Fangs and fur take precedence over pouting and lip biting in the third and darkest instalment of the Twilight Saga.
Love it or hate it The Twilight Saga is as much a part of the
cinematic landscape as super heroes and boy wizards. The first two
instalments were amongst the biggest grossing films of recent years and
Eclipse, the third in the franchise, has already taken close to $700
Million at the global box-office. Not bad for a film that has been as
derided by some critics as it has been worshipped by fans. This is
perhaps the point of the Twilight phenomenon, that for many it is
nothing short of teenage drama but to those it speaks to it is a
realisation of the hardships of discovering yourself while dealing with
With Bella (Stewart) deciding to become a vampire Edward (Pattinson) is anxious that she realise the full gravity of her choices. Refusing to turn her until they are married and Jacob (Lautner)
professing his affections for Bella the love triangle is firmly
cemented. However, greater powers are at work and the vengeful Victoria
(Dallas Howard) is assembling an army of newborn vampires to hunt down
and kill Bella. With the town of Forks coming under threat from the
horde, the Cullens and Werewolves form a dangerous alliance to stage a
Key to Eclipse’s box-office credentials is the built in audience. For
those who enjoy the franchise, and are fans of Stephenie Meyer’s books,
Eclipse is more of the same, for those who frown upon all things Team
Edward and Team Jacob then you are unlikely to make the effort to see
this film. As such the film does not pander to the newcomer.
There is no ‘previously on Twilight’ instead it jumps straight into the
story not wasting time filling in those who have not been bothered so
far. Fair enough, but in many ways it is a pity as this is hands down the stand out of the series so far.
From its bleak opening of a rain-soaked Seattle, where a young man
Riley Biers (Samuel) is brutally attacked and turned into a vampire, the
film makes it clear this is very much the beginning of darker times.
There is still the brooding angst of the teenage romance but Eclipse
never allows it to become the overbearing presence of its predecessors.
Furthermore, the sub-plots involving, in particular, Rosalie (Reed) and
Jasper (Rathbone) give an insight into otherwise sidelined characters
and offer an alternative, yet equally emotional pull, to the themes on
offer. In fact as Rosalie starts her story she informs Bella she was
“In love with the idea of love”, perhaps an accurate description summing
up the popularity of Twilight itself.
To say that all the gazing looks and overly clunky dialogue has gone would be a lie. It is still here and some
of the characters are required to express themselves in such a forced
mode of speech you wonder if it was printed on fortune cookie paper.
This time though Twilight seems to have embraced some of its more
obvious flaws. There is an element of humour which has been lacking
until now. Fun little back and forth between Edward and Jacob makes for a
sly wink to those who don’t take these things too seriously. Edward
posing the question about Jacob of “Doesn’t he own a shirt?” being one example of the acknowledgment of its preposterous nature.
Crucial to the improved ways in Eclipse is the introduction to the series of director David Slade.
A man who has prior history with vampires in the form of his brutally
dark 30 Days Of Night (2007), Slade is the ideal man to take Twilight
beyond the yearning teenage ways. What makes him even better suited
to the job is his stunning debut feature Hard Candy (2005), the film
that launched Ellen Page’s career. In that film he was able to get
beneath the inner sanctum of a teenage mind and skew it to remarkable
levels. Add to this his clever use of colour pallet, never allowing
it to stagnate in the ever-drained ways of the previous films, and his
direction brings more energy and visceral adult mannerisms to the
affair. In fact his set-pieces are something of a highlight and there
are two in particular that can easily be marked out as what Twilight
can become when it strives to be more than the sum of its parts.
Acting wise much of the cast appear to have become too comfortable in
their roles. Pattinson, despite his heartthrob looks, is one of the
least charismatic actors on screen. What frustrates though is when he
goes to his cocky side he presents a genuinely engaging character but he
rarely chooses to sink his teeth into this element of the character.
Stewart, an actress who has more than proved her acting chops in films
like The Runaways (2010) and Adventureland (2009), struggles to bring
anything to Bella. She is hugely hampered by the way Meyer has
constructed Bella, as a fairly mopey girl, but there seems little effort
to try to bring anything affable to her. Lautner on the other hand is
never given the chance to break free from his macho musings but has
enough screen charisma to make Jacob the more likeable in the eternal
Team Edward Vs Team Jacob battle.
It won’t convert those who have already sworn off the franchise but
Eclipse is certainly a step in the right direction to hopefully a darkly
disturbing final two chapters. Slade deserves to take much of the
plaudits for injecting an energy that allows the film to never feel long
at almost a two hour running time. Still one for the fans but a
werewolf sized leap in the right direction.