– Summary –
Director : David Slade
Year Of Release : 2010
Principal Cast : Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard, Billy Burke, Dakota Fanning, Jackson Rathbone, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Xavier Samuel, Anna Kendrick, Nikki Reed.
Approx Running Time : 1hr 50 minutes
Synopsis: more vampire/human/werewolf love triangle, a little bit of vamp brawlin’, and a whole bunch of stylishly filmed faffing about.
What we think : Folks looking for a jump-on point to Stephenie Meyer’s increasingly vapid exercise in vampire romance would be best advised to avoid Eclipse. Casual fans will be underwhelmed, and the Twihard crowd will no doubt have this film on continuous repeat on their BluRay players. A generally solid film with too little action and too much lovey-dovey stuff to make much sense.
Okay, I’m prepared for the flames of Twihards to descend upon me should I give this film a rating anything less than a full 10/10. I’ve wrapped myself up in flame-retardant material, bolted the windows and doors shut, and stockpiled the various cans of soup, beans and vegetables I’m going to need for a long, hard seige. After all, those who speak ill of the vampire-themed love story written by Stephenie Meyer, and now being turned into films by a Hollywood machine looking for the next Harry Potter franchise to milk to death, would be well advised to maintain their anonymity lest you be struck down by an angry fan. The mind-numbing incredulity with which I watch normally healthy, emotionally balanced people suddenly launch into a tirade about Jacob and Edward, about who should win Bella’s affection, is often surprising even to me. My good wife, Lisa T, went along and saw Eclipse in the cinema, and came back raving about it, and how it was as good as, if not better than, New Moon. I was dismissive, mainly due to my lack of appreciation for the previous two films – now’s my chance to see if my disinterest was warranted.
After watching the original film in the franchise, I did what I knew I should never have done: I read the books the films are based on – again with increasing incredulity that what Meyer has written is considered “literature” of any kind: it’s aimed squarely at the tweenage female market, for sure, but high art and quality writing this isn’t. Twilight and it’s novel sequels became increasingly desperate for narrative strength as it went along, and I feel the films are suffering the same plight. Whereas the original film was a pretty sweet-natured vampire/human love story, which became a triangle once uber-buff Jacob came onto the scene, New Moon and Eclipse have degenerated into sparkly, furry, cacophonous confusion and inept characters, as well as badly written dialogue. I felt that the finale of the series, the redundant Breaking Dawn, which to my mind could have been a three page epilogue at the end of Eclipse yet which is being split into two films simply to suck more money out of fans, is going to be the Attack Of The Clones variant of the Twilight saga. So we have Eclipse, the penultimate (apparently) adventure in the world of Bella (Kristen Stewart), vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson, one of the most famous people in the known cosmos) and the third wheel, werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner, and if I can borrow a description I once read of Vin Diesel, who looks like a condom stuffed with walnuts) – the love triangle that makes Harry, Ron and Hermione look like the Three Stooges by comparison.
At the end of New Moon, Edward asked Bella to marry him (a great final scene I’ll admit), in order to prolong her life – Bella wants Edward to turn her into a vampire, so of course he doesn’t want to because she’ll be giving up her humanity, something he doesn’t want to take responsibility for. At the start of Eclipse, Edward is still asking Bella to marry him, but she’s saying no, as she should for somebody so young. Victoria, the vampire seeking to destroy Bella after Edward killed her mate in Twilight, returns with a plan to annihilate the entire Cullen clan: create an army of newborn vampires, strong enough to fight and defeat the older, wiser family. In creating the army, however, Victoria prods the attention of the Volturi, the keepers of the vampire laws who you do not want to piss off. The Cullens, seeking a truce with the werewolf clan in which Jacob is a member, team up with their sworn enemies to defeat not only the advancing army, but also to keep Bella safe, and to show some force to the Volturi. Edward and Jacob bicker about who Bella should be in love with, a tiresome affair if there ever was one, and Bella herself seems unaware of just who she really is in love with.
