Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some sensuality.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse was the best in the series so far, with improved visuals, direction and storytelling.
Bella is caught in between the two men she loves, vampire Edward who would do anything to protect her, and werewolf Jacob, who doesn't like wearing shirts. But an old danger is lurking in the shadows and the war between the vampires and werewolves of Forks must be put aside in order to save Bella. Victoria, the red head whose boyfriend was killed by Edward is back and ready for revenge. She has put together a group of newborn vampires which are stronger than a typical vampire. Unless old rivalries can be set aside, Bella won't survive to her graduation - which is also the day she has chosen to join the undead. But if Jacob has his way, Bella will fall for him and leave Edward and his brood to the sunlight.
First things first - The Twilight Saga to me isn't great art, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is the ultimate in pop culture in the moment. Even at a 2pm screening on a Wednesday afternoon there were a lot of teenage girls who were squealing the moment Taylor Lautner came on screen. And every other time he came on screen. And it got louder if he had his shirt off or if he was *spoiler alert* kissing Bella. The fact that by the time I got to see the movie, it had already made over $30M from midnight screenings alone tell you how big a phenomenon this movie series is. But let's face it, the movies won't be winning any awards any time soon (except of course, for Teen Choice or MTV Movie awards). That being said, I do enjoy the pop culture aspect of it and I'm also a sucker for vampires. In that context, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is the best film in the series so far for a lot of reasons.
One, the director, David Slade, has done the best job of any so far. The other two movies felt like they were shot on a low budget in someone's backyard. The visuals weren't very elegant and the pacing of the movies was slower. Slade has taken the series to another level with his ability to tell a story and make the movie simply look good. This was the first film that felt like it had a really Hollywood gloss on it. I wish they had kept him around for the last two films, but I admit, I am curious to see what an Oscar-nominated director like Bill Condon can do with this story. Especially since you know what comes next for the love triangle.
And speaking of, isn't the Edward-Bella-Jacob love triangle the single biggest love triangle of all time? And it works, at least for me. You can see why Bella loves Edward... he's good looking, he shines in sunlight, he's protective of her. And yet you can also see why the large majority of my audience feels she should be with Jacob. He's good looking, in much better shape, also protective and most importantly, not dead. The love triangle was the driving force behind the movie. The trailers for these movies play up the action more than the romance. So I tend to forget that these are romance movies with action, as opposed to an action movie with some romance. So while the action certainly picks up in Eclipse, it's not the main focus. Watching Bella go back and forth between Edward and Jacob is what keeps the movie going. And although most of the people who see the movies know how this story turns out, that doesn't stop people from rooting for their choice.
The movie has two parallel story lines that it follows through the film. One is obviously the love triangle. The other involves Victoria (and her disciple Riley) forming the newborn vampire army to take down the Cullen family. The movie focuses more on the romance, but jumps to the other story line often enough that the movie doesn't get bogged down in the lovey-dovey moments. And those moments can be overly sweet but also very funny. I think my favorite moment in the film involves the love triangle participants being forced into a tent together. The tent is on top of a mountain where it's sub-zero and Bella is freezing. Edward can't do anything to help her because he is after all, dead and has no warmth in him. But shirtless Jacob is an overheated werewolf so he snuggles next to Bella in the sleeping bag, which drives Edward nuts. But it's during that scene that the two boys come to an understanding about each other. The scene has just about everything there is to say about the series in it - there's romance, there's fighting, there's cheesy dialogue, there's comedy and there's Taylor Lautner without his shirt.
The action sequences were few and far between for the majority of the film. It's really towards the end that things start to pick up from that standpoint. And visually, special effects included, it was pretty impressive. There was a lot of vampire decapitation, and some good wolf bites as well. It doesn't last for long but it was fun while it did. The one thing that I felt could have gone on longer was the showdown between Edward and Victoria. There's a battle we've been waiting three movies for and while it was a good fight, it could have lasted a few more minutes.
The actors have all gotten better as the movies go on. Robert Pattinson has almost completely lost his 'I'm about to sneeze' look, which is nice. He looks and feels tougher in this movie as well. Taylor Lautner may very well be the one who has the biggest career afterwards, judging by the audience response. And although he had a bunch of cheesy lines, he still sounded reasonable. Kristen Stewart looked the best I've ever seen her in this film. I wish she would have been a little more certain about what she wanted, because she doesn't feel like the tough chick she should be, but she still has time before... well, you'll see.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I liked The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. It's not going to be a big critical favorite, but if you're a fan of the series, or just looking for an escape this summer, you could do worse.