The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Director : David Slade
Screenplay : Melissa Rosenberg (based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2010
Stars : Kristen Stewart (Bella Swan), Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen), Taylor Lautner (Jacob Black), Xavier Samuel (Riley), Bryce Dallas Howard (Victoria), Anna Kendrick (Jessica), Michael Welch (Mike), Christian Serratos (Angela), Jackson Rathbone (Jasper Hale), Ashley Greene (Alice Cullen), Paul Jarrett (Mr. Biers), Iris Quinn (Mrs. Biers), Sarah Clarke (Renee), Peter Facinelli (Dr. Carlisle Cullen), Elizabeth Reaser (Esme Cullen), Billy Burke (Charlie Swan)
Either I’m getting worn down or else the Twilight movies are getting better, as Eclipse, the third entry in the four-part series based on the best-selling novels by Stephenie Meyer, is easily the best so far, and not just in comparison to the previous entries. Perhaps it is because it was helmed by David Slade, a British music video director who made the unnerving thriller Hard Candy (2005) and the over-the-top vampire comic book adaptation 30 Days of Night (2007). As the third director to tackle the series so far (following Catherine Hardwicke and Chris Weitz), Slade has the benefit of working with established characters and a narrative momentum that has been building, but he also brings a smoother, more confident style and tone that balances the romance and the violence in a way that gives the film more weight. Rather than a sense of just going through the motions, Eclipse feels like it’s actually about something, and its moments of romantic tension and visceral danger carry a charge that is more than just the sum of its previous parts.
The story’s melodramatic threads pick up right where New Moon left off, with the vaguely alienated teenage Bella (Kristen Stewart) firmly (yet chastely) in the arms of her vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) after having chosen him over Jacob (Taylor Lautner), her childhood friend who recently embraced his Native American tribe’s werewolf heritage. Things are hardly settled, though, and Eclipse effectively continues to build the heat of this swoony human-vampire-werewolf love triangle, with Jacob becoming more and more determined to win Bella away from Edward, who she wants so desperately that she can’t wait to be turned into a vampire after high school graduation (how’s that for marking a major life transition?).
The teen-pulp romantic travails are only one thread of the story, though, as a much darker development looms on the horizon in the form of a newly formed army of vampires being created in Seattle by Riley (Xavier Samuel), a recently turned vampire under the sway of the fiery-headed Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard), whose lover was killed by Edward in the first movie and has been nursing bitter dreams of revenge ever since. Bella is the ultimate target because Victoria wants Edward to feel her pain, and to protect her the Cullen clan must form a tentative alliance with the tribe of werewolves, who are their sworn enemies. Slade’s work in the much darker and gorier 30 Days of Night shows in his depiction of the growing vampire army, which is desperate and violent and frenzied and therefore truly dangerous. If there is one thing that has hampered the Twilight movies up until this point, it has been the lack of real menace; for all the talk of blood sucking and shape shifting, they have been relatively restrained, and Slade and cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe (who also shot New Moon) bring a much darker edge to this chapter, and it’s all the better for it. The climactic battle that pits the Cullen clan and the werewolves against the new vampire army is as intense and viciously enthralling as just about anything that’s been on screen this summer.
The performances continue to improve, as well. Kristen Stewart has grown into Bella as Bella has grown up and matured, and she has dropped all of the irritating tics that made her character seem such a powerless pawn; she’s still pretty much at everyone’s mercy, but in Eclipse she is allowed to make some fateful emotional decisions that better define her as a person. Pattinson and Lautner are still stuck playing various tones of steamy brooding for the most part, although they both benefit from a crucial scene that takes place in a tent in which their characters are allowed to let down their guards (if only momentarily) and see that they share more in common than mutual animosity. And, because the characters are growing and developing, there is a little more room for comedy, particularly between Bella and her always well-meaning, but completely clueless police chief dad (Billy Burke), who has no idea what his daughter is involved in (he doesn’t like her boyfriend, but for all the wrong reasons). Eclipse probably won’t win over any new fans to the series (if you’re not into it by now, you’re probably avoiding the film on purpose), but it still represents a significant improvement over the previous entries and, one can only hope, sets the stage for an even better conclusion.
Copyright ©2010 James Kendrick
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