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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Last November, it was hard to walk five feet without seeing something to do with the Twilight movie. The stars were popping up in magazines and on television. Ads, trailers, and commercials were ubiquitous. Young girls wore T-shirts emblazoned with the logo and/or the film's stars. Now that the much-anticipated 2-disc special edition DVD is hitting stores (at midnight on March 21), the pandemonium has started all over again. Strolling through my local mall last weekend, I noticed that several stores were throwing "Twilight DVD Release Parties" where eager buyers could line up at the stroke of midnight to be among the first to purchase the film for home viewing.

Of course, this thing is going to sell a bazillion copies, but the question remains: Is the product worth all the fuss, or is it just shallow hype? Well, I got to check out the Twilight DVD in advance, and it's my pleasure to report that the set is clearly made to please the fans. Stocked with bonus features, this is the ultimate "thank you" gift to the people who made the movie such a success at the box office.

If you're reading this, I'm going to assume you've already either seen the film or read the book (and probably both), so I won't re-review it now. (You can find my original review here.) Instead, I'd like to focus on the DVD itself.

Disc one begins with the feature film, presented in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio and boasting superb Dolby Digital sound. On a separate audio track, director Catherine Hardwicke is joined on the commentary by stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. Together, they share memories of making the movie, as well as offer thoughts on the whole Twilight phenomenon.

After the feature comes a series of extended scenes, with introductions by Hardwicke, who explains that most of the scenes were shortened "to pick up the pace" of the story. Most notable among these scenes is a longer cut of the sequence between Bella and her father in the diner, as they talk about the Cullen family.

Rounding out the first disc are three music videos for songs used on the soundtrack. There is a live performance of "Supermassive Black Hole" by Muse, a live performance of "Leave Out All the Rest" by Linkin Park, and the official "Decode" video by Paramore. Prior to the video is a short clip of Hardwicke talking about the band's participation; apparently, Paramore lead singer Hayley Williams was such a big fan of the book series that she aggressively lobbied for her band to be on the soundtrack. After seeing rough cuts of a few scenes, she went back and penned the movie's theme.

Disc Two kicks off with five deleted scenes, lasting about six minutes total. Hardwicke again provides a brief introduction. The first deleted scene finds Edward and Emmett discussing Bella in the school parking lot. There's a montage of alternate takes of Bella dreaming of the vampire in bed, a brief clip of evil vampires James and Victoria making out, and a snippet in which Carlisle and Esme talk about how Bella "brings Edward to life." The most interesting deleted scene is a longer walk through the woods as the two lead characters head toward the meadow (one of the novel's pivotal moments). Fans will recognize some favorite lines of dialogue here.

Perhaps the standout of the DVD set is "The Adventure Begins: The Journey From Page to Screen," a seven-part documentary looking at the making of Twilight. Here's the breakdown of the seven sections:

  • "The Beginning" - Author Stephenie Meyer talks about her desire to make sure the filmmakers respected the audience in adapting her book, while Hardwicke acknowledges that - due to the devoted fan base - there wasn't a lot of room to tinker with what didn't need fixing.
  • "The Partnership - A Look at Pre-Production" - This segment delves into the preparations and planning that went into the movie adaptation. Cast and crew members comment on the challenge of adapting a property that is known so devoutly by its core audience.
  • "The Vampires" - Here we meet all the cast members, who briefly explain their characters. As many of the actors were unknown prior to Twilight, this is a good way to become more familiar with some people we will probably be seeing more of - especially given that two sequels were recently announced.
  • "Capturing the Action: A Look at Production" - The longest segment, running about 20 minutes, goes behind the scenes to show how the stunts and action sequences were accomplished. The director proudly announces that no green-screen special effects were used. Instead, they relied on "in-camera" tricks, wire rigs, and old-fashioned ingenuity. Amazingly, for the shot in which Bella and Edward stand on the highest branches of an enormous tree, no digital manipulation was used. Real stunt people were harnessed into the tree while a helicopter swirled around them filming the action. While not strictly an action movie, Twilight has more stunt work than you initially realize, and this chapter does a very good job of showing how some of the most memorable moments were accomplished.
  • "Vampire Baseball" - Perhaps the most famous scene in the story is the one where the Cullens play their own unique variation on America's pastime. Here we see how the sequence was pulled off, again using a lot of wire rigs and practical effects. We learn that many of the baseballs were added digitally later on; the actors used Christmas ornaments for the actual filming. Also included is a rough cut shot on video - that Hardwicke assembled to "pre-visualize" how the scene would play. The vampire baseball is certainly a highlight of the picture, and it's fun to peek behind the curtain on its production.
  • "The Final Word on the Final Battle" - Another beloved scene is the dance studio square-off between Edward and James. Once more, we see how the fight was choreographed and accomplished. For one crucial shot, a balsa wood floor was made so that a stuntman could crash into it headfirst and be drug several feet.
  • "Putting It All Together - The Magic of Post Production" - This is a look at what happened after shooting was finished, with some emphasis on music and use of CGI to digitally manipulate the weather - a trick that gives Twilight its signature look. Fans will also appreciate learning more about how special effects artists achieved the "diamond skin" appearance Edward has when exposed to sunlight.

    After the seven-part documentary comes footage from last year's Comic-Con, where the cast and crew gathered in front of thousands of screaming fans. The Twilight panel was legendary at the time, due to the intense (even for Comic-Con) enthusiasm of the crowd. Watching this 8-minute segment gives you a sense of what it must have been like to be there.

    Finally, there's a section on marketing materials that features various teasers and trailers for the movie.

    All in all, there are several hours worth of bonus features on the 2-disc Twilight DVD. All the features are well-produced and, perhaps most importantly, geared toward giving the fans their money's worth. I had some mixed feelings about Twilight when I reviewed it last fall. There were things about it that I really loved and things that I didn't think worked. That said, this excellent DVD package gave me an added appreciation for everything that went into the making of the movie. Whether you are a diehard Twilighter or a newcomer, you can't deny that everyone involved wanted to do justice to Stephenie Meyer's extraordinarily popular novel.

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