Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (DVD Review of Two-Disc Special Edition)

Courtesy of eOne Films

Dir: David Slade (30 Days of Night, Hard Candy)
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Jackson Rathbone, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Kellen Lutz, Peter Facinelli, Elisabeth Reaser, Bryce Dallas Howard, Xavier Samuel, Dakota Fanning
USA, 2010

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 disappointed 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 films theatrical release.

DVD extras are outlined specifically further on, but I want to mention some of the highlights right away which at the top of the list is the commentary with actors Kristen Stewart & Robert Pattinson, which I think all of the Twi-fans are really looking forward to and missed this connection on the New Moon DVD. Kristen & Rob are really funny in this commentary and although you can tell they aren't physically in the same location you can still feel the chemistry & camaraderie shines through as they discuss the film, including arguing/explaining their characters and justifications which is hilarious as is the fact that they are well aware of certain aspects of the fandom. I also really liked the 6-part documentary, especially the training with the actors for the fight sequences (great for Kellan & Peter fans), the interviews with director David Slade and of course the actors. The photo gallery is great (over 100 images - many I've not seen before including character portraits), the deleted scenes include great moments like the well-noted missing Bella/Angela chat. The Stephanie Meyers & Wyck Godfrey commentary is very interesting and the Fast Forward to Edward or Jacob is exactly what you'd image - the film with just the Edward or Jacob bits, which I hope makes each team very happy!

Okay, on to the review of the film itself. 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.

DVD Extras for of Two-Disc Special Edition:

Disc One - Includes the film plus 2 Audio Commentaries

  • Audio commentary with Kristen Stewart & Robert Pattinson - Total highlight of the DVD. How long have we been waiting for this Twifans? I sorely missed having an actor commentary on New Moon DVD so this was an extra special treat on the DVD. Although Kristen & Rob aren't physically in the same location you can still feel the chemistry & camaraderie between them shining through the audio as they chat through the movie. It's a really funny commentary, especially when it's clear how aware they are (or aren't) about particular aspects of the fandom. They fully and completely know their characters which leads to several hilarious arguments and/or discussions on their characters and justifying their actions. I continue to be impressed with Kristen Stewart, she makes some interesting notations to the acting process in terms of character interactions that I never would have picked up as a challenge and are seamless in the film - great work!
  • Audio commentary with author of Twilight book series Stephenie Meyers and producer Wyck Godfry. This will be a great commentary for folks interesting in history and evolution of different aspects of the mythos in the film series, they chat a lot about things that have changed over time as well as things early versions of scenes or entire sequences that didn't make the cut. Also very aware of the fandom in terms of certain things that just *had* to be in the film, which is fun to hear. Also touch on the casting of some of the new faces in the film, as well as a fair amount about the what scenes where shot when and behind the scenes happenings.
  • ** Both commentaries have the film audio volume low during the commentary and then it comes back in if no one is talking, although you can always hear the film a little bit in the background under the discussion. Both commentaries also mention very specific content from Breaking Dawn for anyone who is spoiler sensitive.

Disc Two - Special Features
  • 6-Part Making of Documentary (1 hour 27 minutes). 6 Parts Include: Introducing David Slate (4 minutes), Pre-Production: Setting the Saga (13 minutes), The Heart of Eclipse (24 minutes), The Dark Side of Eclipse (9 minutes), Lights, Camera, Action (24 minutes), Post-Productions: Leaps in Technology (23 minutes). This is an extensive documentary that is a great combination of interviews, film clips, rehearsals and behind the scenes during filming as well as construction of the sets, props and special effects. It's a nice balance that combines of spirit of the series along with more technical aspects of the film. I particularly enjoyed the fight training & preparation and behind the scenes & the interviews with fight coordinator Jonathan Eusebio and actors Kellan Lutz & Peter Facinelli, plus any and all interviews with Michael Welch are very entertaining, and there is even some behind the scenes with real wolves that's a real treat. That's just the tip of the iceberg as there is so much to enjoy here from seeing the work that went into building the sets, locations to the effects, to the character arcs of the film and series to the character backstories explored in the series to much, much more. There is also some behind the scenes footage from both Twilight and New Moon included throughout. Interviews include discussions with director David Slade, author of Twilight book series Stephenie Meyers, producer Wych Godfry, actors Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Kellen Lutz, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Anna Kendrick, Xavier Samuel, Jackson Rathbone, Michael Welch, Bryce Dallas Howard, Elisabeth Reaser, Nikki Reed, Christian Serratos, Justin Chon, Jodelle Ferland, Jack Huston, Dakota Fanning, Charlie Bewley, Daniel Cudmore & Cameron Bright; screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, fight coordinator Jonathan Eusebio, visual effects supervisor Kevin Tod Haug, co-producer Bill Bannerman, production designer Paul D. Austerberry, co-prop master Nevin Swain, visual effects supervisor: second unit James Tichenor, stunt coordinator John Stoneham Jr., visual effects supervisor: Image Engine Jon Cowley, visual effects plate supervisor: Image Engine Robin Hackl, visual effects executive producer: Image Engine Shawn Walsh, visual effects supervisor Phil Tippett, animation supervisor Tom Gibbons, VFX Supervisor: Tippett Studios Eric Leven, VFX Producer: Tippett Studios Ken Kokka, art director Nate Fredenburg, CG Supervisor Aharon Bourland, VFX Reference Supervisor: Tippett Studios Devin Breese, digital production supervisor: Image Engine Peter Muyzers and assistant to David Slade Tessa Kovach.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes (2 delete scenes, 6 extended scenes - 11 minutes for scenes, 14 minute with commentary) with introduction and optional commentary by David Slade discussion choices for why the scenes or sections were not in the film. Thrilled to see this includes Angela/Bella scene is included here, and it was great to see lots of the extended moments, several of which I would have loved to see in the film, especially ones that give you a more rounded sense of Bella's thinking through the options, although it's very understandable why they were cut for pacing or clarity.
  • Fast Forward Edward (46 minutes) & Fast Forward Jacob (31 minutes) starting from the Eclipse title card and literally has a cute fast forward sound that zooms you to the next scene with either Edward or Jacob, can watch the whole way through or skip to the next scene Edward or Jacob.
  • Photo Gallery (6 minutes) over 100 images from production stills, character portraits & behind the scenes set to music.
  • Music Videos (2 videos, 8 minutes) Neutron Star Collision by Muse and Eclipse (All Yours) by Metric - both are Eclipse specific videos with film imagery incorporated into the videos (as opposed to videos included in the Music Videos and Performances from The Twilight Saga Soundtracks: Volume 1).
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is available on DVD as of December 4, 2010. Check it out over at &

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

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© Shannon Ridler, 2010
Originally reviewed for Theatrical Release - June 30, 2010

Courtesy of E1 Entertainment

Courtesy of E1 Entertainment

Photo Kimberley French, © 2010 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.

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