Slade, screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (Twilight, New Moon, and Dexter seasons 1 thru 4), and the returning cast of Twilight players really jell this time around. The actors are obviously comfortable and know their characters well, but with Eclipse a few of the minor characters from Twilight and New Moon are given their chance to spend a few minutes in the spotlight. And with the third film, the action is taken to a different, grittier and much more realistic level - or at least as realistic as the action in a PG-13 teen vampire film can get without a $200 million budget.
However, Slade does cheat a bit when it comes to the diamond-skin vampires. Not every scene with Edward in the sunlight has the sparkle effect, which I was fine with because personally I find Stephenie Meyer's explanation of vampires going out in the daylight laughable. The less Edward sparkles, the better as far as I'm concerned.
Easily the best film of the batch, Eclipse takes a balanced approach to moving the storyline forward. The third film does what it needs to do in order to set up the conclusion of the saga with Breaking Dawn. Bella (Kristen Stewart) has matured and come into her own, Edward (Robert Pattinson) knows he can not be separated from his love, and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is still determined to win over Bella before she can be changed into a vampire.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - The StoryBella's ready to give up living and breathing for an eternity with Edward, Edward's still not convinced Bella's making the right decision, and Jacob's positive Bella's not thinking straight as the action of Eclipse kicks off. And while all teen vampire/werewolf/human love triangle stuff is keeping the threesome occupied in Forks, nearby Seattle's been hit by what appears to be a ruthless serial killer. But we know, and the Cullens shortly figure out, that it's actually an army of newborn vampires on the prowl. Who created them and for what purpose - those are the important questions the Cullens need to figure out. It doesn't take them long to determine vampires are behind all the dead people turning up in Seattle. They can't just sit back and let innocent people die - and let the Seattle killings draw the Volturi close to Forks - so they plan a roadtrip to the city to see if they can take care of the situation.
The Acting and Eclipse's Bottom LineTwi-hards and casual Twilight fans alike are sure to fall for Eclipse. The third film injects more humor than Twilight or New Moon and is sexier than either of the first two movies. And for the first time in the series, side characters are no longer relegated to personality-less stick figures taking up space.
Newcomers to the franchise Xavier Samuel and Bryce Dallas Howard are great additions to the cast, and it's a shame they're only around for just this one film. Samuel's a scene-stealer as Riley, Victoria's pawn, and the guy in charge of that bloodthirsty batch of newborn vamps. Although he's not on screen much, Samuel uses every second to his advantage, giving Riley a personality he never had in Stephenie Meyer's book. And Howard, who takes over for Twilight and New Moon's Victoria - Rachelle Lefevre - makes for a deliciously evil vampire who uses her sexuality to control her right-hand undead man.
Eclipse has a lot to be proud of, including much better performances from Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, but there still are a few problems with the series. Slade and the company handling the CG still haven't gotten the wolves right. They're so fake that it's distracting, and the way they change sizes is frustratingly bad. One minute they're the size of a large dog or normal wolf, and the next they're taller than Stewart while standing on all fours. The poor effects bring the film down.
True Blood can get it right, and the budget on that TV series is far less than what the Twilight folks had to spend on getting their wolves right. Granted, True Blood's using real wolves with only the eyes digitized, but couldn't the Twilight franchise have done likewise or at least used photo-realistic CG animals instead of inserting these obviously fake wolves? Hopefully, director Bill Condon will scrap what's come before and figure out a solution to the wolf problem with Breaking Dawn.
Despite the wolves and a few other minor issues, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is easily the best of the Twilight pack thus far. It's got just the right mix of action, drama, humor (something completely lacking from the first two films), and romance, it's beautifully shot, swiftly paced, and proves the old adage that the third time is indeed the charm.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse was directed by David Slade and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some sensuality.
Theatrical Release: June 30, 2010