Synopsis: It all begins…with a choice. In the third chapter of Stephenie Meyer’s phenomenal Twilight series, Bella Swan is surrounded by danger as Seattle is hit by a string of murders and an evil vampire continues her quest for revenge. In the midst of it all, Bella is forced to choose between her love, Edward Cullen, and her friend, Jacob Black – knowing that her decision may ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf.

Eclipse 7.5

After the mind-numbing last entry in the Twilight Saga, I really had to take a break. Originally, I had planned on watching the three films closer together, but I simply couldn’t muster up the courage. In fact, I came this close to waiting an extra day – but then I had a pretty decent one lined up for tonight, so I forced myself to go ahead.

Furthermore, after the blandness of ‘Mirrors’, I figured that ‘Eclipse’ would have a chance to shine. tongue

I don’t know if that contrast is what did it, or if ‘Eclipse’ is just a better film than ‘New Moon’ could only dream of being, but I rather liked it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s the best of the bunch (so far!). It’s not dramatically better than the first entry, but it’s undoubtedly my favourite.

For starters, they fixed almost everything that wasn’t working in the last one: the dialogue is decent enough, the pace is even-keeled, the interactions are more heart-felt, the acting supports the material and they got hold a director who knows his way around vampires.

They got David Slade. smile

Slade had just helmed ’30 Days 30 Nights’, the vampire film based on the popular graphic novel. To get a hit with a claustrophobic tale set in Alaska is quite a feat, I think – he must have done something right. I have yet to see it (soon! wink), but I did see his previous effort, the masterful ‘Hard Candy’.

You’ll be forgiven for not having seen it or for scoffing at its title and/or DVD cover – if it hadn’t been recommended by someone whom I respect, I would have ignored it too (‘Hard Candy’ is a great name for a terrible Madonna album, but it’s not a convincing movie title!). If you haven’t, you should: it was one of the most intense two-person cat-and-mouse film I’ve seen in years; the performances are smouldering.

It’s too early for me to recognize Slade’s signature, but I know one thing: the guy put together a solid film in ‘Eclipse’ (and I obviously can’t say the same for the last guy! confused). He even got enjoyable performances from most of the cast: Stewart returned to a similar form as she was in initially, displaying uncertainty and inner turmoil; Pattinson was at his best, infusing more nuance and emotion in his performance; Bella’s parents were top notch (the dad, played by Billy Burke, was stellar); Edward’s dad was superbly dominant in his scenes; Bella’s friends were back to their normal selves… and on and on.

It’s a massive improvement over the last one, that’s for sure! biggrin

My key issues with the cast and characters are: Taylor Lautner, who only just gets by – he doesn’t offer any real depth, as one might expect from a lead with a role like this one. Really, he’s a great pretty boy, but that’s about it; he had a special quality in the first film, but it’s long gone – supplanted by an ill-fitting beefcake image. There’s a couple actors in the Cullen clan who are a little off – but maybe that’s because they’re playing vampires. And then there’s Bryce Dallas Howard as the new Victoria. I know that there were scheduling issues that prevented Rachelle Lefevre from returning, but Howard annoyed me – not just her performance, but the fact that she was made up like a porcelain doll. angry Lefevre had a more realistic and dangerous presence that contributed greatly to the first two films. sad

There were a few truly enjoyable interactions in this one: Bella and Edward had a few sweet moments (they didn’t feel forced this time around!). It got a little sappy at times, but it was mostly this side of tasteful; I thought it was believable. Bella and her dad had some winning bits, including a doozy when he tried to have “the talk” with her. Bella also had a warm visit with her mom which I enjoyed. Even Edward and Jacob have this excellent scene later in the film – however, this is completely held up by Pattinson alone, seeing as Lautner was wax-like (ironically, his character is supposed to be the more human one! confused)

Call me an Ol’ Softy if you must, but the tribulations of Bella and her two suitors actually almost got to me. Their emotional pain seemed palpable, the love they had for each other was very much apparent, and the personal sacrifices were easy to understand and/or relate to. And I was genuinely impressed with the way Edward tried to accept Bella’s conflicted emotions and gave her room to breathe; while the character is nauseatingly old-school on some levels, I found this touch to be more contemporary and mature.

On a technical level, ‘Eclipse’ was almost perfect. Slade pieced the film together in a way so that the rope work, CGI and slow-motion weren’t on screen long enough to show their flaws – and the techniques merged effortlessly. It’s not to say that everything was in quick cuts, but it was judiciously edited. The CGI wolves were also superior to the last ones; they still looked like animation, but the motion was a bit more realistic. And at least they finally got the fur right. The soundtrack was full, but not especially creative or exciting. Thankfully, this time they trimmed the number of songs being plugged from the companion CD.

And then there were the fight scenes. laughing

By far the battle sequences in this one eclipsed the ones in the last two films (sorry… I just had to! tongue). Not that it matters, because these films are romantic dramas in the first place, but the action bits were usually fairly anaemic and/or inept. In this one, it was actually almost awesome. I had a blast: it was dynamic AND coherent – which is hard to come by in these days of jitter-cams and super-fast cuts. There isn’t a lot of fighting in this film, relatively-speaking, but there is this terrific fight between vampires and werewolves at the end that’s worth mentioning (I still wonder about vampires breaking into pieces, though – even if it’s impressive to see).

I guess I might be making it sounds like I enjoyed ‘Eclipse’ more than I actually did. Seriously, I didn’t like it THAT much. However, I won’t deny that I found that the 120 minutes passed by rather smoothly, effortlessly. It’s simply a good, solid film. It doesn’t deserve any major accolades and it won’t even make my Top 13 list for the year, but I’d say that the filmmakers succeeded in crafting something quite palatable out of material that could easily have been turned into loads of cheese. smile

What do you think?

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