Reviews for the much anticipated third installment of the Twilight Saga Eclipse have started to come in and I personally think die-hard fans will not be disappointed. :)
It goes without saying that the faithful will devour "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," the third movie in Stephenie Meyer's immensely popular supernatural love-triangle saga, and also the one in which Bella must finally choose between her two beastly suitors. The pleasant surprise this time around is that the result finally feels more like the blockbuster this top-earning franchise deserves. Employing a bigger budget, better effects and an edgier director ("Hard Candy's" David Slade), "Eclipse" focuses on what works -- the stars -- even as the series' parent-friendly abstinence message begins to unravel. Summer release should reap Summit's biggest yield yet.
Taking a cue from the "Harry Potter" series, which maintains continuity on the writing and casting fronts while introducing a different feel with each change of director, the "Twilight" producers have embraced a variety of different visions behind the camera. Capitalizing on her indie sensibility and keenly observed teen insights, Catherine Hardwicke set the tone with the low-budget first film, with Chris Weitz expanding (and flattening) the world with his broader, daytime soap-opera style in "New Moon." Now, the task falls to Slade, who clearly understands how to work with actors while also demonstrating a welcome competence in the action and melodrama departments.
It's no easy task taking a piece of material auds already know inside-out and spinning it in such a way that individual scenes still generate tension and suspense. Slade sets us on edge from the outset with an atmospheric vignette merely alluded to in the book, as small-town boy Riley (Xavier Samuel) is ambushed and bitten by an unseen vampire in shadowy Seattle (looking every bit as ominous as Tim Burton's Gotham City).
Not much happens for the first 300 pages of Meyer's novel, during which vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) vie for the affections of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), with our increasingly impatient heroine determined to surrender both her virginity and her humanity to the brooding bloodsucker (to his credit, Bella's 109-year-old boyfriend wants to marry her first).
Slade and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg wisely intercut these puppy-love scenes with uneasy horror-movie jolts. After all, "Eclipse" builds not to a showdown between Edward and Jacob (no matter how often he takes off his shirt, the poor wolfboy will never be Bella's first choice), but to an uneasy alliance between the Cullen clan and Jacob's tribe of shape-shifters, united to protect Bella from the vengeance-seeking Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, taking over the role from Rachelle Lefevre) and her army of "newborns," undisciplined but super-strong new vampires.
Rather than attempting to elevate Meyer's swoony prose to the level of literature (the poor scribe exhausts herself trying to find synonyms for "perfection"), Rosenberg's task is to faithfully adapt the material for fans in such a way that works onscreen; that means having the freedom to remove, reorder or completely rewrite certain passages. She also has to contend with "Eclipse's" muddled message -- Bella's in a hurry to be bitten, while everyone else is telling her to slow down -- and devises a nice graduation speech for best friend Jessica (Anna Kendrick) on the merits of not rushing into things.
Despite the somewhat simple-minded source, the producers plot everything as if it were a strategic game of chess, paying off earlier gambles -- Jacob played third wheel in the past, but gets the sexier kiss here -- while seeding future films. Of particular interest is a wide-eyed young newborn (played by Jodelle Ferland), subject of Meyer's spinoff novella "The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner," who serves as an effective tool in setting up the powerful Volturi's villainy for the two-part "Breaking Dawn" finale.
"Eclipse" feels the most cinematic of the series so far, taking scenes out of the lunchroom and Swan house as much as possible. Slade shares Hardwicke's aesthetic of using dramatic aerial photography to give the otherwise intimate tale a more epic sweep, and expands on it by repeatedly lining up the various clans like the subjects of a Vanity Fair cover shoot, their iconic group poses helping to make the movie seem as big as its following. Though Slade inherits "New Moon" Director of Photography Javier Aguirresarobe, his choice of lenses and shooting style (including a fair amount of handheld camerawork) gives things a more dynamic energy.
Visual effects have improved considerably, with no fewer than 11 companies working on everything from Edward's sparkling skin to CG wolves that realistically blend with live-action characters. A scene of Bella side-by-side with canine Jacob feels perfectly plausible, but nothing beats the sight of vampires and werewolves going at it in the climactic battle. If anything, the digital work outshines the other departments, with bad makeup, lifeless wigs and creepy contacts being the elements that disrupt the fantasy.
