Anyone who’s read my reviews knows I’m a Twi-Hater! So it was with a massive amount of trepidation that I went into The Twilight Saga: Eclipse as I knew it was going to be a big, melodramatic feast for 12-year-old girls galore. By the end I was left scratching my head wondering if the world had gone mad: Is it possible that a Twilight film can be anything other than terrible…apparently it can! Director David Slade should have been helming this series from the get-go as he makes the best Twilight film in the franchise (trust me it won’t get any better than this), lessening the melodrama and stock emotions for a nail-biting action film that just so happens to have that pesky Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). It isn’t the best movie of the summer but for anyone who hates Twilight; this is actually a very good film!
With Bella’s (Kristen Stewart) graduation fast approaching and the time for her to be turned into a vampire by her love Edward, she is grappling with the question of whether vampirism is the way to go. It isn’t helping that her feelings for the werewolf Jacob (Taylor Launter) continue to get in the way. When the evil vampire Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) returns for revenge with her new lover Riley (Xavier Samuel) and an army of newborn vamps, the werewolves and vampires will have to force a shaky truce in order to protect the town of Forks, and Bella along with it.
Again no one was more surprised that this film was good than me, a person who abhors the Stephanie Meyer penned novels. Here director David Slade takes his knowledge of the genre (as he had helmed the vamp film 30 Days of Night) and applies it to the vampire love story. Gone is the mopey voice-overs Bella provides - there are about 2 or 3 uses of it in the entire 2 hour runtime - and crafts a story about a teenage girl entering adulthood and deciding whether to forsake everything she knows for love. The source material is shaky with the Edward/Bella/Jacob romance but here that’s lessened in favor of creating the story about the vampire army and the back-story of the Cullen family. The strongest aspects are when Bella is learning about the other members of the Cullen clan such as Rosalie’s (Nikki Reed) tormented origins and Jasper’s (Jackson Rathbone) time under the spell of a female vampire. The actual flashbacks are all authentically portrayed and are engaging enough to form their own movie if given the chance. Slade shoots the scenes with the other vampires in a stark, sharp world filled with black and white, similar to his past vampire film and it actually gives the film an air of menace and fear. The melodrama and “I love you’s” between Bella and Edward are still present, but they don’t form the entirety of the two-hour runtime and are sandwiched between pretty heavy dialogue or action sequences. The scenes with Bella and her father are the best as we actually see Bella as a normal adolescent, and thankfully all her moping and pining are removed, questioning whether to have sex and other teen issues. The fact that premarital sex is at the forefront of this film is interesting considering the audience and while there is a pretty heavy scene that almost leads to something, the characters actually have some genuine discussions on the subject although the whole “wait until marriage” thing can become a bit overbearing.
The cast also feels more relaxed under Slade’s direction, giving their characters weight and feeling. Kristen Stewart has played Bella as a boring, monotonous sloth in the last two films but here Stewart lets her guard down and plays Bella as a person. She conveys emotions, isn’t overly whiny or screeching, but just plays the character as is. Robert Pattinson also lets down his hair, so to speak, as the dashing leading man Edward Cullen. His opening scene of creepy over protectiveness towards Bella could have set the stage for audiences to question whether he’s way too possessive but that’s abandoned quickly in favor of showing a guy, not a vampire, who wants to give Bella everything she wants. Normally miniscule side characters like Reed and Rathbone give great performances and Dakota Fanning continues to impress in the ever-underutilized role of Jane.
The movie is still far from perfect and while I didn’t groan too much there were a few moments. Why does Peter Facinelli’s portrayal of Carlise Cullen this time around include a ridiculous Southern accent, I don’t recall that in either of the two previous films? Samuel and Howard as the evil vamps Riley and Victoria have far too little screen time with only two scenes where they actually talk. The majority of their screen time involves walking and fighting. For such a hyped storyline Victoria comes off merely as the redheaded vamp that shows up and looks scary/hot. Launter continues to show he’s a solid television actor but should never be in movies as he plays the role so over-the-top that every time he’s on-screen you wonders if he’s going to cry. The movie overstays its welcome by a good 20 minutes and the majority of the bad melodrama from the last two films is prevalent in the end of the movie, possibly a result of those rumored reshoots that didn’t involve Slade? Also when in the movie was it revealed that vampires shatter like glass when hit? I don’t recall that being an issue and while cool the glass-like bodies of the characters looks fake.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is probably the best movie we’ll ever get from the franchise unless director Bill Condon can work miracles with Breaking Dawn! The movie is a solid entry into the teen film and while it does devolve into angst by the end, the preceding two hours is worth your time and no one is more surprised to say that then me!