SAN DIEGO – They promised more footage, more surprise guests and the biggest “Twilight” panel ever and Summit Entertainment didn’t disappoint.
After a short moment acknowledging the passing of fan earlier this week who had arrived early in San Diego to wait in line for the panel, the moderator got the packed hall of fans going by introducing the franchise’s triumvirate. This November’s “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2” marks the end of the blockbuster franchise and there was a strange feeling of bittersweet excitement in the hall.
Out first were Taylor Lautner (cue scream), Robert Pattinson (louder scream) and Kristen Stewart (tad quieter scream). Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy) then appeared for the first time in front of fans followed by the mastermind behind the franchise’s original novels, Stephenie Meyer. Before speaking to any of the stars, a video intro from director Bill Condon screened. Condon was not in attendance because he’s scoring the film in London this week, but he noted that he’d been working on something special for the fans since this was set as the final appearance for the current franchise at Comic-Con. The “Dreamgirls” director then drew a huge cheer when he revealed that the audience was about to see the first seven minutes of “Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2.” Some shrieking fans might not have heard the Oscar winner note that the score and sound mix will change before release, but the edit seemed finished.
“Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2” begins with the last shot of “Pt. 1,” with Bella Cullen (Stewart) opening her now intense red eyes for the first time as a vampire. She immediately realizes becoming a vampire means she’ll view and experience the world in a much more intense way.
Edward then realizes that she needs to feed, remarking, “Let’s go hunt.” Cut to Bella and Edward racing through the forest at vampire “super” speed. The special effects were OK (it looks more fake during the day than at night), but as they run we’re reminded again of how Bella’s world has changed. While she’s moving at inhuman speeds she hears the sound of an Owl hundreds of feet away as though its in slow motion or sees a water drop fall from one strand of a spider’s web to another. These are intimate details that subtly allow us to feel Bella’s change without having the characters continually explain it with extraneous exposition. Bella stops when she hears a deer – ie, the perfect animal to drain – and Edward comes upon her giving her advice on when to pounce. In that moment, however, Bella’s senses pick up the cut arm of a rock climber across the forest. She can’t control herself and soon races from her husband before scaling the rock face with her new superhuman abilities. Edward eventually catches up to her, but before having to intervene she admits “I need to get out of here.” Bella is learning to control her hunger and races away from the vicinity of the innocent human being (who it appears never saw the two vampires). She finds the deer again. While waiting to pounce she sees a cougar about to take out her prey. When the cat jumps to attack the deer, Bella cuts it off in mid air throwing it down to the ground and sinks her teeth into the predator. Yes, things have changed for the previously shy newcomer to Grand Forks.
Cut to Bella and Edward returning to the front yard of the Cullen family home. Jacob (Lautner) comes out to greet them and admits, “You guys look great together.” This is the first time Jacob has seen Bella in her new incarnation and he’s surprised how much she looks like, well, Bella. His former crush wants to go into the house to see her daughter Renesmee, but Jacob isn’t convinced she can control herself around living beings. Jacob is the test subject and as she walks up to him Bella jokes, “I can see what everyone is talking about. You really do stink.”
Having passed the test, the trio head inside as the footage fades to black.
Cue the audience going “awwww.”
“Watching this right now, I wish Bill Condon could have heard you guys. I think he would have loved your response,” Meyer says.”The rest of the movie is [the cast] bringing the characters to life in an amazing way.”
For Stewart, transforming Bella into a vampire was a long time coming.
“I’ve been waiting too. It felt so good to break her in and see how fast the car goes,” Stewart says. “‘Twilight’ vampires are very unique. They are not like all vampires. I think everything about her is amplified, because everyone’s powers were informed by how they were human. I love her. I think she’s the coolest one.”
Pattinson admits that things haven’t gotten any easier for Edward now that he and his wife are on the same supernatural plane.
“He’s constantly being surprised in the last four movies, but he’s even more surprised now because you’d think if they were both the same creature there would be a little more understanding of her, but he has even less understanding,” Pattinson says. “You can predict that someone is going to hurt you physically, but when it actually happens it was fun to do.”
For Lautner, it was something of a relief to have Jacob free of his embarrassingly long and failed courtship of Bella.
“It was exciting to portray Jacob in this as a whole. Jacob’s goal was to always end up with her,” Lautner says. “In this one he’s had a big weight left off his shoulders and for me, personally, it was crazy to see Kristen play this vampire. She’s been this one thing for so long and to change gears like that was so impressive. You guys saw it right there. She did a great job.”
One additional scene was then shown and it touched on the comic relief in “Pt. 2.” Bella is going to have to meet her father for the first time in weeks (in case you forgot, he thinks she’s been sick in Europe during the second half of Pt. 1), but now she has to “pretend” to be human for him. Besides contacts to fix her eyes, the Cullens remind her to breathe, slouch and “bat your eyes.” Stewart tries to act human, but as Jacob says, it works “for a cartoon character.”
Cast members Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz, Ashley Greene and Jackson Rathbone then appeared on stage. Fan questions then dominated the rest of the panel, leading to the following revelations:
– If they ever dressed up as a villain at Comic-Con who would it be? Stewart said she wanted to dress up as the Evil Queen from “Snow White and the Huntsman,” Pattinson said he’d like to dress up as General Zod.
– Reed noted she loved a fight scene between herself and Lautner’s characters that got cut [from “Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1” it appears]. It involved Lautner hitting her in the head with a bowl of food take after take. Lautner, “I kept missing and hit the cameraman in the groin. ”
– Most beautiful moment from the series? Stewart said Brazil was beautiful, but her wedding (from “Breaking Dawn, Pt.I”) was “so cool. I was so proud of Bill.”
– Any advice his character in “Breaking Dawn” would give his character in “Twilight”? Pattinson deadpans, “Keep it in your pants.” (Huge shocked reaction from the cast). He then said, “Don’t succumb to peer pressure and wear a wig like everyone else. I had to do extra shooting and for my last two days on ‘Twilight’ I had to wear a wig.”
– Lautner and Stewart also said they had “so much fun” during the scene when Jacob tells Bella he’s imprinted on Renesmee. Lautner says it’s “hilarious.”
– Rathbone said it was ridiculously difficult to wear the painted contacts. “Sometimes the contacts would droop down.”
The panel also included a lengthy introduction of 17 coven members including Maggie Grace.
And then, as quickly as it began, it was over.
Until they return next year to promote the DVD of course.
“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2” opens nationwide on Nov. 16.