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The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010) ***

June 30, 2010

written by: Melissa Rosenberg (screenplay) & Stephanie Meyer (novel)
produced by: Wyck Godfrey & Greg Mooradian
directed by: David Slade
rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some sensuality.
124 min.
U.S. release date: June 30, 2010
After enduring the two previous films and their nauseating storylines, I have now been subjected to the latest chapter in the critically panned yet fan-praised franchise. I am surprised to say that I actually had a good time at this screening. Maybe the noticable squeal every time rippling abs appeared on-screen cracked me up or it could have been how much I howled at the laughably awful dialogue. Either way, this movie had much more to sink my teeth into. It wasn’t all bark like last year’s “New Moon” and it didn’t put me to sleep like “Twilight”, the first flat film. Yes, if your experience with the first two films was similar to mine, this could prove to be a payoff for you.
Being a fan of both werewolves and vampires, I remained optimistic that this fantasy series could possibly have something for me. I don’t even mind a romance tossed in to keep the heart-racing through the film’s story. Only in this series, the heart is plodding through groan-inducing dialogue (written by George Lucas?) between unconvincing sweethearts. The interaction between Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), remains absolutely putrid here. Even Hallmark would stay away from their lines. I’m unsure then how I can tolerate the back and forth between Bella and teen wolf, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). Maybe it’s because he’s actually alive and therefore has a personality. Or it could be my inner lycan supersedes any lust for blood.

TWILIGHT ECLIPSE Stewart and Pattinson

The story picks up after the last film’s marriage proposal. Edward is asking the same question with Bella turning him down, in a colorful field of flowers, no less. Like every girl her age, Bella has a lot on her mind only this girl is pondering life as an immortal with a cold heart. She could choose life and run away with warm-blooded Jacob who has professed his desperate love to her. After all, he can keep her warm.  Alas, she loves Edward more, although I’d be hard-pressed to tell you why. What is it about his constipated expressions and mumbling delivery that enraptured her so? We’ll never know (at least on-screen) cuz she’ll never tell. Here it is, the third film, and it’s still unclear what she sees in this guy, but at least this film has more to offer than vapid romance.  
But we got trouble coming to Forks, as evil queen vamp Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, replacing Rachelle Lefevre, not too much improvement) preps her army of “newborns” vampires for an attack. She willfully employs a newly turned lackey,  Riley Biers (Xavier Samuel), a missing kid from Forks, to lead the slaughter. Her goal: kill Bella for the death of her boyfriend, James and anyone else who gets in the way.  Now, Edward, Jacob and their respective clans must forge an uneasy alliance to protect Bella, who’s busy deciding whether she’d rather run with the wolves or just go on sucking away the rest of her life.
While the “lover” dialogue shows no improvement in the series, there is still hope with “Eclipse”. At least in this movie we have some solidarity and convincing comedy. The fierce wolves and dour vampires come together in order to protect the mopey protagonist. Is Bella grateful? Sure, she is but she really just wants to have Edward bite her or deflower her, in no particular order. Good thing Edward won’t do anything (except lead her along) until they are married. Bella’s Sheriff dad, Charlie (Billy Burke, my favorite character in the series) is glad her pasty boyfriend is “old school” and just about any scene he is in provides some welcome comedy to this female fantasy soap opera.
Director David Slade has to know this is eye candy for gals and really plays that up here.
The slow shots of Lautner’s rippling abs and Pattinson’s sparkling mug will keep all the middle-aged moms and their daughters coming back for more. Slade’s no dummy. Having directed “Hard Candy” and “30 Days of Night”, he knows his way around teen girls fighting back and roaming vampires. With those films and his music video background, he seems more qualified than the two previous directors and while he does employ the use of one too many tuneless tunes to segway scenes, it’s a film that feels more engaging than the other two droll chapters. It’s too bad Slade won’t be back as it felt like he really added to the series. Instead, the director of “Dreamgirls” will helm the final two film.
I am well aware that I do not fall in the typical demographic for these movies, nevertheless I found myself having a good time. It could be because Stephanie Meyer’s third book is known to be the best in the series. Intentional or not, I found the comedy here refreshing. The tent scene alone, where the big three are sitting out a snow storm in the mountains offer some great laughs. Whether or not I was supposed to laugh is irrelevant. That scene actually provided a chance to show a bit more character depth for Edward; although I still think the miscast Pattinson cannot act. For Lautner, who is no thespian either, to act circles around Pattinson in that tent, well that says quite a bit.

