You knew it was coming. Love the Twilight series or hate it, the third film in the series, Eclipse, will be unleashed with a resounding boom on June 30th, just over seven months after the release of $700 million global hit New Moon. Whether Eclipse can reach the same box-office heights remains to be seen, although horror fans specifically may find this installment rather more appealing considering it was directed by David Slade, the man who helmed a decidedly more hard-edged take on the vampire myth with 30 Days of Night back in 2007. At the very least it bodes well for the film’s visual style, taking into account the flair Slade brought to both Night and his debut film, twisted “molestation thriller” Hard Candy.
“I really wanted to make sure his character was dangerous“, said the director. “I really wanted to bring out the carnivore in him, because he has to get his character arc from someone who’s just relieved to have his reason for existing back [meaning his reunion with Bella in the third act of 'New Moon'], to killing and decapitating [someone] with his teeth…and I think that was the big thing, it was a case of trying to look at every scene with that in mind. That underlying this is this danger. Underlying everything is this danger. And it’s a different way of looking at the character completely.”
“I guess he was really fighting not to make [Edward] so…solemn, I guess“, said Pattinson, looking less “gloomy Brit” than “California dreamboat” in plaid yellow shirt and sun-kissed complexion. “Just to sort of speed things up, which is a massive deal because Edward’s always in my eyes been sort of calculated and everything is so not rash, any of his decisions. And David wanted to speed up the whole thing.”
For those who felt New Moon was a total slog (myself included), this description may come as welcome news. While the Jacob-Bella-Edward love triangle remains the axis the entire rest of the film spins around, Eclipse indeed boasts more action sequences per pound than the second movie, including a third act battle Royale involving a mess of werewolves and vampires. The sheer number of the bloodsuckers has also increased, what with red-haired hellraiser Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, taking over the role from Rachelle Lefevre) creating a “Newborn army” of vampires (led by just-bitten neophyte Riley, aka yummy Aussie import and Loved Ones star Xavier Samuel) to hunt down and murder Bella in revenge for Edward’s killing of her vampire lover James in the first movie.
“I think there’s an epic scale to this movie, to this chapter of the saga, that is probably unique and distinct to ‘Eclipse’“, said Howard, a statuesque, gorgeous redhead with a down-to-earth vibe belying her Hollywood upbringing as the daughter of famous father Ron Howard. “The story does culminate in this massive battle sequence at the end. I mean, there’s multiple threats, like the strike between the wolf clan and the Cullens and then the Volturi, and then Victoria is after Bella, Riley is after Bella, and the Cullens and whatnot…so it definitely became kind of like an epic action film in many ways.”
“If you like the first and second movies, then you are definitely gonna like this movie“, said beefcake-y “sexpot” Taylor Lautner – who to my eyes resembles a baby-faced 12-year-old on anabolic steroids – when it came his turn at the podium. “And if you haven’t seen the first or second movies you’re still gonna like it. It basically takes everything – the romance, the action, the suspense, the danger – everything in the first two movies, and times that by five in this one. It’s by far my favorite movie. It’s exciting, it’s very dangerous. We’re at war the entire time.”
Perhaps realizing the painful inertia of the Chris Weitz-directed second installment, screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg for her part described how she was able to keep ‘Eclipse’ a more evenly paced affair, especially considering that in the book the majority of the action takes place in the final act. Part of this was done by dramatizing the background stories of specific members of the Cullen clan, including Rosalie as a ’30s society girl taking revenge on her murderous lover and Jasper as a Civil War-era soldier set upon by a group of hungry succubae.
“They were great fun to do; to me, ‘Eclipse’ had the great backstories, which again would make fantastic stories…on [their] own“, said Slade about filming these sequences. “The sad part was how little we could show…it was just impractical, we just couldn’t do it…but it was great to do a western, a ’30s period piece, a 1600s historical piece and a contemporary film at once.”
Another difference between this film and the previous two installments is the sly sense of humor running through, an acknowledgement of the series’ more eye-rollingly over-the-top elements. For nearly every scene with a shirtless Jacob, there’s an accompanying quip to draw out the absurdity of his buffed and tanned bod reclining in affected rebel posture in the midst of the grey Washington landscape. According to Rosenberg, this more knowing tone was something she’d brought to the script of the first ‘Twilight’ film before other forces ended up coming into play.
“It’s interesting, when I first did the first movie I actually wrote it before it was cast and writing in a vacuum, and it actually had a lot of humor in it“, she intoned in her Geena Davis sound-alike voice. “And then we realized as we got [our actors] that it just wasn’t appropriate.”
Producer Wyck Godfrey, who Rosenberg credited with one of the movie’s more memorable comedic lines, also acknowledged the heightened sense of fun in this installment. “There’s also a comfort level that people have with each other“, he said from behind a pair of insanely large black-rimmed glasses. “When you first meet someone sometimes you’re less able to go to the comedic place than you are once you’ve known each other for awhile. And I feel like as an audience member you wanna experience the progression of the characters as well as you the audience and appreciate when they are starting to be easier with each other and more casual in the face of heightened drama, which ‘Eclipse’ certainly has.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be ‘Twilight’ without the love triangle, and Slade certainly doesn’t shy away from the more romantic elements that are the franchise’s reason for being. His penchant for close-up shots in particular is quite prevalent throughout the film, in order to give a heightened sense of the passion and enchantment that exists between Bella and Edward. Said Godfrey: “In the romantic scenes it creates an incredible sense of intimacy. You really feel like there’s just these two people in that world, and I think that was really effective in the movie.”
Kristen Stewart, as frustratingly dodgy and prone to switching gears in the middle of a sentence as ever, did manage to make a semi-coherent observation regarding ‘Eclipse”s culmination of the love-struck melodrama between the three leads. “Yeah, there’s definitely a conflict…[Bella is] pushed to the point where the decision [whether to choose Edward or Jacob] needs to be made in this one…and she makes the choice.”
At the end of the day, I realize that most hardcore horror enthusiasts will fail to be swayed into seeing ‘Eclipse’ by reading this article. The fact remains that the ‘Twilight’ films are aimed primarily at tween girls, despite the makers’ attempts at broadening the fanbase. Not that they need to – $700 million dollars is a nice little chunk of change, and speaks to the tendency of Justin Bieber fans to see a film more than once in theaters.
Even a hardened horror enthusiast such as myself, though, is interested – if only marginally – in seeing how Summit and director Bill Condon are able to rein in the more disturbing, adult elements of next installment ‘Breaking Dawn’ (being filmed as two separate movies), the first of which begins shooting this October. These elements include Bella giving violent birth to Edward’s vampire baby before herself being turned into one of the bloodsuckers, and Jacob developing, shall we say, instant romantic feelings for the female newborn. Does all of this mean, then, that we can finally expect an ‘R’-rated ‘Twilight’ film?
“My guess is that it’ll be PG-13“, said Stewart. “I have no idea, I mean I guess we’ll all see when it comes out.”
‘Eclipse’ arrives in theaters June 30.