After two films of exposition and build up, we finally get to see some vamp smackdown. No longer is Jacob satisfied to sit on the sidelines, nor is Edward keen for Bella to get involved in the fight between Victoria and the Cullens, but circumstance may dictate otherwise – Jacob and his werewolf family get some serious action this time around, and I for one couldn’t be happier. Vampires, for all their self-opinionated shite, really don’t like to do a weapons check like the werewolves do. Jacob, swanning about with his shirt off (several moments of comedy are derived from this) as you do in cold Washington state, finally unleashes the beast in a big way: and I don’t mean taking his pants off. The werewolf effects still look like effects, I must say, but they’re better here than they were even in New Moon: considering they play a pivotal role in Eclipse, it’s a good thing they don’t look like cheap Dobby knock-offs. The climactic battle between the vamps and the wolves, which takes an eternity to get to, seems to be over a little too quickly: and the “training” session the Cullens give everyone amounts to yet another scene of exposition on just how dangerous the situation is… without giving it a payoff. For a bunch of stronger, more agile vampires, the newborns seem to be despatched way too easily.
I guess it comes down to focus. Just what is the focus of this film? Is it the action, the battle for good and evil etc? Or is it the relationships between the central characters? Typically, it’s the relationships. Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, trying to extrapolate something approximating a storyline out of Meyer’s novel, manages to straddle both the realistic and the fantastic in this film, and while the dialogue reeks of Meyer’s pulpish, overly romanticised scratchings, the cast deliver the lines with the requisite seriousness. That’s not to say you won’t be rolling your eyes at many of the Bella/Edward conversations, most of which cause spasms of twitching concern across Rob Pattinson’s face, but it’s aligned perfectly with the breathless squeezings of the prior films. Kristen Stewart seems to have finally realised just how shallow Bella actually is, and with the novel being predominantly her inner thoughts, the film suffers from being unable (or unwilling) to bring those thoughts into the open. Instead, the film shuffles along hoping that newcomers won’t understand it and simply give up, and those who’ve read the books will remember what’s supposed to be happening and go along with it. Which is a problem for the film overall: ideas and concepts fully fleshed out in Meyer’s text are given short thrift here, and explanations as to what’s going on are in limited supply. It’s a film designed for fans, not for those unfamiliar with the story. Which is a pity, because I thought the process of turning a book into a film was to broaden your fanbase, rather than alienate those unwilling to read the books just to understand the films. People who haven’t read the books will find much here that makes little sense.
Director David Slade, the third director on Twilight in as many films, did a fantastic job visually with 30 Days Of Night, and his eye for detail and colour is once more on song with Eclipse. The film is stunning to look at, and while a few missteps in the editing of the action sequences does tend to undermine what is otherwise an very slick, polished production, you can’t fault the visuals. Slade struggles, along with the previous directors Catherine Hardwicke and Chris Weitz, to come to grips with the characters, especially the criminally underwritten Victoria (played by Bryce Dallas Howard here, replacing original actress Rachelle Lefevre… why?), but his handle on the visual aesthetic of Twilight is spot on. Howard Shore provides a perfunctory, if entirely unmemorable score for Eclipse, replacing Alexandre Desplat in the composers chair this time round. I think the problem with the music on the Twilight films, particularly the score sections, is that there is no continuity of composer for the franchise: no identifiable themes stick in your head with each of the films (unlike, say Harry Potter, or The Matrix series, all of which have the same style and feel in their scores) and it’s essentially a basic, elementary action/romance score from Shore here. Had they kept Carter Burwell on from film 1, this might have been avoided.
Eclipse isn’t a film that you can watch on its own; you simply must have seen the previous two films in order to understand it. This works both against and for the film, since the audience watching this will already know what’s coming, and those who are undecided will start with Twilight anyway. Reviewing this film is problematic for much the same reason. Fans will not need to read this review because they’ll watch the film regardless, and the other folks who hate Twilight wouldn’t sully themselves by daring the investigate the subtle nuances of such a commercially empty franchise. Indeed, for a series built on the back of the real-life romance of it’s leading stars, it’s going to be interesting in a few years time to look back and watch these films with a cold, critical eye. In short, fans of the series will lap this up, whilst those seeking a spot to enter the franchise would be advised to forget about Eclipse, and go watch Twilight first. Eclipse is a film with plenty of flaws, but offers the Twihards it’s aimed at plenty to ogle and gasp at.