Director: David Slade
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard, Xavier Samuel, Jackson Rathbone, Billy Burke
Blood rushes to the head of any girl within 10 miles of Eclipse, the third instalment in the Twilight phenomenon. And who can blame them? It's got Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, and Kristen Stewart all on the same screen at the same time. And they take their tops off. Plus there's the whole blood-sucking face-biting sex-driving impulses going on. But putting aside the fangirl hype and hormonal overload, the main question is this: is Eclipse fun to watch? The answer? Yes. Yes it is.
The thing that helps is that Eclipse has a plot. Clocking in 10 minutes shorter than New Moon's bloated sequel, Eclipse has a structure to fit its hormones around; instead of allowing its emo stars to mope aimlessly around the icy woodlands, director David Slade has reined in the Twilight saga, giving the story a clear climax to build towards.
Bella (Stewart) is still in the same situation as when we last left her - blinking lots, biting her lip, and torn between two men who both keep declaring their undying love. One of them, the undead Edward Cullen (Pattinson), is ridiculously good-looking. The other, shapeshifting werewolf Jacob (Lautner), is ridiculously good-looking. They both stand around being ridiculously good-looking while occasionally running quickly through trees. This bit is the action part of the story.
But here Slade has recaptured some of the original film's excitement - bitter redhead vamp Victoria (a needlessly recast Bryce Dallas Howard) wants revenge against the Cullens. So she bites a bunch of Seattle kids, raising up missing local Riley Biers (Samuel) to lead her angry, menacing newborn army. The resulting showdown is a well orchestrated set piece after some slightly over-earnest emoting. They even get Howard Shore in to rip-off his own Lord of the Rings soundtrack.
Ignoring the shoddy CGI end to the conflict, Slade's camera keeps everything dynamic in between pouts. Most surprising of all is the inclusion of a joke, when Jacob uses his body heat to prevent Bella from freezing mid-snowstorm, something Edward can't do: "I'm hotter than you" he smirks, drawing whoops from certain members of the audience. The writing is better all round; Melissa Rosenberg's screenplay is more organised, smoothly fitting in flashbacks from the bloody past of Jasper (Rathbone) and Rosalie, both of which are satisfying.
Jasper, in fact, has a far meatier role to play, and he laps it up, all orange eyes and curly hair. Charlie (Burke), too, steals back some screen time as the snarky, well-meaning father. But this is the Bella, Edward and Jacob show, and the stars are quick to remind us: they are paler, sadder, and more annoying than ever before. Every chance she gets, Stewart shouts out Jacob's name with all the force of a lovesick chicken. Even Robert Pattinson's ears have gotten bigger. But with Jacob topless for most of the movie, diehard fans will easily be kept happy. The surprising thing? The rest of us will as well.
Over-acted but not over-long, Eclipse is a step up from New Moon. It doesn't reach the heights of Catherine Hardwicke's first film, but this trashy horror romance has rediscovered something vital: a pulse.
It benefitted from some real asides from the other cast members and from a decent composer (Desplat SUCKS, I'm sorry), but NOTHING could make the franchise take itself seriously.
And I'm really pissed off that they recast Victoria.