The Twilight Saga is perhaps the most polarizing film series of this generation, but regardless of its many critics, one fact is unavoidable. The series, based on the novels by Stephanie Meyer, is a veritable cash cow, with 2008s Twilight and 2009s New Moon having earned a combined domestic box office total of nearly $500 million.
The third entry, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, is poised to repeat or even exceed the financial success of its predecessors, having earned more than $30 million at midnight screenings Wednesday. But, while its blockbuster status is far beyond contention, the question remains: Is the new film worth watching for anyone whos not a part of the seriesrabid fan base.
The answer is a definitive yes.
The plot of Eclipse involves a string of mysterious killings that forces the vampires and werewolves to form an uneasy alliance, but its true focus is the never-ending love triangle between Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), brooding vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and Bellas childhood friend/werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). As it stands, Bella is on the verge of surrendering her humanity to become Edwards vampire bride, and this propels Jacob into a last-ditch effort to win her heart before its too late.
But while New Moon dealt with Bellas dilemma in a pretentious manner that made you wonder why these two guys are fighting over her in the first place, screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, showrunner of Showtimes hit series Dexter, injects this entry with a wry sense of humor that allows both the cast and the audience to have some fun with it all.
The entire cast delivers significantly improved performances. Pattinson and Stewart finally get the chance to expand upon their one-note romance, making their characters more likable than before. A number of key scenes between the two still feel a bit awkward, as the actors continue to lack chemistry, but at least their story is finally moving forward.
Stewart in particular fares well. Scenes between Bella and both of her parents add a bit of gravitas to the film, given her impending graduation from high school and her decision to join the Cullen clan as a member of the undead. It also helps the film that Stewart shares much screen time with Lautner, who easily steals the film as Jacob.
Eclipse positions Jacob as the nice guy who stands to offer Bella the normal human life she deserves (well, as normal as a werewolf can provide), and Lautner totally taps into the earnestness of the character. Despite Bellas flightiness, the audience believes that Jacob genuinely loves her, and the film gives him some genuine dramatic moments to play both with Stewart and Pattinson.
In fact, one of the best scenes involves an honest conversation between Edward and Jacob over which of them Bella should be with. Its the first time the audience really gets a glimpse into the dynamic between the two men, and while both Team Edward and Team Jacob each have their supporters, the film makes a solid case for both sides.
However, while the rivalry between vampire and werewolf is at the heart of Eclipse, the film -- unlike its predecessors -- doesnt fall in love with its own mythology, instead gently nudging the audience with quick stabs at humor that keeps the pace moving quickly and viewers engrossed in the story onscreen.
What Didnt Work
The films ostensible main plotline is uninteresting and exists solely to pit Edward and Jacob against each other for Bellas affections. The newborn vampires who carry out the aforementioned killing spree are unconvincing, and while their intended purpose is obvious, their scenes only serve to slow down the films momentum.
Director David Slade, who previously helmed vampire thriller 30 Days of Night and indie favorite Hard Candy, takes advantage of every opportunity to counter the scripts casual humor with a dark, menacing atmosphere by sprinkling in scenes of this havoc throughout the film, and while his attempts are not entirely in vain, one wonders if the film would have been better off leaving this killing rampage up to the imagination.
Furthermore, Bryce Dallas Howard steps into the role of the villainous Victoria, who has sought vengeance against Edward and Bella since the end of the first film. And yet, despite her considerable talents, Howard doesnt really contribute much to the film. Her screen time is severely limited and the character is never explored beyond even her superficial villain status. When she finally does appear in the films final act, its too little, too late as the audience isnt invested enough in her character to care.
Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Bryce Dallas Howard. It was written by Melissa Rosenberg and directed by David Slade. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is now playing in theaters.
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