The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is one of those movies that is in…well…it is in a bit of a rare situation. The Twilight franchise is loved by teenage girls the world over, but reviled by boys. Many are begrudgingly dragged to see each of these films, sitting through what feels like an eternity of ab shots and absurdly stylish hair. The rare few dragged in see the films for what they are, fantasy escapism on par with those old romance novels, but for the younger set. At least that is what you could easily classify the first two films in the franchise as. To my complete and utter shock, this third movie – Eclipse – is something a little different. It has a bit of an edge to it, something we can thank director David Slade for, which actually nicely elevates it over previous franchise installments.
In “Eclipse,” Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger as Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob — knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf. With her graduation quickly approaching, Bella is confronted with the most important decision of her life.
Before I continue, don’t get the impression that this film is on par with the likes of the Harry Potter franchise. It’s not….not even close. Many of the same problems remain, which I’ll touch upon later, but Slade manages to nicely balance the teenage melodrama and monster madness quite nicely. Yes, the emphasis is still on the love triangle between Bella (the girl), Jacob (the wolf) and Edward (the vampire), but it’s handled in a way that it feels more natural in context of the entire movie. As bizarre as this may sound, Slade makes you actually…care about what “team” you’re on here, and he does that by making sure the monster aspects to the story isn’t brushed aside. In addition, he actually makes the three main characters seem like…actual characters. Not just caricatures or vessels, but actual characters forced to make some heavy life choices.
Still, we do get some ridiculous moments to balance out the above. There still seems to be an extraordinary amount of shirtless-ness on Jacob’s behalf, and snuggling with Bella, mostly for what seem to be ludicrous reasons but, again, this is a movie with sparkling vampires and ridiculously hunky werewolves. It can induce some major eye-rolling, but it’s worth it for the excellent climactic battle scene at the end of the flick.
Suffice it to say, many of the same problems do remain from the previous movies. There’s some really rough dialogue, lots of repetition, and the plotting sometimes seems a bit…trite…, but some of that seems forgivable with Slade’s guidance. He makes some of the tough choices that need to be made feel palpable and real, that they are something actually tangible instead of vague, lifeless words. The character of Bella came off as just an empty vessel in the previous installments, but not so much here. Keep in mind that I wasn’t a fan of the first two installments, nor do I find the books all that engaging, but that changed here. I even think this movie is easy accessible to those new to the franchise. In all honesty, you didn’t miss much in the first two movies as things truly get interesting here in Eclipse, since Bella is basically forced to move her character forward.
And Bella needing to make her choice feels like a nice resolution after what can be perceived as three long films. It feels like we’re finally getting some pay-off that not only wraps up a couple plot lines here and there, but naturally leads toward the next installment of the story (titled Breaking Dawn).
What also helps sell the movie is that the entire cast seems to be enjoying themselves a bit more. After meandering around for the past two movies, the overall plot seems to be pushing ahead. Characters need to make decisions and complications arise. Sure, this is all wrapped up in a world of vampires and werewolves and such, but at least here that doesn’t seem to be as much of a crutch as in the previous movies. Instead, the film focuses on conflict and consequence, and it works. Yeah, the acting is still pretty middle-of-the-road and such, but it feels as though the actors are more involved in what happens, that things are finally getting interesting (and in all honesty…things finally are). Main stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner don’t really bring anything new to the table, but at least it looks like they’re have a good time. In fact, it seems like everyone – even the somewhat over-the-top villains – are in on the fun.
It likely won’t win any notable awards, but this installment is a major step up in quality from the previous flicks. Plus, for those who aren’t exactly the target demographic, this movie it actually tolerable and admittedly watchable. It’s a good movie, plain and simple. Nothing outstanding for us outside the film’s desired audience, but I also wouldn’t change the channel or switch the disc if I came across it on the television. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is still very much a teenage love drama, although now all of that is nicely balanced with some genuine tension and well-done action sequences. Recommended.
Summit Entertainment (E1 Entertainment in Canada) has released The Twilight Saga: Eclipse in a host of different formats, in both high-definition Blu-ray and standard definition DVD. Here we have the Two-Disc Special Edition DVD release, easily the most popular edition of the movie.
On the audio/video front, Summit Entertainment knew they couldn’t risk bungling this up and, thankfully, they manage to pull off a real solid presentation for the movie. The film’s grey color scheme comes off well, giving everything a dark and almost sinister texture to it. The blacks aren’t as dark as they should be, but it’s no problem as the film’s color palette is reproduced nicely here. The audio is clean and crisp, never wavering as the film bounces from it’s moody score to major battles to quiet, contemplative moments. All are executed well here, with no complaints.
The accolades continue on the bonus feature front with The Twilight Saga: Eclipse getting a nice rundown of bonus feature content on this nifty two-disc set.
First up are two feature-length commentaries, one done by actors Pattison and Stewart, the other by author Stephanie Meyer producer Wyck Godfrey. The Pattison/Stewart affair is pretty light, the two occasionally droping interesting bits of information between giggle fits. The Meyer/Godfrey track is much more detailed, with both discussing themes of the book, thoughts on the adapting from page to screen and the like. Definitely a more interesting track and worth a listen.
Moving on, next up is a nearly 90-minute documentary made up of a series of featurettes covering different aspects of the film’s creation. Most of it is fairly light EPK material, but there’s an extreme wealth of behind the-scenes breakdowns, like a look at the stunts and props, the directing, etc. Stick through the the light material and you’ll definitely enjoy how in-depth these featurettes can get concerning the film’s production.
The two-disc set is then rounded off with some deleted/extended scenes, which don’t really add anything and deserved to remain on the cutting room floor, a photo gallery, the ability to view only the Edward or Jacob scenes from the movie, and some music videos. No theatrical trailers, disappointingly. A fair collection of extras I must admit, no doubt to the pleasure of many Twi-hard fans.
To wrap up, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse isn’t the horrible movie that many detractors have made it out to be. It’s nothing special, true, but it’s a definite a step-up from the previous installments in the Twilight franchise. And for those who do not have the capabilities to watch Blu-ray, the Two-Disc Special Edition DVD release of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is the way to go. However, pick up the Blu-ray edition if you can for its superior quality. Recommended.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is now available to own on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, Two-Disc Special Edition DVD and a Movie-Only One-Disc DVD release.