The Twilight Saga: Eclipse review.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

(David Slade, 2010, USA)

★★☆☆☆

Whereas Twilight was a messy introduction to the franchise, and its sequel New Moon wallowed in its own drearily melodramatic plot, it is satisfying to know that the third in this otherworldly popular series offers a glimmer of hope by being the best yet. Though in comparison with the two previous instalments, that really is not saying much. For the first time in the series, Eclipse feels like an instalment which feels as if it’s a movie which is to be taken seriously, with a storyline that’s concerns aren’t consistently focused on the tedious romantic travails of our morose protagonist and her two moping love rivals. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a bad film which includes all of the (now) familiar problems withheld in the series, but at least it moves along swiftly enough that it makes it almost bearable to watch, not a chore like the previous two which felt like hastily (and cheaply) made excuses for producers to profit from the franchises insane success. Eclipse makes up for its’ predecessors blend of shoddy storytelling, lazy acting and dreadful special effects, but only slightly.

Following on from where New Moon left off, we first see Bella (Stewart) and Edward (Pattinson) in blissfully romantic cahoots, swapping less than sweet nothings into each other’s ear; she insists on him ‘turning’ her into one of his kind so they can be together properly, he initially refuses yet promises (against his better judgement) to wait until she graduates from high school to rob her of her dismal life. He also declines to consummate their relationship until they’re happily married, as Edward likes to do things like a proper gentleman, a fact he repetitively stresses to Bella whilst continuously pursuing her hand in marriage, much to Bella’s indecisive frustration. Her resistance is understandable given her premature age, and she spends a fair amount of time weighing the pros and cons of swapping life for the afterlife, a decision made evermore difficult due to her continuous feelings for burly Jacob (Lautner), the besotted werewolf who is apparently allergic to shirts.

Meanwhile, as Bella frets about her inevitable choice, reports of brutal killings in Seattle are being investigated by the Cullen clan, suspecting it may be the evil machinations of Victoria (Dallas Howard), who appears to be recruiting a new army of newborn vampires to finally reap vengeance on Edward for the death of her boyfriend earlier in the series. Her target is Bella, which forces the Cullen’s and a pack of dubious werewolves to form an uneasy alliance to protect her life and fend off this relentless new foe. The Volturi, led by psychotic mind-controller Jane (Dakota Fanning), also reappear only to watch the oncoming threat from the sidelines, exerting their limitless control while possibly having more of a role in proceedings than they originally intended.

As mentioned earlier, Eclipse is undoubtedly the best in the Twilight franchise so far. Sidestepping the broodingly uneventful diversions of the first two, this third outing is also the liveliest, with the plot significantly moving forward and characterisation taking a backseat to the action, a welcome addition to this unfortunately mellow series. Yet, despite a faster pace and a reasonably eventful narrative, Eclipse still suffers from the cinematic ailments which ruined any potential the opening two may have had. Again, Melissa Rosenberg’s screenplay is derivative and at times laughable, which has characters like Bella saying things no normal teenager would and Edward repeating variations of the same speech over and over again. As audiences have now come to expect, the acting is, as usual, subpar and stilted with characters projecting a limited range of emotions (the most popular being disdain), and there are far too many shots of them looking perplexed into the unknowing distance.

Thankfully Bella doesn’t predominantly sit around and mope as in New Moon; she is fairly dynamic in her pursuit of finding the answers to her ongoing problems. The film is very much hers, the attention is all on her and the action that takes place all happens with her in the centre of it all, the focus only being shifted away from her plight during the short sequences in Seattle, which are the most aggressive scenes yet featured in the saga. Having said that, her self-centred problems grow evermore tiresome, with the central relationship between the three leads becoming more and more disinteresting, although it culminates in possibly the films only good sequence; taking place in a tent on a snowy mountain and featuring the zingy verbal sparring between Edward and Jacob during Bella’s quest for warmth. This scene lets the seriousness of tone down a notch to reveal a much needed comedic touch and a knowing self-awareness, two elements which are much needed yet scarce throughout Eclipse and the previous two films.

Even with a livelier pace and some semblance of an interesting plot, the film has an overly flippant tone, with scenes going from romantic to violent to action-packed unskilfully, robbing the film of focus and emotional investment. Also, for a film which is somewhat reliant on the promises of an upcoming brutal battle (lives will be lost, we are assured), there is next to nothing in the way of stirring momentum being built up, with the climactic dénouement being dull and unexciting when it needed to be calamitous, vicious and emotionally grappling, three things it fails to achieve. Instead the fight scene is a mesh of CGI wolves running around, vampires literally smashing like glass and flashy pyrotechnics, although it is well choreographed and edited with a degree of style. The filmmakers do at least try and broaden the scope of the film by introducing new characters and including flashbacks from the viewpoint of two of the minor Cullen clan, which serve only to inform Bella of the harsh realities of becoming a vampire and also of the reasons behind the ongoing feud between vampire and werewolf. These also give way to a broader role for Jasper (Jackson Rathbone), meaning he gets more screen time and dialogue which don’t exactly work in the actors’ limited favour.

Eclipse is directed by David Slade who is no stranger to the mythology of vampires having directed the tepid 30 Days of Night and the competently creepy Hard Candy, a morose one-two film exploring paedophilia and its harsh consequences, starring Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson. Despite his repertoire, his talents are rather wasted here even though he is the best director to have worked within the constraints of the franchise. It feels as though he wasn’t allowed to veer away from the source material or bring anything new to the table, which is a pity because if ever a franchise needed a jolt of innovation, Twilight is it. Perhaps the main reason for Eclipse’s downfall is that it still feels like an assortment of staged re-enactments of events from the book, spliced together by an intrusive soundtrack that features too many soft rock tunes which rob most of the scenes of the suspenseful atmosphere the director was obviously going for. Also the roles of new characters such as Riley (Samuel) are not established well enough to contribute fully to the narrative, being built up to a degree then disregarded until the final battle. This is a shame because if the relationship between him and Victoria was fully explored it would have been an interesting subplot in addition to their construction of the small army in Seattle.

While some film franchises are treated with the care and fondness their novels deserve, The Twilight Saga is an ever-growing step in the wrong direction, with each new instalment resembling missed opportunities and an example of how poorly made blockbusters can still attract the masses. Although Eclipse contrasts with Twilight and New Moon by picking up the slack and pushing the story into new directions, the film is still incompetently made and will not convert already jaded cinemagoers, but will undeniably appeal to its already ill-gotten following.

  • Twilight, 2008. [Film] Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, USA: Summit Entertainment.
  • The Twilight Saga: New Moon, 2009. [Film] Directed by Paul Weitz, USA: Imprint Entertainment.
  • The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, 2010. [Film] Directed by David Slade, USA: Summit Entertainment.
  • 30 Days of Night, 2007. [Film] Directed by David Slade, USA: Ghost House Pictures.
  • Hard Candy, 2005. [Film] Directed by David Slade, USA: Vulcan Productions.

 

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