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'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse' Movie Review

Humor Helps 'Eclipse' Outshine 'Twilight' and 'New Moon'

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating
User Rating 3 Star Rating (1 Review)

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Taylor Lautner, Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart Eclipse photo

Taylor Lautner as Jacob, Kristen Stewart as Bella, and Robert Pattinson as Edward in 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.'

© Summit Entertainment
The Twilight Saga has finally found its footing with Eclipse, the third film of the blockbuster series. Selecting David Slade (30 Days of Night, Hard Candy) to direct was absolutely the right choice, and in Slade's capable hands the series takes a darker turn in keeping with Stephenie Meyer's book.

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.

Slade's figured out how to deal with a couple of key issues that stumped his predecessors: how to portray vampire speed and how to make Edward sparkle without looking extremely cheesy. Slade's fine-tuned Edward's diamond skin so that it doesn't look like an effect, and when the Cullens race through the forest chasing after Victoria, you believe they can actually run 50 miles per hour.

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 Story

Bella'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.

Taylor Lautner as Jacob and Kristen Stewart as Bella in Eclipse photo

Taylor Lautner as Jacob and Kristen Stewart as Bella in 'Eclipse.'

© Summit Entertainment
However, a roadtrip becomes unnecessary when Alice peers into the future and sees the newborns will be coming to Forks in just a few days time. The short notice worries the vegetarian vampires, as does the sheer size of the newborn army, but an unlikely ally turns up in the form of the wolf pack. Jacob offers up the wolves' help and while this isn't something Edward particularly wants - why give Jacob another reason to hang out with Bella? - it's the only logical solution. After all, if you were forced into battle against out-of-control crazy new vampires with superhero strength and your only chance of coming out of the fight without losing a few members of your sparkly vampire family, wouldn't you turn to the neighborhood werewolves for help?

The Acting and Eclipse's Bottom Line

Twi-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.

Billy Burke has been terrific as Bella's dad, Charlie Swan, throughout the series, but Slade allowed Burke free rein to improvise and by doing so got something special from the veteran actor. Also showing off acting chops previously unnoticed in the series is Jackson Rathbone as Jasper. Rathbone had little to nothing to do in Twilight and New Moon, but that changes in Eclipse as Jasper's an integral part of the vampire war. What Rathbone does in his few scenes (including the Civil War flashback) shows he not only gets the character, but has been prepared for Jasper's big reveal all along. The same can be said about Nikki Reed as Rosalie. Previously, Reed's only had to stand around and look pretty all dyed white and bleached blonde. In her key scene with Bella where she explains her position on why Bella should remain human, we see Reed also has fully embraced her vampire character and has just been waiting for the chance to let her rip.

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.

Ashley Greene as Alice and Jackson Rathbone as Jasper in Eclipse photo

Ashley Greene as Alice and Jackson Rathbone as Jasper in 'Eclipse.'

© Summit Entertainment
And while Stewart has won over Twilight fans, she still hasn't completely sold me as Bella. It's the lack of facial expressions that gets me, not the way she can deliver a line. That said, there is one major improvement in Stewart's handling of the role: she never plays with her hair in Eclipse. Wearing an assortment of constantly changing wigs in the third film made it so that Stewart couldn't push her hair back from her forehead, and that small change is a huge improvement.

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.

GRADE: B

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

Disclosure: This review is based on a screening provided by the studio. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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