After the monotonous disaster of “New Moon,” David Slade (30 Days of Night) takes the reigns of The Twilight Saga and gives “Eclipse” something the last installment hadn’t: a pulse. I’m sure that really has more to do with the source novel from Stephanie Meyer, and Slade merely delivered the series a kick in the pants.
I couldn’t believe that events and actions actually take place. Dialogue doesn’t make you gag…constantly. The special effects and action sequences were impressive. Characters have depth, detail, and explanation. Everything that was absent from Chris Weitz’s attempt on the first sequel ceases to be quite so problematic. I have to go back again to the first film and remind readers that I actually gave a pass to Catherine Hardwicke’s work. Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart had something to their performances that held the low-budget “Twilight” together, when the production values couldn’t match them. Then “New Moon” was unleashed upon audiences a little over eight months ago. Absolutely nothing happens for over two hours. Sure, we got a lot of moping, whining, horrific dialogue, and poor performances–but that doesn’t exactly make for a story.
With “Eclipse,” the series is still bogged down by its teeny-bopper trappings regarding ‘Edward or Jacob,’ but it finally addresses a bigger picture and some other-world mythology. In the previous entries, I kept wondering about other vampire clans, wolf packs, where these characters have come from, and how these movies fit in with vampire/werewolf history. Director David Slade and Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg may have warring specialties (Slade wants to rev things up, Rosenberg wants to play it safe), but “Eclipse” satisfies as a more intense story of warring vampires and wolves.
Edward (Robert Pattinson), the dusty vampire, and Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the fiery wolf, continue to battle for Bella’s (Kristen Stewart) affections. Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard), the red-headed bloodsucker still running around to exact revenge on Bella and Edward for the death of her brother, James (from Part I), finally has conjured up a plan to eliminate the Cullen clan. She will assemble a ‘newborn’ army of vampires to take them down. Newborn vampires are driven purely by an uncontrolled thirst for blood, making them faster, stronger, and harder to kill. The Cullens catch on to Victoria’s thoughts and manage to make temporary allies with the wolves, or spirit warriors, in an effort to defend themselves. Meanwhile, the Volturi (led by Dakota Fanning) are watching the situation closely, and may potentially step in. What they actually would do, I don’t know, but I would assume it has something to do with death. In the middle of the warring effort, Edward tries to convince Bella to marry him. She is conflicted as her feelings for Jacob continue fuel doubt towards her love for her vamp-candy. Jacob wants her to stay human and grow old with him. Bella would prefer to stay human as well. But she wants to be with Edward more–even if that means becoming the living dead. Hmmm… what to do… what to do?
Aside from the Bella-Edward-Jacob mumbo-jumbo, the series actually has time to look at other characters and their histories. It also introduces a world outside of Edward, Bella, and Jacob. Would you believe that other vampires actually exist? There is a threat of bloodsuckers overtaking Seattle that the police are miscalculating as the work of a serial killer. The wolves get a piece of the story pie too, as their hatred for vampires is illustrated through a back story. I had no idea the vampires in Stephanie Meyer’s world were made of stone. I also didn’t realize that the wolves are not werewolves. They are more like hulks in dog form. “Eclipse” has actual substance, and that was most refreshing, even though it still contains all that love triangle stuff–but even much of that aspect was handled better this time around.
Edward and Jacob actually have interactions. There’s a good scene where Edward and Bella are in hiding shortly before the battle with the newborn army is to happen. The temperature outside is freezing, and the characters take refuge inside a tent. Bella is getting much too cold, and Edward has no body heat to help her, so Jacob has to come inside to keep her warm. This doesn’t sit too well with Edward. The two end up sharing a comical and interesting conversation that amounts to more than just a bunch of poorly delivered line readings. The actors deliver more than they did in the last movie. It helps that Pattinson and Stewart, the best actors in the movie, have more screen time together here.
Slade amps up the action too. The battle between the wolves and vamps is a doozy, and is a large improvement in the special effects department. The wolves look much better. The vampires’ speed looks leagues better than it did in the first film. Finally, “Twilight” is startling to look like the money it brings in. I still think the final installment needs further increased intensity, and less soap opera, but there is a particular audience for the movie that can’t be competed with. David Slade does his best to broaden that audience. And the difference is more than noticeable, enough so that I was able to enjoy the movie and acknowledge its accomplishments despite it being a movie definitely meant for someone else entirely.
Last 5 posts by Matt V
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