Eclipse will be considered by many people to be the best of the Twilight series so far, and it’s easy to see why. It still features the same uneven performances and groan-worthy screenwriting that made the other entries unintentionally humorous, but this time around, the film seems to be at peace with what it is: a soap-opera. No longer is the franchise tussling with its identity; it’s comprised of minimal action, minimal plot, and people talking to each other about the same things over and over again, while being especially dramatic about EVERYTHING. And for what it is, I’d be lying if I said it was the worst thing ever, but it’s still not good.
Eclipse, essentially, is a retread of New Moon, the last entry in the series – the major conflict of the film is still Bella (Kristen Stewart) choosing between Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner), even though it’s 100% obvious what’s going to happen. In that sense, it’s kind of like the last Indiana Jones flick: at no point do you get the sense that these characters are in any real danger. You know Bella is going to choose Edward, you know none of the “good guys” are going to bite the dust, and you know those who deserve it are going to get their just desserts. Maybe it’s because our culture is so saturated in “Twilight Pop” that everyone knows what’s going to happen, or maybe it’s because Melissa Rosenberg once again wrote a half-assed screenplay (it still boggles my mind that she writes Dexter, which is actually GOOD), or maybe it stems further than that to the rather dry source material, which I have yet to make it past the first page on – it’s a thesaurus of adjectives.
The big difference between the two latest entries is that instead of Edward running off to spare Bella a less-than-human life, Victoria (now played by Bryce Dallas Howard) is raising an army of new-born vampires to kill Bella in order to get revenge on the Cullen clan for dispatching James in the first film. Talk about holding a grudge! The newborns are ferocious and more powerful than matured vampires, so the Cullens and Jacob’s clan team up to stop Victoria from carrying out her nefarious plan. And therein lays the reason that the film is being shown on IMAX screens.
Except the fight only lasts 5 minutes. It is, in fact, the biggest squandering of a potentially amazing action sequence I’ve seen in a while. Although not as anti-climactic as New Moon, Eclipse‘s climax, promised to you in the first act, is nothing more than a WWE match with CGI wolves jumping around on screen. It’s staged and shot competently, but it’s still a disappointment. Speaking of fight scenes, there’s a really odd plot hole brought up during the dispatching of the undead: they break like china dolls. During the first film, they tear James into pieces and then set his body on fire. But in Eclipse, their heads crack off and their limbs shatter at the joints. In essence, this is the Obi-Wan debate of the Twilight universe. Granted, it’s an inventive way to showcase violence and replace gore in a film that’s manufactured to be PG-13, but it still doesn’t make a lick of sense.
The majority of the film is still Jacob giving Bella 101 reasons why he’s better for her than Edward, and Edward giving even more reasons why it isn’t a good idea to turn her. The characters are flat and uninteresting, and Bella comes off as a bitch throughout the whole thing, toying with the emotions of both. But yet, you still know the end point, making each of their conversations pointless. And don’t even get me started about this ridiculous laughable scene where Jacob spoons with Bella to keep her warm during a snowstorm while Edward watches in plain sight, inches away. This is source material that’s written because it hates its audience and wants to see them eat up stupidity. But I think David Slade’s previous films, Hard Candy (a flick where two people do nothing but build tension while talking about the same thing over and over again) and 30 Days of Night (a terrible vampire flick with some decent action), has given him the experience needed to elevate the material from crap to poop, and when having to sit through Twilight, I guess that’s not a bad thing in the long run. At least he knew what he was directing, and there’s even some inside jokes thrown into the mix that made me grimace.
Summit’s MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer for Eclipse is easily the best the series has seen yet. Offering a true theatrical representation, the video encode preserves the blue and gray hues perfectly and leaves a fairly noticeable layer of grain while not compromising any detail. No DNR or banding issues are evident, but there are a few minor problems with flesh tones and black levels sprinkled throughout. Its DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack is just as good, providing a crisp and clear presentation of sound effects, music, and dialogue. The three audio aspects never overpower each other, and stay balanced throughout. The Blu-Ray/DVD combo holds a single flipper disc (High-def on one side, standard on the other), with the latter format only carrying the commentaries. The Blu-Ray has all the bonus features, including a Jump-To function which allows you to jump to your favorite scenes based on characters and subjects – I guess people are too lazy to use the chapter section? Most of the bonus features are throwaway, save for the making-of documentary which is surprisingly well done.
In the end, Eclipse is a bad movie that is surprisingly watchable. The cast still has no chemistry with each other whatsoever, but watching Pattinson act with nothing but shifting eyebrows and a strong jawbone is almost as amusing as seeing Lautner act the hell out of every scene with the intensity of 1000 teenage Lotharios while everyone else just collects a paycheck. It doesn’t have the same kitsch value as the first film, but it’s definitely an improvement over New Moon.
Commentary – The first of two tracks is with actors Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, and is on-par with how bad their commentaries have been in the past. There’s little relevant info to be found, and aside from a few on-set stories, they spend most of the time laughing at inside jokes and making fun of Stewart’s wig. The second track, featuring author Stephenie Meyer and producer Wyck Godfrey, is the meatier of the two, offering a lot of technical insight as well as giving Meyers a chance to talk about the adaptation of her novel and what she thinks of certain changes. I didn’t find either one of them to be worth a listen, but if I had to pick, it would be the latter.
The Making Of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (01:28:00) – Split into six parts, this making-of can be viewed as both a picture-in-picture featurette and a stand-alone doc. Part I: Introducing David Slade discusses the director’s past, his methods on-set, and his approach to film in general, which Jackson Rathbone describes as being “wonderfully mechanical”…; Part II: Pre-Production: Setting The Stage showcases the intense physical training everyone had to endure before shooting, as well as the design of certain sets (Cullen house and mountain top) and props (Bella’s ring and quilt); Part III: The Heart Of Eclipse focuses on the love triangle and the history of a few of the Cullens; Part IV: The Dark Side Of Eclipse explains what makes Victoria tick, and the drive behind the newborn vampire army; Part V: Lights, Camera, Action is a mixture of raw footage, outtakes, and floating head interviews from secondary character actors; and Part VI: Post-Production: Leaps In Technology explores the technology and CGI used in the film, with plenty of before and after comparisons . Considering how shallow the movie is, the documentary is surprisingly in-depth and interesting, sans fluff interviews. Much to my amusement, every compliment about Slade dealt with his visual style, and nothing else.
Deleted And Extended Scenes (14:29) – A collection of two deleted – one featuring a conversation between Bella and a friend in her bedroom, and the other having a post-graduation discussion between Bella and her father – and six tedious extended scenes. Slade provides on-screen and audio optional commentary, and hearing him explain the film in a deadpan fashion makes his infamous twitter comments all the more hilarious.
Music Videos (8:39) – Muse’s `Neutron Star Collision’ and Metric’s `Eclipse (All Yours)’ videos are included here, neither one of them being some of their respective artists’ better work.
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