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First blood? A guide to 'Twilight'

In this image released by Summit Entertainment, Kristen

In this image released by Summit Entertainment, Kristen Stewart, foreground, and Robert Pattinson are shown in a scene from "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn" Part 1. Photo Credit: AP

Depending on your perspective, the release of a new "Twilight" movie is either a cause for celebration or trepidation. It's a lineup early for the midnight show, Team Edward vs. Team Jacob extravaganza or another weary lap around an inexplicable pop culture phenomenon's track.

Non-Twihards roped into seeing "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1," opening tonight: We feel your pain. So much so, in fact, that we offer this handy guide to enjoying the "Twilight" movies even if you don't care about Bella or Edward, and you think Volturi sounds like a brand of Italian sports car.

Caught in a bad romance

You don't have to love "Twilight" to love cheesy romances. And the vampire-human-werewolf love triangle at the core of Stephenie Meyer's creation is as relentlessly cornball as they come, with its hyper-sincere dialogue, comically earnest longing and over-the-top bursts of jealous rage. "Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" adds a much-hyped sex scene to the mix.

Can't beat the scenery

The movies are mostly set in small-town Forks, Wash., and its sprawling woodlands, which offer a wealth of scenic vistas. It's far easier to tolerate the specter of Edward the sparkling vampire when the glittering happens amid rays of sunlight penetrating the dense shrubbery beneath towering evergreens.

Strong supporting cast

If you're not a "Twilight" fan, you're probably not much of a Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart or Taylor Lautner booster. Fortunately, the series offers some terrific, interesting actors in supporting roles, including Billy Burke as Charlie Swan, Bella's father, and the always likable Anna Kendrick as Bella's classmate Jessica. They liven up the moribund proceedings whenever things get stuck in the moody, angst-ridden mud.

Lautner gives it his all

We'll put this delicately: Lautner is not the most gifted of thespians. His agitated line readings turn Jacob into perhaps the world's first whiny, hormonal teenage werewolf. Yet, unlike Pattinson and Stewart, Lautner never seems bored by the material. In fact, he works so hard to imbue Jacob with feeling, to show the audience how much he really loves Bella, that his performance actually kind of works. It's certainly entertaining.

Top-notch directors

The four filmmakers who've taken cracks at the franchise are no slouches. The first film's director, Catherine Hardwicke, did the acclaimed "Thirteen." Chris Weitz, who directed "New Moon," is co-responsible for "American Pie" and "About a Boy." David Slade, the man behind "Eclipse," did the rough-edged indie "Hard Candy." "Breaking Dawn" director Bill Condon helmed the acclaimed musicals "Chicago" and "Dreamgirls."

Super soundtracks

The movies offer an aural feast, coordinated by music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas. Alt-rock icons Muse, the Killers and OK Go can be found on earlier soundtracks, while the first part of "Breaking Dawn" offers the new Bruno Mars song "It Will Rain." If the storytelling gets you down, sit back, relax and let the cool sounds take over.

Taylor vs. Robert

If all else fails, there's always the spectacle of Lautner's relentlessly flaunted, immaculate abs, as contrasted with Pattinson's pasty emo shtick. You need not know a thing about Jacob or Edward to take part in the proverbial, defining dilemma of the "Twilight" saga: choosing the brand of hotness that fits you best.

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