The third film in the Twilight series sees the franchise’s third director in David Slade, while the screenplay, as always, is written by Melissa Rosenberg.
Following on directly from the second film, Eclipse tries to milk the franchise’s triangular love story to maximum effect. Jacob is desperate since he is running out of time: Once Bella has taken the final step, there is no possible path that could lead her back to him. And Edward has to accept that there are moments when Bella needs Jacob.
In addition, there is a new danger emerging that is threatening the Cullens as well as Forks as a whole. The origin of the threat is not entirely clear though, and so some uneasy alliances have to be made.
With this threat apparently being aimed at the Cullens, the family moves slightly more into focus and so the film devotes a few extra minutes to the “origin stories” of Jasper and Rosalie. Jasper especially is gaining some screen-time and Jackson Rathbone is revelling in it. Even Emmet (Kellan Lutz), who is mostly ignored by the script writers throughout the series, gets to show a little bit of personality here.
The performances have not really changed much compared to the previous films, with Taylor Lautner (Jacob) at times still struggling in emotional scenes; while Robert Pattinson seems to breathe a little easier within the franchise now, as if he made peace with the fact that his character (Edward) is atrociously written and he is ready to use what the little the script is giving him to work with.
The film sees new appearances by Xavier Samuel, who makes the best of what the script gives him; and by Bryce Dallas Howard, who has been recast into role that gives her pretty little to do. This film also marks the introduction of the character of Seth into the werewolf pack, and Booboo Stewart nicely transports Seth’s youthful and carefree attitude.
As for the regulars, the high school graduation gives Anna Kendrick a bit more screen-time in which to shine in the role of Jessica; partially at the cost of the other actors who are playing Bella’s core group of school-friends. Billy Burke is in top-form again playing Bella’s father; and Sarah Clarke returns to the franchise as Bella’s mother in a very well-composed scene.
It is not just some of the Cullens that get fleshed out with a bit of a back-story. The franchise’s folklore concerning the local native American tribe and their history with vampires is also expanded quite nicely in one scene.
The “pack mentality” of the young tribes-members with the werewolf-gene is an idea Eclipse plays with. While some of the connected lore feels weird and forced, this “canine” behaviour within the group is actually displayed quite nicely. This was also done in New Moon, but it seems more pronounced here, and while I am not sure if I like it, and am equally unsure if it was necessary for the film, I have to give kudos to the young actors who are pulling this off.
Again, as in the previous film, I am generally happy with the CG-work for the werewolves.
The plot itself is a bit thin, but the story is well-paced, with a number of plot points devoted to the relationship between Edward, Bella, and Jacob. Eclipse also contains a number of the funniest lines and scenes of the entire franchise, including the famous “Doesn’t he own a shirt?”, as well as an awkward conversation between Bella and her father.
The story moves nicely towards an epic battle at its climax, which is a first in the franchise. The fights might not hold up by today’s high standards, but they are entertaining and for my taste sufficiently well choreographed and filmed.
The music by Howard Shore is roughly on par in quality with Desplat’s work in New Moon, but is in parts more martial in character, fitting nicely for the battle scenes and some of the aerial shots.
Eclipse is not exactly great cinema, but it is a perfectly “fine” Young Adult Fiction adaptation. It feels less disjointed than New Moon, but that does not automatically make it a better film. Because most of the franchise’s general problems regarding the writing (in particular the dialogue and some of the characters) of course also affect this film. I rate Eclipse at roughly 6 out of 10.
As mentioned in my New Moon review, the uninterrupted main story that flows from the first all the way to the last film means that the films in between can feel a bit like “bridging” filler-episodes and less like stand-alone films; and it means that it is possibly more enjoyable to watch these films in close succession that it is to watch them with longer intervals in between.