I am not a Twi-hard. I am not a Twilighter, a Twi-fan or even a Twi-mom, given I have no children. I am not a variation on any of those titles. But I am also not a hater. But in a world of film critics who love to hate Twilight, I stand apart. I am a huge fan of the books and by connection a tentative fan of the films. As this is an anomaly in film critic-dom, I feel it’s necessary to share my findings and my regrettably unique perspective — that being that I was probably one of few critics not going into “Twilight: Eclipse” completely ready to hate it and one of the few fans not going in to deify it.
The notes I took during the film read much like the truncated exclamations that punctuate the Twilight books — “Campy,” “Thrilling,” “Sexy,” “Scary.” But the one word that preceded more nouns than any other was simply “Better.” No one can say that the Twilight films, separately or together, make a completely respectable piece of art. But they’re getting better.
Written by: Melissa Rosenberg (screenplay)
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner
David Slade takes the helm on the latest film in the franchise and with his background in the horror genre (“Hard Candy”) brings back the campy feel that made the original “Twilight” lovable in its own way. This isn’t the gold-flecked, Italian painting style that we saw in New Moon. We aren’t watching a series of sappy, dialogue-less montages set to a soundtrack of Muse tunes. “Eclipse” brings back the dark, (and yet, somehow lighter with more quippy one-liners and less vampiric, love-lorn brooding) sopping wet Forks, Washington readers fell in love with in 2007.
The greatest improvement in Eclipse is the writing. Slade thankfully got rid of all the pain-drenched kissing and whiny declarations of love. He replaced it with (at times) witty dialogue, and what’s more, he used LINES FROM THE BOOK. What a revolutionary idea. As “Eclipse” was my favorite book, it pleased me to no end that the tent and bedroom scenes were left verbally in tact. After all, this why we go to see movies made from our favorite books in the first place — to see the complete incarnation of the scenes we’ve imagined a thousand times, without any interference from less-than-stellar screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg.
But Slade doesn’t just succeed by sticking to the books — he weaves in themes that are absent from the books but completely fitting. This is a relieving change of pace, especially when you’re watching a film where you’re certain there won’t be any real surprises. Slade knows his strengths, too. He gives Oscar-nominee Anna Kendrick the spotlight to deliver a, in the hands of a less-talented actress then Kendrick, generic graduation speech that draws uncomfortable parallels between Bella, who is about to become a vampire, and other normal teenagers (“This is our time to make mistakes, because nothing is permanent.” Well, except that whole undead thing).
The film has an air of self-deprication that saves it in many scenes. Slade gave the characters the freedom to make fun of themselves, which alleviated so much unnecessary tension. He did this primarily through one-liners that smacked the characters back in place just as they were about to head down a path of overly-moody dialogue.
“Oh, believe me, I want to,” Edward (Robert Pattinson) says, cracking a smile after denying Bella (Kristen Stewart) sex before marriage. The moment needed a lift, especially when trying to convince audiences that two people in love shouldn’t make love is a hard sell.
“I kissed Bella,” Jacob (Taylor Lautner) growls at Charlie (Billy Burke). But then he falters. “….and she broke her hand. Punching my face. It was a little misunderstanding.”
“I’m a VIRGIN!” Bella exclaims to Charlie during one of the best scenes of the film where Charlie and Bella have “The Talk.”
But it’s not all one-liners. Slade doesn’t sacrifice emotional intensity. At the climax of the film when the furious, red-eyed vampire Riley Biers (Xavier Samuels) growls “You’re dead” at Edward, you believe him.
Slade also centers much of the film around newborn vampire Riley, who was virtually nonexistent in the book. Riley, a Forks native, plays the right hand man of “Eclipse”s villain, Victoria. Shortly after she turned him, she sent him off to rally a vampire army that would take on the Cullen clan. “I will end the Cullen clan,” he says, flashing his sharp new vampire teeth. Slade draws a comparison between the story of Riley and that of Jasper Hale, who had a similar beginning to his vampire life. Unlike Riley, Jasper and his hokey southern accent made it out of his first bad vampire relationship alive. There is, however, an unnecessary and unsettling scene in Jasper’s flashback where he kills a newborn vampire who couldn’t have been more than fourteen years old.
Some other tid-bits that Twilight fans (who aren’t going to read this before they see the movie anyway, because they’ve all been lined up outside the theaters since yesterday morning) will be glad to know — the sparkle effect is tasteful and rarely used, and the accompanying wind chime sound effect is noticeably, and thankfully, absent. Jacob has his shirt off for most of the film. This will be a relief to fans and critics alike, since fans will appreciate his abs and critics will appreciate not having to see him take off his shirt at every potentially quivery moment. And there is a lot of making out. That’s all I have to say about that (to borrow a line from a much better movie).
If you’re not waiting in line at this very moment to see “Eclipse,” give it a shot. It’s better than the first two and is at least worth it for the action scenes.