From Hollywood Reporter
Bottom Line: The teen vampire series finally hits its stride with an entertaining mix of romance and action fantasy.
It took three films, but "The Twilight Saga" finally nails just the right tone in "Eclipse," a film that neatly balances the teenage operatic passions from Stephenie Meyer's novels with the movies' supernatural trappings.
Where the first film leaned heavily on camp and the second faltered through caution and slickness, "Eclipse" moves confidently into the heart of the matter -- a love triangle that causes a young woman to realize choices lead to consequences that cannot be reversed.
With the momentum of a movie series that sees installments arriving like clockwork every year, "Eclipse" looks primed to be the most successful film yet in Summit Entertainment's franchise. The action is pretty much relegated to the climax, but it's nifty enough that young men may get into the series too even if "Eclipse" isn't their first choice on a Friday night. (Read about the fan frenzy surrounding the premiere here and here, and check out photos of the Thursday night event at L.A. Live here.)
The film starts a little slowly with its classic reintroduction of its main characters, heroine Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), more determined than ever to go vampire for her undead boyfriend; the gloomy dreamboat Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), an ancient being who still hasn't graduated high school; and Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), a perennially bare-chested Native American who shape-shifts into a wolf at a moment's notice.
Even here the film doesn't mind kidding itself. Edward takes one look at Jacob and complains to Bella, "Doesn't he own a shirt?" The script by Melissa Rosenberg offers a few more opportunities like this that wink at its own silliness.
Things pick up rapidly once intros are done, with the ramifications of the girl/vampire/werewolf triangle becoming increasingly intense for all parties while an outside threat looms over them all.
A crime wave has hit Seattle, a few leagues from the bucolic Washington town that shelters so many supernatural creatures apparently without any townspeople catching on. A series of vicious killings and disappearances tip off the Cullen clan that a vampire is creating an army of newborns -- newly turned vampires whose ravenous thirst makes them stronger and more deadly than "old" vampires.
This army recruiter is red-headed Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, the epitome of sensual, feline cunning), who, in seeking revenge against the Cullens and Edward in particular, means to destroy Bella. Which causes Edward and Jacob to contemplate the unthinkable, a temporary alliance to protect the girl they both love.
It's like the uneasy partnership between lawman Wyatt Earp and outlaw Doc Holliday against the Clanton clan at the O.K. Corral in "My Darling Clementine." Well, why not a Western? "The Twilight Saga" already mixes together high school melodrama, outsider fiction and teen romance into a mishmash of sci-fi and horror genres. (Check out video of the "Eclipse" stars talking to THR on the red carpet of the film's premiere here.)
Since Rosenberg's writing has never been the problem in the series, much of the credit for the success of "Eclipse" probably belongs to the series' third director, David Slade ("Hard Candy," "30 Days of Night"). He quickly establishes a rapid yet unhurried pace, a willingness to let tongue perch in cheek and an unapologetic indulgence in this basic fantasy of every teenage girl -- that two high school hunks are in love with her and willing to die for her, except, of course, that one is already undead.
The three leads shine under his direction. Stewart anchors everything with a finely tuned if not slightly underplayed performance that catches her character in moments of doubt about the course and the man she has chosen. Pattinson makes you forget the white makeup and weird eye contact lenses to concentrate on a person torn over his love for a woman and the sacrifice he knows she will have to make to stay with him.
But it's Lautner who nearly steals the movie with his ripped muscle and steely acting. He definitely has the "it" factor Hollywood always looks for. (The "Twilight" cast invaded "Jimmy Kimmel Live" last week; check out photos here.)
The high school scenes and those between Bella and her police chief dad (Billy Burke) are quick and light and doubly effective for not dawdling. The series' more peripheral characters are coming into better focus as well. The film delivers backstories for both Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) and Rosalie (Nikki Reed) of the Cullen family as well as the origins of Jacob's family, the wolf pack, without any of these flashbacks seeming like intrusions.
Speaking of the wolf pack, the CG wolves, huge creatures whose ferocity fails to mask their tenderness, are very cool, and the fight at the climax among wolves, vampires and one poor human is no letdown. It delivers the goods without overstaying its welcome, which is more than can be said about most CG movie fights.
Production values are aces with Director of Photography Javier Aguirresarobe and production designer Paul Denham Austerberry very much taking advantage of the dark, woodsy and utterly beguiling beauty of British Columbia.