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Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

June 29, 2010

Fans will be relieved to know that Eclipse is a vast improvement over its two predecessors, Twilight and New Moon. Director David Slade (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night) manages to elevate almost every aspect of the film.  There is a decidedly darker and edgier tone this time around, and it is a welcome change.  It’s not a great film, but it is a lot more enjoyable than the first two films.

For the uninitiated, let me quickly bring you up to speed on what has previously happened in the story.  Bella (Kristen Stewart) is  in love with a Vampire, Edward (Robert Pattinson.)  He is part of a Vampire clan who will not feed on humans based on principle.  They are “good” Vampires, if you will.  In the same town there is a Quileute tribe who can shape-shift into wolves.

They have been sworn to protect their town from Vampires.  One of the wolves (Jacob, played by Taylor Lautner) is in love with Bella, thus setting up a love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob. Got it?

Slade immediately establishes that this is not going to be the same teeny-bopper fare with a brutal opening sequence that is worthy of any horror movie. A teenage boy is walking by himself at night and is stalked, assaulted, and murdered. There has also been a rash of murders in Seattle that carry the markings of Vampire killings.

The Cullen Vampire clan discovers that the conspicuous killings are the work of “newbies” or brand new Vampires who cannot or will not control their primal impulses.  As luck would (not) have it, they are coming for the Cullens, and more specifically, Bella.

The urgency of the situation requires the Cullens to call upon Jacob and the wolf tribe to band together with them in order to protect the city of Forks, and Bella, from the marauding Vampires.  Bringing the two warring factions together for the greater good allows for some new character  dynamics, and some well placed comedy.

Also new to the series are back-stories.  We finally get some insight into  the origins of the Quileute Wolf tribe and a few of the Cullens as well.  Bella discovers why Rosalie (Nikki Reed) seems to hate her so.

Rosalie is jealous of Bella’s life, and believes that Bella is squandering that life by asking Edward to make her a Vampire.  Rosalie is bitter because she never had the choice, her life was taken from her involuntarily. It’s a melancholy and effective tale, almost causing Bella to take pause regarding her decision.

Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) has an equally sad story that explains why he has such a knack for fighting.  He takes it upon himself to prepare the Cullens for their upcoming fight with the newbies.

Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (who has worked on all the movies) thankfully tones down the truly awful dialogue from the last movie.  There are still several cheesy moments, but they are fewer and farther between.

The humor in this movie felt good, particularly in a scene in a tent where Edward and Jacob verbally spar over a sleeping Bella. Twilight purists can be assured that Rosenberg is very faithful to the book.

The acting here is also a notch above New Moon.  I’ve always felt that Kristen Stewart perfectly encompasses Bella.  The fact that so many people despise her onscreen character is testament to that. Bella is an extremely unlikable character in the books as well. She’s sullen, moody, and stubborn.

Taylor Lautner was surprisingly good. Gone is his wooden delivery from New Moon.  Here he seems confidant and natural, and he has really grown into the character of Jacob. Lautner has a lot of charisma, and when he hosted SNL this past season, he seemed more than willing to poke fun of himself. I think we’ll start seeing more of him in the future.

Then there is his chiseled physique, which is on full display throughout the movie. It should get a separate screen credit.  It’s mesmerizing.  If you fellows are having a hard time understanding what all the squealing is about, let me help you out. Taylor Lautner’s torso=Salma Hayek’s boobs.  I see you are all nodding your heads now.

The same cannot be said of Pattinson.  I find him harder to watch with each subsequent movie. He plays Edward as overly effeminate, and with his wispy voice and wimpy frame, I am having a really hard time swallowing the notion that he is such a perfect and desirable specimen of Vampire. Most of the scenes I found unintentionally laughable were his.  I  will be shocked if he has a film career after the franchise is wrapped up.

Billy Burke continues to quietly steal every scene he is in as Charlie, Bella’s exasperated father.  The audience really seems to connect with his character. He is sweet and sincere as he grapples with his daughters burgeoning sexuality.

Victoria makes an appearance in the final showdown, with Bryce Dallas Howard stepping into Rachell Lefevre’s shoes for the role.  Her screen time is brief but powerful.  Hell hath no fury like a Vampire avenging her lover’s death.

