't really sink my teeth into as a 38-year-old adult. This Blu-ray is a perfectly solid, with very nice video, fairly good audio, and a well-rounded spate of supplements and exclusives. Any fan of 'Twilight' will certainly be pleased with this Blu-ray.