Well, it only seems like yesterday that I was sitting here thinking about New Moon and already the next instalment of The Twilight Saga, Eclipse is getting ready to hit the big screen. But does it manage to deliver in this packed summer season?
Well, the answer in short is yes, with Eclipse being not only the best instalment of the franchise so far, but being a solid standalone movie in its own right.
Set just a couple of weeks on from the events in New Moon, life has settled back down in Forks and the romance of Edward and Bella continues on much in the same vein, only with werewolf Jacob making his feelings well and truly known.
Rivalries are soon put aside, though, when it is realised that a vampire army is being created in Seattle by somebody wanting to come and look for Bella. Knowing they cannot defeat this army themselves, Edward’s family turn to Jacob’s tribe and the two form an unlikely alliance to fend off the threat.
Straight off the bat this movie takes a turn from the rest in the series and has a fantastic horror-themed opening which I really wasn’t expecting, and really shows that somebody new has taken over the director’s megaphone and isn’t afraid to make a few changes. The new head honcho is David Slade, who is best known for the wonderful Hard Candy and he’s also got the vampire movie 30 Days Of Night under his belt. As it turns out, he’s exactly what the franchise needed.
From the trailers, you could see this was going to be a very different sort of Twilight film and I am glad that the series has taken this turn from angst to action.
In the book there was a lot of back and forth with Bella and her two supernatural suitors and it did drag on and on and, eventually, you were so fed up with her saying how beautiful Edward was you wanted to pick your copy of the book up and hit her on the heard with it. Thankfully, Melissa Rosenberg, who has adapted all the movies so far, has skipped the more annoying parts of the romance and focused in on the heart of it, which really is all you need.
The most marked change, though, is the action sequences, which are not only more frequent than in the previous movie, but much better directed and made with a substantially bigger budget. They fill the screen well. They’ve also spent a few extra quid on the wolves, too, which look a lot less clunky and not quite as badly fake as they were in New Moon. Thus, when Jacob in wolf form is standing next to Bella he hardly looks out of place, and that’s a solid step forward.
Another notable point is the fact that the team has finally managed to get the sparkly/glittery skin down, and it is no longer the glam fest from the first movie, but we get a more subtle and realistic glow. In fact, only one effect got a few chortles (which I can’t point out now for spoiler reasons) which is a marked improvement.
Although all the above points are important, the most significant change in the movie is the standard of the acting, which has shot up dramatically since the last film. It’s no longer a series of far away glances and overacted lines, but there’s a more subtle approach, which I suspect one more is thanks to director Spade.
Also it seems that the actors have finally become comfortable enough in their characters to not worry about acting as them so much, and they inhabit them well here. This is demonstrated by the relationship between Edward and Bella, which has become far less clunky and more realistic.
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson have finally managed to live up to the characters created in Stephenie Meyer’s books and I really hope that a change in director for the final two movies (to Bill Condon) will not ruin what they have managed to capture here.
Also vastly improved is Taylor Lautner who, as Jacob, is shirtless through at least ninety percent of the movie (Twi-hards rejoice) and actually plays very well off Pattinson. He even injects some sly humour, and that helps too.
An extra special shout out has to go to Billy Burke as Bella’s father, Charlie, who has some great comic moments and shows what was missing from the previous two movies: a bit of humour.
The biggest controversy with Eclipse was the replacement of the character of Victoria from Rachelle Lefevre to Bryce Dallas Howard and, in fairness, it is a change that is barely noticeable (much to the credit of Howard, I might add). After her first appearance on screen you forget it is a different actress and go with the flow.
Excellently paced, the film feels slightly less than its 124 minute running time, but it packs in the story well. My only major complaint is that I thought the final ten minutes were a little clunky and would not feel out of place in an after-school special. Yet Eclipse still exceeded my expectations, and should enthral fans of the series and have them chomping on the bit for the final two movies.
And who knows? It might even pick up a few more fans along the way.