In November 2008, American director Catherine Hardwicke’s much anticipated Twilight was released in film theatres worldwide, a fantasy romance based on Stephenie Meyer’s well-known novel of the same name. It was a story of vampires, teenage angst and the consequences of forbidden love, one which captured the imaginations of teens all around the world, going on to gross over $392 million at the box office. It gained a multitude of dedicated fans, most of whom would have contributed to the flick’s MTV Movie Award win for Best Film and quickly made Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart into global mega-stars. It is not without its haters, however, there are many who, for several understandable reasons, spit or squirm at the mere whisper of the film’s name.
The sequel, named New Moon, was then unleashed in 2009, this time Chris Hewitt (The Golden Compass, About A Boy) in the director’s chair. Although received harshly by most critics, it proved popular with the mass amount of fans, becoming the third highest grossing film, like, ever. But this title may be under threat, for there is a new film prowling about, pickpocketing moviegoers for what looks to be a rather admirable final collection of cash.
On its opening night it made a record-breaking $30 million through midnight screenings in North America and I’d say it’s pretty likely it ain’t gonna be a flop. Ironically, this movie is from the same franchise, or “saga” as it has called itself, as New Moon. Yes, this is Eclipse, the third in the love it or hate it Twilight series, released just eight months after its predecessor. And I can wholly guarantee you that this will undoubtedly have hormonal adolescent girls everywhere frantically skipping with delight. As well as me, although to a lesser degree. I’m more reserved.
Pattinson and Stewart reprise their famous roles as Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, two passionate lovebirds in a relationship where the latter is a normal, mopey teenage girl and the former is a sexy, sexy, mmm vampire. Edward and Bella seem perfectly happy together, but Bella is being harassed by Mr. Topless werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who claims that she has feelings for him like he has feelings for her. Such a romantic. So, Bella is in a bit of a tangle, having to choose if she should stay with Edward or run away with bad-boy Jacob. It’s basically like an episode of 90210 with a cast primarily made up of vampires and werewolves instead. And it’s not total bollocks.
Meanwhile, red-headed evil vampire Victoria (this time played by Bryce Dallas Howard) is still on the hunt for Bella after believing that she was responsible for her boyfriend’s death, which occurred in the first movie. She is building an army of new-borns, those who have recently been turned into blood-suckers, who she plans to use to slaughter Edward’s family and get to Bella to tear her freakin’ brooding head off! Nasty.
First off, I’d like to say that I am not a Twilight fan. Far from it really. Despite having enjoyed the first two movies, I have always had an odd contempt for anything even remotely associated with the franchise. This was mainly due to my knowledge of the delusional fans of the saga who obsess over it, talking about it constantly while living in a dream-world where Edward Cullen is their loving husband, and these kind of freaky nutcases have always forced me into detesting the very essence of Twilight. But I think that Eclipse has rid me of these hateful thoughts.
What really struck me about Eclipse is how grown-up it seemed to be. Unlike its predecessors, Eclipse is not a majestic feast of extra-strong cheese, I saw it as much more mature in tone as well as exceedingly self-aware, which is more than I can say for New Moon. Yes, the topless guys running about with their abs practically dancing for the camera is still there, but even with this it appeared to be aware of how silly it was. “Don’t you have a shirt?” Edward jokingly asks Jacob, who is indeed straddling a car, topless, his muscles protruding as he poses like a motherfucker.
The franchise has finally reached a stage where it has seen itself for what it is and what it has become, so it has managed how to work out a way of being more respectable, being more adult about its subject matter. It was fairly clear to me that this was mostly, if not fully due to the magnificent choice of director, David Slade. I mean, this is the guy who did Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night, both of which carry very strong atmospheres, a thing which Twilight needed to further itself fully. Slade has taken this film and has made it more than I thought it could be. He has given it genuine intelligence and a powerful feel to it.
Then again, it is still a BI film, so limitations are inevitable. The corniness is unavoidable, coming across in quite a few scenes where the off/on dialogue is a bit too lovey-dovey and iffy at points. “I’ll fight for you until your heart stops beating,” Jacob says to Bella. Ugh. There’s also just the simple plot of Bella having to choose between Edward and Jacob which is a little too silly to be taken seriously, it can be a tad cringe-worthy. And, oh yeah, the sparkly vampires. Seriously, what the hell?
One of the film’s strong points though is in the exhilarating fight scenes. I found myself raising an eyebrow at the very first action scene with Victoria being chased through the forest by the Cullen clan, a sequence nothing short of impressive. Although I wasn’t a fan of the super-fast movements which incorporated the vamps in the previous two installments, it is very well-shot here and used to great effect, giving the sequence that extra oomph and sparkle (pun intended). Victoria races between the tall trees, jumping and gliding as the Cullens do the same behind her just before the big bad wolves gallop in and pounce her. The sequence is short, yet it did leave a striking impression on me, showing Slade as a director with a knack for action.
And then there’s the final battle scene, the blood-suckers VS wolf-men fight from which clips have been used and thrown into TV spots which made it look overblown and simply desperate to look awesome. In the actual film, nonetheless, it does achieve this level of awesomeness it is striving for, giving the movie a fantastic finale which is both thrilling and exciting.
The special effects are also very much of high quality, with the most obvious use being of that on the wolves. These are big, bulking creatures which are superbly animated, relating marvelously with their surroundings. There’s a scene in which Bella is standing next to Jacob in his wolf form and their interaction with each other is brilliantly executed.
As for the acting, well, in a Twilight film you’re not exactly expecting Marlon Brando or Phillip Seymour Hoffman levels of performances. Not even Keanu Reeves quality. On the other hand, our leading man is pretty darn good. Pattinson is usually slotted in the “talentless actor” category, but I found his performance to be the best in the film. He makes Edward a very intriguing and emotionally involving character, the only one who I cared about for the majority of the movie. Sure, Pattinson’s not flawless here, but he most definitely is not bad at all like some would automatically think.
Stewart is also decent enough, although she has always made Bella come across as a mopey, whiny, snot-nosed, grouchy little baby who I don’t really give an airborne crap about. The fractious nature of her is to a lesser extent here, yet she’s still a tedious moper. Now, Lautner. I have to give it straight here, he’s a bland actor. His performance in Eclipse is just wooden, he’s practically a hunky, talking prop in many of the scenes he’s in. He comes in, shows off his abs, says some smart lines with no expression in his eyes and buggers off, sulking. I’m maybe being a bit too harsh, but yeah, he’s not great.
I was surprised by Eclipse, I really was. I was expecting the same lousy, laughable, cheesy pile of lameness which New Moon took on, when instead what I got was a mature, grown-up and well-made fantasy, and an epic one at that. It’s slow-moving, but the action scenes are great and Slade’s the perfect man to have helmed this project to bring it to a new level. Although I still feel the first is superior, Eclipse is just behind it, held back by some unnecessary corniness and “meh” acting from Lautner. Team Edward FTW.
Seven outta Ten.