Title: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Director: David Slade
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Xavier Samuel, Billy Burke, Jackson Rathbone, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Nikki Reed, Bryce Dallas Howard, Dakota Fanning
When it comes to The Twilight Saga, there are lovers and haters, but very few in between. Regardless of caliber, Twihards will flock to the theaters to catch the latest installment while the defiant will shun their dedication. This review of Eclipse will have little to no effect on whether or not those lovers or haters will see the film, but in the case of those caught in the middle, hopefully it’ll persuade them to join the former – at least this time around.
Moody Bella (Kristen Stewart) is long gone and now our leading lady is back with her brooding bloodsucking boy, happy and, most importantly, far more confident in herself. Graduation is right around the corner and so is the day she’s longed for, the day Edward (Robert Pattinson) turns her into a vampire. The only thing Edward asks for Bella in return? For her to let him make her his forever by marrying her. While Bella and Edward are negotiating their I dos, Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is trying to maintain his position in the love triangle. Even though Bella professes her love for Edward, Jacob is convinced she loves him too, but just won’t admit it.
Meanwhile, Riley (Xavier Samuel), a newborn, is busy amassing an army of others just like himself, freshly turned. Not only are vampires more thirsty for blood in their early days, but they’re psychically stronger too, making a mass of newborns the perfect weapon against the Cullens. Riley stands at the head of this army, but it’s Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) that’s calling the shots and she’ll do whatever it takes to avenge her lover James’ death at the family’s hands.
After Twilight and New Moon it’s easy to forget that vampires are brutal creatures and not just sulking sparklers, but here we’ve got David Slade behind the lens and he clearly still has some 30 Days of Night in his veins. Eclipse opens with a particularly dark and vicious scene, the one in which a helpless human Riley is hunted and bitten. The newborns command the film’s sinister side, most of their scenes involving them ravaging victims and leaving carnage and destruction in the Seattle streets.
Back in Forks, the skies are still overcast, but the atmosphere is rather sunny and after the New Moon sulk-fest, lighthearted moments are warmly welcomed. Our leading trio is still quite stiff, but someone must have told them to loosen up at least a little bit because for the first time in the franchise, they appear to be having some fun in their roles. Much of this comes from another new Saga addition, humor. The characters actually take a few jabs at themselves poking fun at the Twihard madness, goofing on elements like Jacob’s inability to conceal his abs. Jokes aside, there are even a few endearing moments the best of which takes place in a mountaintop tent during which Bella’s boys both want to keep her warm.
As for the supporting characters, sadly Anna Kendrick’s presence is reduced to a minimal yet memorable moment in which she delivers a commencement speech and Dakota Fanning’s Jane and the Volturi are practically nonexistent, but we do get a closer look at two of the Cullens, Jasper and Rosalie (Jackson Rathbone and Nikki Reed). Both are given their own flashback scenes through which we get a peak at how they got their fangs. The mini period pieces don’t exactly jibe with the modern setting, but their appeal makes their awkward inclusion a nonissue.
What is perfectly appropriate and long overdue is a massive battle scene. Not only is it packed with fantastic effects and intense violence, but its setup makes it much more than a device to quench your thirst for action. The rift between the Cullens and the wolves of Forks has been established, but here it becomes so much more than dirty looks and smack talk. By getting a glimpse of a wolf/vampire misunderstanding as well as a look into the wolf pack’s past, seeing them put their differences aside and fight side-by-side makes this combat far more powerful.
Even with monumental improvements, Eclipse is still far from perfect. From day one the series has been branded an artificial tale about an uninteresting girl in her mopey fight for love. Perhaps the imagination brought the story to life more vividly when reading the books, but on screen, in the first two films, Bella’s situation is as dreary as Forks’ weather. That doesn’t change in Eclipse for that is and will always be at the franchise’s core, but Slade manages to pile on enough excitement, character development and believable emotion on top of it to deliver a far improved product, one that actually makes having two more films coming our way an okay thing.
By Perri Nemiroff