Director: David Slade
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Jackson Rathbone, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz, Bryce Dallas Howard, Xavier Samuel, Anna Kendrick and Dakota Fanning
Plot: Bella (Stewart) continues to persuade Edward (Pattinson) to turn her into a vampire, while Victoria (Howard) raises an army of unstoppable vampires to attack the Cullens.
The Twilight Saga suffers frustrating prejudice. It is the kind of film people judge without even seeing. At face value, Twilight waters down the vampire genre to tell a story about a deeply melodramatic love triangle. A bookish girl finds herself the dream girl for both a vampire and a werewolf, each with separate appealing personality traits, and is forced to choose which one to fall in love with. It reeks of stealth chick flick and sends many a movie fan, running for cover. It took me years, and a forceful girlfriend, to sit down and try them out. Twilight embraced the romance, New Moon stumbled through it… Eclipse actually steps away from the romance, although the genre is still present throughout, and views Twilight as a new movie universe. And in doing so, Eclipse is the best entry into the saga yet.
For one, it fixes my biggest problem with the Twilight series and explores the supporting cast. You have some great actors and characters in the wings of this series, but the film never makes time for them. Eclipse is the first time the Twilight movies have felt like an ensemble team, rather than the Adventures of Bella, Edward and Jacob. Jasper Cullen, the Vamp who struggles with his blood-lust the most, becomes central to the story, as he begins to mend relationships between the Cullens and the Wolves on the eve of a bloody battle. Nikki Reed is allowed to do more than pout with an emotional back-story that has more meat on it alone than a lot of what we have seen before in the last two films. The villains are good as well with Bryce Dallas Howard, replacing Rachelle LeFevre as Victoria, and taking centre-stage in terms of bad guy duties. She is an interesting character herself, fuelled solely by revenge and creating a whirlwind of torment in the process. In fact, the only characters who have a right to complain are the best friends (ie: Anna Kendrick), who feel no longer necessary to the story. There is no time for the high school side of things anymore, so Kendrick finds herself pushed out of the film. It is hard to see where she even could fit into proceedings after a rewrite. The universe is built up more too. The wolves were explained adequately in the last one, but with little details like ‘imprinting’ and the history of their first meeting with the vampires, we begin to see a more three-dimensional movie monster. The reinvention of both Vampires and Werewolves are now fully-formed, meaning you actually look forward to exploring more of them. You almost forget this is a romance, as the fighting breaks out. No, this isn’t up there with your favourite action movies, but it gives the movie its ‘bite’ (so to speak), and dials up the tension enough to keep the majority of viewers entertained.
Not that the central three and their love story is forgotten. Not in the slightest. Despite making time for other factors, director Slade knows where his audience’s interests lie. This is the best we have seen all three actors, especially Lautner. At this point in time, these characters are more than stock figures from a romance novel, but very original protagonists. While Meyer’s novel still means Stewart still has to naively play her two romantic angles against each other, sometimes in bizarrely cruel ways, we do feel for the choices at stake here. Edward’s love is eternal and undying. While easy to be played for laughs, his and Bella’s first attempt at love-making does resonate the character’s emotional backbone. It is easy to see why Bella is so madly in love with this character, who is ready to put everything on hold for her. However, to be with him, Bella has to sacrifice everything (her family, her life, her soul…). Jacob loves her no less, but it is a more impulsive, fun kind of love. One of the most powerful lines in the story comes near the end, Jacob claiming that “loving him would be as easy as breathing.” This is more than a spoilt girl choosing between two hot males. This is a story about choosing a way of life. Lautner is still the weakest actor of the three, but it is no longer painfully noticeable. Pattinson has the most cringe-worthy dialogue, but works as well as ever as the stoic romantic figure, a true Gothic stock figure. And Stewart holds the whole movie together, our eyes into this world. I never thought I would ever be thinking this, let alone admitting it, but I am genuinely thrilled to find out how this one all ends.
Final Verdict: Eclipse finally cracks the formula, extending the back stories and supporting cast, but never losing sight of the love triangle at the beating heart of Twilight.