When discussing any of the five films that comprise "The Twilight Saga" — which I find myself doing with unbothered regularity — my go-to phrasing for encapsulating their general vibe is "delightfully unhinged." I've yet to think of a better way to describe a narrative arc that starts with a girl holding a tiny cactus and ends with her as a red-eyed vampire, settled in the misty town of Forks, Washington with her centenarian husband and their rapidly aging half-vampire daughter, Renesmee.
When the first film in the series hit theaters back in 2008, I was 31 years old, which you'd think would put me well past their intended demographic, but what's been made very clear to me after making my way through the 12 hours of bonus content included in the newly released 15th anniversary SteelBook Collection is that these adaptations of Stephenie Meyer's fantasy romance novels resonate far beyond the young adult audience she had in mind when she wrote the first one in just three months' time, never expecting it to be published, much less become the phenomenon it did, and continues to be after all these years.
In the five bonus feature discs included in the new collection — along with 4K Ultra HD™ + Blu-ray™ + Digital copies of the films — there's extensive footage of fans of all ages from promotional events and special screenings held all around the world over the past two and a half decades, breathlessly praising the films and the books that they're based on. A good percentage of the fans shown are shrieking young girls in tears for Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) reasons, but there's a surprising amount of mom-aged and grandma-aged ladies, as well as a healthy representation of "Twiguys." In one moment in the "Twilight Fanomenon" featurette included with "Eclipse," a man is asked what drew him to the films, and he says that his wife likes them and he likes his wife, so he wants to be part of what she does. Romance paving the way for more romance? There's a lesson there.
As I sit here sipping iced coffee out of my insulated "Twilight" cup, purchased on sale at Hot Topic recently because it features a photo of my favorite character from the series (TEAM JACOB!) along with my favorite quote: "Bella, where the hell have you been, loca?" I find it exciting that, having believed I'd learned everything there was to know about this franchise, there's still more to discover. Without these bonus features, I would have never known that Stephenie Meyer listened to Linkin Park albums on a loop while writing "Twilight" ("Meteora" and "Hybrid Theory," specifically.) Or that Kristen Stewart — much as she's tried to distance herself from her character, Bella Swan — signed up for the project that would take over years of her life because she didn’t want the character to be depicted as "too vulnerable or too doe-eyed," saying she didn't feel like that would be a good thing to promote.
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In "A Conversation with Stephenie Meyer," included with "Twilight," she reveals that she only took one writing class prior to penning the first book in her beyond popular series, and that was only because it was a requirement to graduate with a degree in English. To hear her describe what led to her sitting down to write what would go on to earn her hundreds of millions of dollars, it all started from a dream she had about a vampire and a girl having a conversation in a meadow. Breaking standard tropes by not giving her vampire characters fangs or needing to sleep during the day, she says it was more fun not to follow rules that had been set before she entered into the vampy/wolfie genre. Throughout all of the bonus features that show bloopers or behind the scenes footage, Meyer is often visible on set, watching the process closely to make sure the four different directors for the five films (Bill Condon directed "Breaking Dawn" 1 & 2) didn't stray too far outside of what she created in her mind. According to her, they exceeded her expectations.
Throughout these extras, many of which I'd never seen before, it's cool to watch each of the main actors literally grow into their roles. In one interview in the set, Meyer mentions that a kid she knew when she was 14 who was a Navajo Indian was the inspiration for Jacob Black, the series' hunky lovesick werewolf. But he didn't start out very hunky. In a cast retrospective included with "Eclipse," Taylor Lautner says that he hit the gym immediately after filming was completed for "Twilight," working out for an hour and a half in the morning, and for that same amount of time again at night, eventually gaining 30 pounds of muscle by the time the second film, "New Moon," started up. In the fandom, his character gets poo-pooed quite a bit by those who favor the "cooler," more sophisticated Edward, but a few deleted scenes and extended scenes from the set showcase why those people are wrong. I'll just say that again for emphasis. THEY'RE WRONG. In one extended scene included in the "New Moon" features, Jacob, in his continued efforts to woo Bella away from Edward, compares himself to the sun, saying that it's always there, even when you can't see it, and that he'll always be there for Bella. He'll never go away. God. I'm practically crying just writing that down. What did Edward ever do that was that romantic? From my perspective, he just constantly bragged about being able to easily kill his girlfriend while making a face that looked like he had to poop real bad. This perspective is vindicated in all of the bloopers and cast interviews where Pattinson is messing up his lines or being a goof, receiving countless eye rolls from Stewart, whom he dated for several years in real life. Stewart would later come out as queer and announced her engagement to screenwriter Dylan Meyer in 2021. I'm smiling at this. This makes me smile. Turns out that Stewart wasn't Team Jacob or Team Edward.
Although the bonus features in this new set kept me occupied for days, and re-reminded me just how fun it is to have "The Twilight Saga" be an active and current part of my life, I secretly hope they held some back. I can always sit down and rewatch Michael Sheen describe his character Aro as a Venus flytrap with an unhinged quality, mirrored by his own devilish grin and flashing eyes. Or the too-brief outtakes with "Chuckesmee," the hellish looking animatronic they ditched in favor of CGI for the baby Renesmee scenes in "Breaking Dawn." But it's equally fun to fantasize about there being even more to discover in the future. I'm a pleasure-delayer. Just like Edward. Gross.