Theatrical Review: THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE
Writers: Melissa Rosenberg (screenplay), Stephenie Meyer(novel)
Director: David Slade
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Anna Kendrick, Jackson Rathbone, Ashley Greene
Studio: Summit Entertainment
The third film in the series, THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE, switches gears from the intense emotionality and navel-gazing of NEW MOON in favor of a bigger scope, a wider story, and significantly more action (both on the battlefield and in the bedroom). In our last installment, Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) were blissfully reunited, despite the fact their stars aligning meant a broken heart for our young wolfboy, Taylor Lautner’s Jacob. With everyone back in Forks, things turn from the personal to the much more global. Jake may have a broken heart, and Edward may be trying to convince Bella to let him put a ring on it, but there are bigger necks to bite – Seattle is being taken over by a vampire bent on revenge against Bella, and she’s making an army.
Much was made of the replacement of our vampy nemesis Victoria( as first played by Rachelle Lefevre) with Bryce Dallas Howard. Whereas Victoria is a looming specter throughout the first two films (which makes her turn as the head baddie in ECLIPSE believable), much of that now seems clearly owed to Lefevre. Howard’s performance of Victoria doesn’t nearly capture the viciousness of Lefevre’s previous work, and it’s hard to take her seriously as a true opponent of Edward and the Cullen clan, even while backed with her newborn army and its de facto leader, Riley. Fortunately, the film has enough other issues to keep the tension much stronger this time around and it doesn’t fall flat on its face due its wholly unworthy villain.
Despite being a bit of a bridge book between the deep passions of New Moon and the off-the-rails everything in Breaking Dawn, there are a number of important occurrences in this installment in the franchise. It’s encouraging that the bulk of these are brought to the screen in, at the very least, a respectful manner. As the books that make up the saga itself get more and more lengthy, and as more and more characters and mythology are introduced, the issue within the films is to provide enough time to cover all the ground.
With a fanbase as dedicated as the Twi-hards, it’s proven almost impossible to satisfy everyone. While ECLIPSE honors some of the more important back stories of the Cullen clan (complete with historical flashbacks for both Rosalie and Jasper), other important pieces of the TWILIGHT puzzle are glossed over. Whereas in the book, the complications between Sam, Emily, and Leah are much more at the forefront (along with the mysterious and unprecedented addition of a female wolf to the pack), in ECLIPSE they are skated over, mainly with a couple of sad looks and chatter about the situation from Jacob. But, thankfully, they are not ignored, and I look forward to the double whammy of two BREAKING DAWN films to more fully address the issues that turning wolf spelled out for the entire pack.
ECLIPSE also features a pivotal scene that has always struck me as quite possibly the most important in the entire canon of the series – the tent scene. Before the final battle of the film, our three leads find themselves holed up in a snowbound tent. Unlike previous meetings of the triangle, this is an extended occasion, and the first time that Jacob and Edward truly level with each other, believing Bella to be asleep while they discuss her and their relationships with her. It is a scene that goes on to color and impact nearly everything that comes after it (not just in this installment, but through the rest of the series). Some of the best work of the entire franchise is present in this scene (and, certainly, the best of the film), with the leads abandoning some of the confidence they seem to have found in this latest outing, regressing appropriately back to earlier parts of the films.
The film clocks in at just over two hours, and most of it flies by with excellent pacing. There are some wonky bits - much like in the book, Bella and Edward’s trip to Florida is a draggy misfire, one of the few parts I wished director David Slade had cut, but it’s generally evenly reeled and, in those terms, it’s certainly the best of the franchise so far. The effects remain strong in ECLIPSE, as NEW MOON gave us (almost surprisingly so) workable SFX to create the all-important wolf pack, which continue in ECLIPSE. The best example of this is assuredly in the much-hyped battle scene that forms the last third of the film. The battle between the Cullen/wolf pack side and the newly-formed vampire army is well-done, straying from general TWILIGHT convention by not being over-the-top in the least.
But despite stronger work in almost every technical aspect in this installment, it’s a hard turn from NEW MOON that often feels oddly passionless. The second film relied so much on exploring the emotions of our characters that ECLIPSE often feels a bit too whiz-bang to get back into that state. It may be a Twilight Team issue – are you Team Jacob or Team Edward? Team Emotion or Team Action? For someone who falls firmly on the former teams, ECLIPSE struck me as less passionate than its forbearer, much heavier on the sparkles, less full-bodied on the blood.
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