The supporting cast consists of mostly returning cast members.  Xavier Samuel is a great addition as newbie Vampire Riley.  I actually think that he would have made a better Edward than Pattinson. Dakota Fanning once again plays the sadistic Vampire torturer Jane.  She doesn’t have much to do, in fact none of the Volturi really do.  They easily could have been left out of the movie with little consequence, but that would be veering off course from the book.

The final confrontation between the Volturi, the Cullens, the newbies, and the wolves is the finest action sequence of the series thus far. It is savage and violent.

The CGI is greatly improved, particularly when it comes to the wolves. Their faces look realistic, and their fur has a richer texture and fluid  movement. They actually look like giant wolves, not the cartoonish impostors from New Moon.

I am impressed with Slade’s ability to salvage the franchise. I despised New Moon, but I liked this quite a bit. The Edward/Bella scenes are dull, but outside of that there is a fresh feel to everything. The man did the best that can be done, considering the weak source material.

There are the same flaws that we have seen before with the characters (controlling Edward, co-dependent Bella), but that is not the fault of the movie.  Die hard fans will love this movie, and others might find it to be a pleasant surprise.

Rating 3.5/5


7 Responses to “ Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse ”

  1. Jane on June 29, 2010 at 2:43 pm

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  2. Alitriona on June 29, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Everyone is entitled to an opinion. My opinion is that I agree Bella is unlikable and Billy Burke always steals whatever scene he’s in.
    Taylor Lautner was always the wrong choice for the role of Jacob because he is too short, it doesn’t matter if he has an eight pack or that he can poke fun at himself(yes, he’s lovely off screen), phyically he is nothing like the Jacob of the books, because Jacob was huge.
    As for the screenplay, none of them are faithful to the books, as so many fans have previously stated over and over. Your dislike of Robert Pattinson is evident. He is a talented young actor with a proven sucess rate for getting meaty roles so how you’ve come about your opinion he won’t work after Breaking Dawn is beyond me.

  3. larice on June 29, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    To say that Taylor Lautner has charisma is laughable. He is too short for the role of Jacob. And his overdevelopped 8-pack hides the fact that he has an ugly mug.

  4. Shannon on June 30, 2010 at 6:40 am

    Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it when people actually offer valid criticism.

    Just to clarify a few things: I do not dislike Robert Pattinson. I find him charming in interviews and I don’t mind him as a celebrity. I just don’t think the guy can act, especially in this series. Just like you found Jacob to be miscast, I found Edward to be miscast. He was always represented as being an adonis type, and RP is too thin to pull off that.
    He is certainly good looking, but the horrible makeup has done him no favors (not his fault). He looks best at the end of the movie when he does not have all the pancake makeup on. I think the makeup makes everyone look bad.

    Second, when I allude to him not having a career, I am basing that on his complete inability to carry a movie on his own outside this franchise. His “meatiest” roles as of late have been 1) Little Ashes. That movie was critically panned, as was his performance. It made a whopping $385,000 dollars at the box office. A complete and utter flop. 2) Remember Me. Had mixed reviews and made $19M at the box office. Not a hit by hollywood standards. Money is the bottom line, and he has not proven that he can put people in the seats outside the Twilight franchise.

    Now he does have the upcoming Water For Elephants, which has a fanatical fan base, so he should fare well in that movie, but if he gets critically lauded, that might be his last big movie.

    Also, when it comes to movies, this is about the closest adaptation of a book series that I have ever seen. Of course they differ in some respects, they have to. You can’t do a literal word for word translation of the books. It will never happen. The filmmakers have made much bigger pains to keep it as close as they can-the hairstyles, the small details etc. You usually don’t see that in movies. They usually dramatically change events, characters, even the sex of main characters.

  5. Dee on June 30, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    It was nice to read a review that I agreed with completely. Team Jacob all the way in the movies! Team Edward all the way in the books! RP definitely does not come across as this tormented vampire who has spent more than a century alone. And love love love Billy Burke. Thanks for a great review of this movie… it was long overdue.

  6. Shannon on July 1, 2010 at 9:27 am

    @Dee, Thanks so much for the nice comment. I hadn’t thought about it, but I kind of feel like you-Edward was more desirable in the books, while Jacob is in the movie. Great observation.

  7. yuliantip06 on July 14, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    i think eclipse better than new moon :D