“It all begins…with a choice,” is the tag on The Twilight Saga: Eclipse posters, but for fans of the mega Twilight Saga franchise, the choice is “how many tickets do I buy for June 30”, “should I see it on IMAX” and “should I go to the screening of the all three movies on June 29”? There is no choice but to see Eclipse the day it opens and multiple times before it leaves multiplexes.
In a recent open letter to Twilight fans, director David Slade said Eclipse is a love letter to fans and I heartily agree with his assessment. The Twilight Saga movies continue to improve and Eclipse is the best film yet.
While New Moon began with the crawling moon and a dream, Eclipse begins at vampire speed with a chase scene, throwing you into the action before you can settle into your seat. The fast pacing of this action movie (yes, action movie) is maintained throughout with the exception of those pinnacle scenes that fans would riot without. They will immediately know what I’m referring to when I say “leg hitch” or “tent scene” and I promise those scenes do not disappoint.
Eclipse picks up shortly after the events of New Moon with our heroine (or in Edward’s case, his brand of heroin), Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), having decided that she wants to become vampire and spend eternity with her love Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). But Edward has stipulated, to Bella’s chagrin, that he only will change her if she agrees to marry him. In the meantime Bella’s best friend and part-time werewolf/shape-shifter, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) has fallen in love with her and wants her to choose him instead of prematurely stopping her heart from beating. At the same time, a series of unexplained murders is terrorizing Seattle and has the Cullen family concerned that an army of newborn vampires is being created. Also, bad vampire Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) continues to try to get past the Cullens and the werewolf pack to kill Bella to get revenge on Edward for his family killing her mate, James, in Twilight.
Kristen Stewart’s poorly wigged Bella has matured from the girl we saw in Twilight. Facing eternity and graduation, she is more focused and serious as she comes to grips with her choices. She easily plays the role of daughter, best friend and love of Edward’s existence with the right display of emotions and the maturity that Bella needs to make her choices while never letting us forget she is a teenager.
Rob Pattinson’s Edward and Taylor Lautner’s Jacob, find themselves in similar positions. Lautner’s Jacob continues to evolve as the gravity of the changes in his life effect him, but I felt he lost some of the levity of the character from the novel. While his acting has improved from New Moon, he doesn’t quite match the talents of Stewart and Pattinson when it comes to the range of emotions emitted from his character.
Although millions of girls and women swoon for Pattinson’s Edward Cullen, I had yet to be swayed until Eclipse. From the moment four-poster bed comes into view, Team Edward fans will be ecstatic with the resulting scene. Edward often edges on stalker behavior in his efforts to keep Bella safe, but his heartfelt marriage proposal in his bedroom made me want to jump to my feet and cheer when Bella said, “yes.” I don’t think anyone could say no to Pattinson’s Edward at that point. His emotions for Bella and the tenderness of his feelings had me near tears. The moment will also have every woman swooning when they hear Sia’s haunting “My Love” going forward.
Many of the supporting characters of the saga also get their moments to shine in Eclipse, which is wonderful for those who aren’t necessarily Team Edward, Jacob or Bella. While Nikki Reed only briefly gets to tell Rosalie story with a flashback to her human life in the early 1930’s, Jackson Rathbone steals the spotlight as Jasper. Rathbone, whose role has been limited with the exception of his attempt on Bella’s life in New Moon, plays a major role this time. He gets plenty of screen time, including telling through a flashback how he became a vampire and his violent pre-Cullen family vampire life as the commander of a newborn army. He portrays Jasper with a commanding presence, southern charm and some amazing battle skills.
Emmett (Kellan Lutz), Esme (Elizabeth Reaser) and Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) also gain screen time due to Eclipse letting us look beyond what Bella sees. The books are from Bella’s perspective and the first two movies stuck to that idea. In Eclipse, we get to see what is happening when Bella is not around, including exciting action sequences as the Cullens pursue Victoria and the climactic battle scene where the ever gentle Cullen parents kick some newborn vampire butt.
The special effects are taken to a new level. The sparkling in the sun that makes non-Twilight vampire fans snicker, has never looked better on Edward. The fight training and battle sequences among the vampires are where David Slade’s experience really shines. We now know what vampires crashing together and being torn apart sound like and it is intense! Add to that the visual destruction of vampire and as much as I imagined it in my head during reading the book, Slade made it even better.
There was controversy last summer when it was announced that Bryce Dallas Howard was replacing Rachelle Lefevre in the role of Victoria. Many fans, including myself, were disappointed to hear that an actor that we had become attached to in a role would be played by someone else in the story where Victoria plays her biggest role. The producers could not have made a better choice. Howard fits Victoria to a tea as described in Eclipse. From the voice that surprises Bella to the look and intensity with which she battles Edward (and a few things we pick up on her in The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner), she is perfection. Newcomer and short timer Xavier Samuel is commanding and vulnerable as Riley, the leader of the newborns. The much talked about Bree is played by Jodelle Ferland. While Ferland’s performance is fine, she appears a bit too young for the role as she is described in the novella.
Billy Burke and Gil Birmingham as Bella and Jacob’s fathers, Charlie Swan and Billy Black continue to show that they were perfectly cast in their roles. Burke especially handles the difficulty of being a single father whose daughter is completely in love with a guy he is not a fan of and having to accept that fact, including uncomfortably urging Bella to be “safe.” Sarah Clarke as Bella’s scattered brain mother, Renee, hasn’t been seen since the first movie, but returns for one of the most touching scenes in Eclipse. She is relatable as the mom who is worried that her daughter’s relationship is too intense for her young age, but also is supportive and excited about Bella’s future.
New wolf pack members Julia Jones and Booboo Stewart as Leah and Seth Clearwater have little to do in their human forms, but are impactful when they appear. Jones brings the right amount of bitterness to Leah, while Stewart has the right amount of youthful exuberance. While the wolves look better than they do in New Moon, they are still pretty unbelievable looking even for mythical giant werewolves. When the wolf pack is in its human form, it continues to be plagued by poor acting with the already listed exceptions and Chaske Spencer as the alpha leader, Sam Uley.
The humor in Eclipse is truly funny, as opposed to the first two movies where as a fan I found moments cheesy or cringe worthy causing inappropriate laughter. With Eclipse this is never the case. Great one-liners from Edward, Emmett and Charlie seemed to be greatest source of laughter at the fan screening I attended in Los Angeles on June 14. My only cringing moment was when Edward and Carlisle battle each other during fight training because I couldn’t stand to see either one get hurt! That wasn’t the same kind of cringe worthy moment.
Eclipse is not for everyone, especially if you are not familiar with Twilight in some way. This script assumes that you have some knowledge of these vampires and werewolves and their “talents,” and I think it could be difficult for someone to truly follow who isn’t up to speed on Twilight. But for those who are familiar, and for those who are fans, they will find little to nothing to fault with Eclipse. It tells the story incredibly well, incorporates all the characters in a way that will make every team happy, brings the essential love triangle scenes to life, has remarkable visual and audio effects, incorporates another perfect Twilight soundtrack, makes even Esme kick ass, presents a kiss that will make Team Edward squirm in their seats and a proposal that will make Team Edward cry and cheer.
Fans will begin counting down the days to Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (November 18, 2011) from the moment they leave the theater.
Follow Amy at @OhMyCarlisle on twitter.