It all begins with a choice.
With the date set for her change from human to vampire, Bella struggles with her feelings for vampire Edward and her wolfy best friend Jacob. With danger drawing closer with every second — in the form of the newborn army and the cold threat of the Volturi — Bella must choose. Does she abandon her human life for an eternity with Edward? Or should she choose Jacob and give up her true love?
As surprised as I am to say this, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse was actually a good film. After the first two movies, it seems that the vampire franchise has finally found its stride.
Directed by David Slade — whose past works include Hard Candy and vampire film 30 Days of Night — Eclipse is a greatly improved blend of action, horror and romance.
Unlike New Moon, which was replete with long, mooning stares; hours of lip-biting and pseudo-sexual tension, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse races through the story at a breakneck pace. There is a lot more action — so the legions of boyfriends being dragged along with their starry-eyed partners will at least perk up towards the end of the film.
Eclipse is also much darker than its predecessors. From the first, heart-stopping scene in Seattle to the final battle, Slade manages to unearth a fact that was ignored in the first two movies — vampires are dangerous creatures with an overwhelming lust for blood.
His use of unsteady shots, clever lighting and quick cutaways enhance the vampire's supernatural nature. You watch the newborns in the act of feeding — and you start to understand the impact of Bella's choice. It's not all sparkles and Robert Pattinson's dimples — the vampires are animals and are on the hunt. These scenes bring the impossible romance crashing to the ground, and suddenly, the film is all the more accessible.
The fight scenes are well-choreographed and shot in a frenzied style, chaotic style. Instead of Matrix-style slow-motion shots, you see the action largely from a human point of view, which can be both exciting and wildly frustrating. And there are some truly unsettling scenes — you watch as the newborns are literally torn to pieces — and the amped-up special effects budget is at last put to good use.
Melissa Rosenberg, who wrote the screenplay, largely stays true to Stephenie Meyer's original text — which I wish she wouldn't. The dialogue for the most part is terrible and feels forced. The painfully cheesy lines are still there, which will either make you sigh with pleasure or throw up in your popcorn bucket. But Slade and Rosenberg also bring along a sense of fun and self-awareness to the film's script, with Edward quipping "Doesn't he own a shirt?" during — yet another — shot of a half-naked Jacob, and a (topless again) Jacob telling Edward "I'm hotter than you".
Thankfully, the young trio of lead actors have relaxed and matured, and it no longer feels as though they are reading off a card. Instead of taking their supernatural love triangle super-seriously, the actors are allowed to have fun with it, and their on-screen rapport is all the better for it. Kristen Stewart is much more natural and proves that she can hold her own on camera — but this film does nothing for her. And instead of looking permanently in pain, Robert Pattinson actually smiles — a few times — and seems more in control, bar a few stand-out moments where he seems like he can't believe what he's doing there (and with the dialogue scripted to him, who can blame him).
But I just can't take Taylor Lautner's deep, pained monologues seriously when he wanders around without his shirt like a Chippendales dancer. However, he has improved dramatically from New Moon, and has amped up the intensity of his performance. While their performances are far from life-changing, Stewart, Pattinson and Lautner seem more like people now and less like disposable action figures.
While there are so many characters in the film that most of them get left entirely in the rush, they provide a necessary break from the intense Edward-Bella-Jacob focus. The asides and flashbacks don't detract from the film — instead they bring a complexity that was sorely lacking in New Moon. Some of the costumes — and most of the wigs — are laughable, which makes it seems more like a school-hall play than a movie with considerable studio clout.
And if you haven't seen the first two movies or read the novels, it is possible that you will get lost in the telling of the film and fail to connect entirely with the seemingly minor characters. As a stand-alone film, Eclipse just won't work — though it's not supposed to, either.
Eclipse is by the far the shining light of the franchise, although that really isn't saying very much. It's not a great film but at least it's not laugh-out-loud terrible. It's entertaining and slightly more grown-up — though if you're not a fan, rather wait for the DVD.