Director David Slade
Starring Robert Pattison, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard, Billy Burke, Dakota Fanning, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellen Lutz, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Anna Kendrick
Screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg based on the novel by Stephanie Meyer
There’s a point in Eclipse, the third movie in the Twilight saga, where Bella (Stewart) and Jacob (Lautner) are really talking for the first time since the events of the last film, New Moon. The scene is filled with tension and new information. You are being caught up on what has happened with one of the main characters, when all of a sudden you get this feeling of queasiness. Why? Because the camera is wobbling, just slightly, from both Bella’s angle as well as Jacob’s. One has no idea whether this an intentional tact or not, but it sure disrupts the mood and the concentration on the story. Such is the peril of moving from director to director. David Slade, director of such films as Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night, has a distinct style that varies from each of his predecessors. There seem to be a lot more close-ups, but the script is the most relaxed of the three. The combination is at times contradictory. In the case of Eclipse, however, the story wins out.
There is a lot of effort that goes into learning about some of the supporting characters in this third film. The story benefits from learning about Jacob’s tribe’s first encounter with the “cold people,” Jasper’s and Rosalie’s conversions to vampirism, and other revelations. Especially poignant is the honor with which both races hold themselves, letting the bad among them be exposed for what they are.
“After you’re changed, there’s something you’ll want more (than Edward, played by Pattison),” says Rosalie to Bella, “Something you’ll kill for.”
As she states that thing, blood, the music is stopped, as if signalling the lack of romance behind the truth of that ideal. The people Bella surrounds herself with, on the side of the Lycans as well as the Vampires, hold separate truths, but truths nonetheless. It takes an outside menace to bring the two sides together, however reluctantly, to hold fast to the few threads of common ground that bind them. The main thread, of course, is Bella.
Bella has been the most challenging character for me thus far. Stewart approached her wisely in episode one as a new kid with her defenses up appropriately, given her status. When she wakes up to the realities of her world, we are brought right there with her. In the second film, hers was the most ridiculous character in the wallowing of her misery. She acted like her love for Edward was some sort of disease and she did not want a cure. Over a 6 minute music montage, it is one thing, but drawn out over 45+ minutes it was a little much.
Thank goodness there is none of that here. Bella is back with Edward and back to acting responsibly, for the most part. She wants to study. She wants to graduate. She wants to be turned. Edward, for his part, is a traditionalist, and wants to wait until they are married. Pattison is really at ease in his portrayal as of this point. This role reversal between the two gives off an obvious chemistry that plays well for the millions of fans of the books, and it is well represented here.
Taylor Lautner has grown up in this series and he plays the position as assuredly in this film as he was confused in the last and just a happy kid in the first. Keeping him from the first movie is one of the great decisions made in the making of this series.
The wolves look much more realistic this time around. They seem to have some heft and when they are knocked to the ground by the vampires, you feel the thud.
Another strength of the film is Bella’s father, played by Billy Burke. He has been the gravitational force behind the feeling of the small town. It feels like he lives there, and is one of the denizens of the town.
The Cullens, as usual, are expertly played. Most impressive this time around are Alice, of
course, and Jasper. Their affection is much more apparent, now that Jasper is allowed to say more than a few words. The story feels like it is a spiral from the inside out. Their world gets bigger with each film, even if most of it is played in the same small town.
The best 15 minutes of the film take place in a standoff of sorts between Jacob (providing heat for a sleeping Bella) and a helpless Edward, in the small tent on the mountain, in the midst of a snowstorm. Well written and emoted fairly, it brings nobility of everyone involved in a way that has not been seen since the golden age of Cinema.
Among the drawbacks of the film, aside from the uncomfortably close face shots and the wiggling camera, is the soundtrack and the choice of Bryce Dallas Howard to replace Rachelle Lefevre. Supposedly due to a scheduling conflict, it was the object
of much scorn by the fan base. Rightly so. It felt more than a little weird having Opie’s daughter playing a vamp bitch; almost as disconcerting as it was when she replaced Claire Danes as Kate Conner in Terminator: Salvation. Not only did she do a horrible job, but it was different enough to be noticed. She may want to avoid making a habit of replacing actors in sequels.
As for the soundtrack,the score was alright, but just about every song played was some sort of alternative light mush. Not very memorable, thankfully.
There have been a lot of people who have carried much disdain for this series since its inception. Those people will not likely ever be convinced of the merits of a movie like Eclipse, and that is too bad. In the end, though, it really doesn’t matter. These folks found the combination to the safe and have broken the bank. For good reason.
(**** out of *****)