TWILIGHT ECLIPSE Stewart and Lautner

To Lautner’s credit, it felt like he was knowingly smiling through not just this key scene but also the entire film. As if he knew just how silly all of this really is. I can get down with that approach. I’ve seen it before, look at the dialogue Harrison Ford had to deal with in the first “Star Wars” film. He knew it was silly but it still created the world that the characters were inhabiting. The same goes for these stories. The plotlines and script may be ridiculous but at least it is fully embraced by the environment it’s created for. 
And as much as everyone makes fun of Stewarts acting abilities, she is different here. Gone is the hair-tossing tics she’s had in the first two films (as well as other films altogether), and instead we’re introduced to a visible confidence with the role. Although, the character of Bella will always have a sense of awkwardness, for the first time it feels like Stewart isn’t awkward with the character. It’s possible, like the Harry Potter films, that these three actors are actually improving with each film.
For a change, there’s even some interesting supporting character backstory that gives us more knowledge of both vampire and werewolf clans. We see why Rosalee (Nikki Reed) envies Bella and how it is that Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) knows so much about combat, as well as some revealing history into the hate between the clans. I found it helpful to see these backstories as it prevented characters that are supposed to have relevance from becoming stock extras.
TWILIGHT ECLIPSE Bryce Dallas Howard
Unfortunately, there is less to do for some of the other capable female talent. Oscar-nominated Anna Kendrick plays Jessica, one of the few human roles, whose only real highlight is a valedictorian speech. It’s too bad, since she stands out like she does in her other films. It’s also sad that Howard isn’t very wicked as Victoria, granted it’s a role on the brink of a cameo. I did dig the re-appearance of a hammy Dakota Fanning as Jane, of the scenery-chewing Volturi gang who are on a field trip to the Great Northwest. Then there’s Bree (Jodelle Ferland, that girl from “Silent Hill”) a newborn tween the Cullen family takes pity on. She’s a character that could have been more interesting given more time but that would have been one too many subplots. Considering all the characters crammed into these movies, it’s understandable that any supporting characters won’t get any real spotlight. Still, it was cool to see some characters fleshed out a little more this time around.
After the scattered diamond appendages and shattered bones strewn across the climactic battlefield, we can expect the final book “Breaking Dawn” will be stretched out into two movies (sounds like another franchise) which spells of studio greed. Until then, I found myself giving in to the silliness that The Twilight Saga provides. It helped that the action was more intense and thrilling (I remain grateful that the wolves didn’t talk. No more talking animal movies please!) too.  While we still may be scratching our heads as to why everyone is willing to risk their lives to save this bore of a young woman, at least there was more going on then just vampire gazing and werewolf grazing.
8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2010 1:30 am

    I’m glad they replaced the last two directors because the first couple Twilight movies were terrible. I have not yet seen the movie, but I think they would have the potential to do well in this film versus the last one because there is more story to tell. New Moon consisted of Bella moping around and being depressed for a couple hundred pages of the novel.

  2. Aaron Sprigg permalink
    June 30, 2010 7:35 am

    Having not read the books, I was pleasantly entertained and unable to critique the trueness of the storyline… I like it when I can say that because I don’t have to say I was dissapointed. As I passed the hallway to the bathrooms after the show the line of female fans ran down the hall and I was the lone male in the men’s bathroom. This should give you an idea at how qualified I am to say much about this movie. However I did like the continuation of the love story, and the triangle that is Bella, Edward and Jacob. We can all identify with love choices and having want and want more as options. I like the slow but invitable acceptence that the enemy of our enemy is our friend… and the real fans know why things are lining up the way they are but still we have a sadness for Jacob who’s passion is over the top… “We both know I am hotter than you.” I zoned out of the gushy stuff that wasn’t meant for me, ignored missing and half worn shirts and still had a few scenes that really made me laugh out loud. Mostly it was a pleasure to share the experience with my wife.

  3. Taylor permalink
    June 30, 2010 8:44 am

    It’s good to know that if I get dragged to see it with my sister, I won’t be completely miserable. I did enjoy the books, and so hopefully this won’t totally ruin it for me like the other two have. Awesome review, my co-workers were cracking up!

  4. windi permalink
    June 30, 2010 9:09 am

    I think you nailed this review, David. What you typed is pretty much exactly how I expect I’ll feel about the movie! The third book is definitely the best book of the bunch, so I’m glad the movie is at least living up to that. I’ll probably sneak off to watch it sometime this week, but I’m not in a total rush…..

  5. Diane permalink
    June 30, 2010 12:30 pm

    I have to agree that this is the best of the series so far. I am glad that they finally got around to doing Rosalie’s back story and didn’t shy away from Jasper’s or the history of the wolf tribe. It most definitally could be felt by some to be a slow point in the movie (as my companion thought) but it does a fair job of explaining things for those who haven’t read the books. Some things in the last 2 movies were left to the viewer to already know (assuming that the books had been read) and therefore weren’t explained (which could have left those people who didn’t read them confused or wondering) I loved the laughs that were included; intentional or not. I think over all this was a fun, addition to the series and will be enjoyed by more fans.

    Personally I can’t stand Kristen Stewart as Bella. In the books, Bella is a confident, self assured person and you tend to understand why the boys are fighting to protect her. In the movies, she comes off as a whiney, selfish, moody brat that probably should be left to the vampire army.

    Rachelle Lefevre was a much better Victoria and I wish that she had been kept on for this movie. Ron Howard’s daughter just makes me think of her role in that bad M.Night movie every time I saw her.

    Robert Pattison doesn’t do the character of Edward justice either, in all honesty. You mentioned that he and Bella have campy, romantic dialogues that seem to be too much, but in the books, they read well. I think that written for the PG-13 viewing crowd (which I am fully aware the books are also directed towards), the conversations seem to be badly acted and poorly reworded.

    I realize that in this case, as in nearly every case of a book made into a film, the books are better (and that you have no intentions of reading them. lol), but this movie at least held it’s own. And yes, the next and final book has a LOT crammed into it, so splitting it into 2 parts is understandable. My concern is how they are going to deal with the subject matter (marriage, sex, birth) and making it PG-13 worthy without ruining it for those who really did enjoy the series and would like to see it done justice. Only time will tell, but I’m not holding my breath that it will be well done.

    Oh, and one more note, the character of Bree Tanner, the young vampire in the newly formed army, does have a back story. Stephanie Meyers wrote a complete companion short story that you could read on line (for free until the movie release), and can also buy in stores (the proceeds from the purchase go to the American Red Cross). 🙂

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      June 30, 2010 12:49 pm

      I actually did read that the actress who played Bree read the audio for the companion/background story for her character. Again, no interest but it’s cool that it’s out there for the fans.


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