Reviewed by Morgan Elektra
Starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, Ashley Greene
Directed by David Slade
I have made no secret up to this point about both my love of the Twilight books and my complete loathing of the movies. So I was not at all looking forward to the third installment of the film franchise, despite the presence of David Slade — a director I enjoy greatly — at the helm. To say I was surprised at the outcome is putting it mildly.
Don’t get me wrong … I’m not about to write a review that resembles a text from a 15-year-old. There will be no: OMG! BELLA IS SO ME!! Or discussion or Taylor Lautner’s abs. Or squeeing. Some of the issues I had with the previous two films are still present in Eclipse. And I’ll try not to retread too much of what my darling Nomad covered in his review, since once again I mostly agree with him.
The story in Eclipse focuses on two fronts. In Forks Bella is happy to have Edward back but torn over the strain on her friendship with Jacob. She’s determined to become a vampire, much to the chagrin of both Edward and Jacob. Jacob is determined she stay human, preferably with him. And Edward wants to get married. Meanwhile, in Seattle an army of young vampires (newborns) are wreaking havoc, turning over cars and killing people and whatnot.
Here lies my biggest issue with Eclipse. These two storylines feel very disconnected for the majority of the film’s two-hour runtime. When we’re in Forks with Bella, the focus on her, and her relationships is paramount with fleeting mentions of what’s going on in the big bad city. Charlie is looking for a local boy who disappeared there. The Cullens are concerned that the gang of new vamps will bring the Volturi to their neck of the woods. And the brief glimpses we get in Seattle show a new vampire – Riley – training a group of other newborns to some purpose. It mostly feels like two different movies are going on.
But when the two storylines finally come together – spoilers ahead – and it’s revealed that Victoria is raising this army to come kill Bella and the Cullens in retribution for the death of her mate James (which took place in the first film), it feels sudden and disjointed. I feel like the integration could have, should have, begun earlier and closed the two together seamlessly like a zipper, or a braid. Instead we got two parallel stories that seem to suddenly make right turns into each other. And on a related note, I really don’t see why they replaced Rachel Lefevre with Bryce Dallas Howard in the role of Victoria. Howard was okay, but Lefevre captured the wild and dangerous spirit of the character from the book.
So, what went right this time? I think it can all be chalked up to David Slade. It was a very nice change to see some exploration of the characters as people. We didn’t get another two hours of nothing but broody, pained Edward and Bella. We got to see them being silly and sarcastic. Slade achieved some really good performances out several of the actors who I’ve never thought were particularly talented before and made the audience actually feel for them. One of Meyer’s strengths is the characters she creates, and until now very little of that has come through in the movies.
Slade also did a fair job of incorporating the action into the romance storyline and maintaining a pretty consistent tone. Given how much better the visuals and performances were this time around, I can’t help but think that proves that the weak link here is Melissa Rosenberg’s scripts. While they remain true to the book in events and dialogue, they seem to skip from one major event to the next and miss the connective tissue in-between. They’re loyal on the surface, but I can’t help but feel she doesn’t capture the core of what makes the books so entertaining.
To use a concrete example, there’s a scene toward the end with Bella, Edward, and Jacob in a tent. Jacob and Edward have a conversation about their relationships with Bella as she sleeps. In the book the scene is tender, awkward, funny, and painful. Jacob is struggling with the reality of being so close and intimate with the girl he loves while her boyfriend is right there and can hear all his thoughts. Edward is struggling with the fact that he needs Jacob’s help and the knowledge that Jake might indeed be better for the girl he loves than him… and he can hear all his teenage- boy-snuggling-with-the-girl-he-loves thoughts.
Some of this comes across in the film, but like most of the rest of the story, it feels rushed. It’s still funny, but the sweetness and the awkwardness and the pain are sadly missing. Another example is the Quileute party, where Bella hears the legends of the tribe and the origins of the werewolves and their fight with the vampires. This is a great scene in the book, full of power and emotion and foreshadowing of future events, and here it’s cut up into a two-minute scene that only explains why the wolves hate the vampires. It becomes a scene that’s almost unnecessary, throwaway. And that’s a real shame.
But to be fair, there’s a lot more to like here than in any of the previous movies by far. Much better performances and well rounded characters, and Slade does a pretty decent job with the action as well, which should make this an easier watch for the boys who have no interest in the love triangle on screen. The fight scenes were actually pretty decent; you could see what was going on, and though bloodless, they weren’t tame. But the rushed and disjointed feeling of the dual storyline kept this from being really enjoyable for me.
However, this film makes me wish two things very strongly when it comes to the final films — one, that they would bring Slade back on board because he could really make them good with the right script; and two, that they would get someone besides Rosenberg to pen the scripts (especially after her comment about Bella giving birth without seeing the birth in the next film, given how important that scene is). Unfortunately, we know neither of those things is happening … but at least there will always be one Twilight Saga movie that doesn’t make me so mad I want to punch someone. Thank you for that, David Slade.
3 out of 5
Buy your The Twilight Saga: Eclipse tickets in advance at Fandango.com.
Discuss Eclipse in our forums!