by KYW’s Bill Wine
Opening as it does on the heels of the marvelous Toy Story 3, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse further helps to restore our faith in sequels and threequels.
Because Eclipse, the third installment in the Twilight saga, the series of movie adaptations of author Stephenie Meyer’s supernatural horror-romance novels for young adults, improves upon the impression made by its immediate predecessor and is as strong if not stronger a romantic vampire drama than the original.
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Twilight cast quite a spell in 2008, while New Moon lost a little blood but certainly didn’t suck in 2009. The revenge-driven drama Eclipse is the first in the series to arrive as a summer attraction, following two Thanksgiving releases.
Eclipse finds Seattle plagued by a series of mysterious killings and disappearances as Bella’s graduation from high school in Forks, Wash. approaches.
Lots of localites are being turned into vampires — they’re called Newborns — and these bloodthirsty creatures of the rainy night are aggressively hunting for victims/recruits.
Kristen Stewart (far right) returns as Bella Swan, still love-and-like-torn between vampire Edward Cullen, still played by Robert Pattinson (near right), whom she loves and who continues to dissuade her from “going vampire,” and werewolf Jacob Black, portrayed by Taylor Lautner, the shape-shifting Native American with whom she shares a deep friendship.
And not only will her romantic choice have a severe impact on her life and that of her human loved ones, but it could even turn out to reignite the dormant conflict between vampires and werewolves.
That’s because whatever unidentified force it is that has helped to create this army of recently turned vampires, the Newborn Army, has done so knowing that it is during the early stages of vampires’ supernatural lives that their bloodlust is at its highest pitch.
Could it be Victoria, the “Redheaded One” played by Bruce Dallas Howard, who is the chief army recruiter?
Regardless, dueling suitors Robert and Jacob become allies because the Cullens and the Wolf Pack must now ignore their natural enmity while they battle this larger outside threat.
Director David Slade (30 Days of Night, Hard Candy), new to the series, works from a screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg, who has written all three of the big-screen installments. Her third adaptation offers perhaps the strongest metaphor yet for teen angst, resonating with audiences who recognize in the protagonist’s dilemma their own search for identity as well as brushes with youthful indecision and foolhardiness.
Slade’s film is effectively atmospheric, making splendid use of Howard Shore’s score in forcing the mood on us and, aided by Rosenberg’s script, he is able to pay somewhat more attention to characterization and narrative than did either of his directorial predecessors (Catherine Hardwicke and Chris Weitz).
Additionally, this time it’s not quite so difficult to locate the film’s self-aware and even self-deprecating sense of humor.
Slade’s approach allows his three principals to contribute their strongest and most lived-in performances yet, individually, in tandem, and as a floating, up-close-and-personal romantic triangle.
And their third collaboration results in a standalone movie that does not demand — although it couldn’t hurt — that viewers have seen the first two episodes.
The biggest drawback and limitation, as before, is the inclusion of CGI werewolves. They just don’t work at all. Every time they appear, the melodrama turns into a cartoon and the effectiveness of the overall illusion drifts away like cigarette smoke.
There had to be a better way to handle the werewolf angle.
Anyway, for scoreboard watchers, that’s three down, two to go, because the fourth book in the four-book series will be turned into two movies (à la the Harry Potter series).
So we’ll vamp for 3 stars out of 4 for the ultra-romantic supernatural melodrama, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Fans of the series should give fangs for this undead entry, which just might attract some new blood.