Dir: David Slade (30 Days of Night, Hard Candy)
Seen: Opening Night June 30, 2010 at Midnight
Reason to see: I'm a huge fan of the Twilight universe, and I loved the film Twilight although was disapointed with New Moon and was hoping Eclipse would get us back into the groove of greatness. And I did the whole The Wolfathon in anticipation for the film.
It's a bit of a strange thing to review The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, as I feel split down the middle between reacting to the film as a critic and a fan. The critic in me is cheering, seeing a very well put together film with solid performance, strong story arc and a very successful book to film translation that keeps the intent of the story, brings intensity of the action as well as the internal conflict all the while managing to made a third entry into the series enjoyable as 'part 3' but also easily understandable to anyone who walks in cold.
For the uninitiated, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is the third film in the vampire romance series based on the best selling books by Stephenie Meyer. I whole hearted loved and will always praise the first film in the series Twilight, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, whom brought the intensity of first love between our protagonist Bella and the vegetarian vampire Edward to the big screen, in a way that celebrated and embraced the spirit of the book on which it was based. A year later we saw the next in the series The Twilight Saga: New Moon, directed by Chris Weitz, which played it safe and was a very literal adaptation of the book which is seeped in loss and reconnection, although I felt at that stage we lost some of the magic. With The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, directed by David Slade, I feel like we got a bit of both: another very literal adaptation of book where the tone of the film fits the darker story of revenge along with the further development of a love triangle, and adds and edginess of danger and the heat of romance that will keep viewers enraptured throughout.
As a fan, I'll admit my first reaction was straight up relief. I was so disappointed with The Twilight Saga: New Moon (which is my favourite of the books), because it lost the spirit of the world. The spirit does come back in Eclipse, mostly with the performances as the actors really have a great sense of their characters and this shows well through their camaraderie, concerns, conflicts and compromises. The fan in me would have loved to see the spirit of the series shown in other ways as well, but with a darker themed film there may have been less opportunity to nods to the Twi-verse amidst the action and love triangle. It does really feel like they enhanced the world on several levels though, working with what worked before and then cranking it up. The action elements have a stronger presence and are more intense, enhanced by using subtly different but very effective effects to bring this horror element out to play.
It also really cranks up the heat of the romance, bringing what we've previously seen as stirring to absolutely sizzling. The screening I went to had more than it's fair share of hoots, hollers and mid-film applause at these moments. This is slightly ironic considering the films very clear 'traditional family values' message, but at least it's something discussed as opposed to just presented or accepted. I could gripe about that, but it's true to the book and the verse so that feels like a mute point. I do have a small bone to pick on the with the slight changes of villain character Victoria, played in this film by Bryce Dallas Howard, where not only is she not in the film very much but she's almost more pouty and manipulative, where previously she's been showcased as very capable and feral. Not that those can't all co-exist, but they are very different choices. This change here does however align to the description of Victoria in the new novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, but I very much preferred Rachelle Lefevre's ferocious and confident Victoria from Twilight and New Moon.
What I did love about the film, I whole heartedly loved. The first thing on that list was the sound and the score. Great choices there giving a great atmosphere and creepy tone, especially in the fight sequences. Next up is the performances by Kellan Lutz as the burly vampire Emmett, who has amazing delivery on all of his lines and has been a stand out since the beginning - he's a joy to watch. I also loved Billy Burke as Charlie, who has great awkward father/daughter chemistry with Kristen Stewart as Bella. Actually, Kristen Stewart has been so solid throughout the series that sometimes I forget to give credit where credit is due and it's due here. So, kudos again to Kristen Stewart as she is great as out protagonist Bella. Her along with Robert Pattinson as Edward and Taylor Lautner as Jacob give a really solid foundation for the film and play off each other very well. For performances, I was also impressive is Xavier Samuel (The Loved Ones), who appears as the tormented newborn vampire Riley. Other things I loved about the film include the fun, familial sense of the Wolf Pack, although I would have loved to see more of them. The cinematography is sensational, and I love the implementation of a cooler colour story for the vampires which gives a stark sense of distancing in contrast to the warmer tones used to represent other elements and environments in the film. Absolutely beautiful.
There was lots to love in the film, and I'm thrilled to have enjoyed it as much as I did. It really hits all the right marks with memorable moments, great lines, fantastic chemistry, exciting action and more. The fan in me was hoping for a certain in a je ne sais quoi, like nod to the fans as we've seen in the previous films but I am happy with what we got. I still don't know how they got so much of the book in the film from back stories to action to romance as well as adding some new elements and extending others. It's very impressive how well it flows, all things considered.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse will easily have the widest reach of the series, not only will the fans be happy but it also will have a broader appeal to a larger audience as it truly does have it all: action, drama, mystery, romance, not to mention vampires and werewolves! It's visually stunning with a great soundtrack and the actors all do a great job and even as part of a series it still tells it's own story. It truly has something for everyone as a movie going experience.
See also: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse DVD Review
Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll see it again, and again.. and again
I'd recommend it to fans of the series, as well as general movie goers curious about the series
18 minutes of preshow including 10 commercials and 5 previews: Charlie St. Cloud, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Step Up 3D, Barney's Vision and Red
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© Shannon Ridler, 2010
* The Wolfathon is a marathon exploring werewolf films in anticipation of the 2010 release of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Courtesy of E1 Entertainment