by Kellie Abrahamson
As a nearly 30 year old mom of two I’m hardly the target demo for Stephanie Meyer’s vampire romance saga Twilight. But just before the first film was released I found myself cracking open a borrowed copy of the first novel and didn’t put it down until I’d read it from cover to cover. The Twilight books are like crack and I am a slave to my addiction. Having confessed that, I will say that thus far the film versions of Meyer’s work have been hit or miss with me- hated Twilight, loved New Moon. The latest chapter, Eclipse, is by far my favorite of the three. Here’s hoping they can continue this forward momentum with the next two films.
We find our heroine Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) right where we left her: in the icy arms of her vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). While Bella is singularly focused on getting done with high school so that she can join Edward in immortality, her sparkling sweetie has marriage in mind, a thought that gives Bella the heebie jeebies- go figure. Thoughts of either future come to a screeching halt when it’s discovered that an army of newborn vampires is being built in Seattle for the sole purpose of destroying Bella and the Cullens once and for all. With just days to prepare for the coming onslaught and no other vamps to turn to, they’re forced to call on the assistance of the local tribe of shape-shifting werewolves, much to Bella’s consternation. See, her BFF and wannabe suitor Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) is one of the wolves and the indecisive minx doesn’t want to see either of her men get hurt. This disproportionate love triangle is at the core of Eclipse, with snippets of Bella’s normal human life, training sequences, Seattle newborn shenanigans and character back stories thrown in to pave the way for the epic battle at the film’s climax.
Because the books are written, for the most part, from Bella’s perspective, fans had to suffer through her lack of information or participation. Sure, we knew there was a scuffle between the Cullens and Victoria, a vampiress out for blood after Edward killed her mate to protect Bella in the first book. But we didn’t get details because Bella was kept out of the fray. Filmmakers aren’t bound by first person narratives, allowing for the whole story to be told. In Eclipse we see the aforementioned fight and recognize how much of a threat Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) truly is to Bella’s happily ever after. We also get a glimpse into the world of the Seattle newborns and their chaotic, cut-throat existence, something wholly missing from the novel (though it is the subject of Meyer’s new novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner). This unfettered access is what will have fans lining up for midnight screenings and going back for second and third viewings.
Director David Slade comes from a thriller/horror background and that was definitely needed for Eclipse. This is the most action-heavy novel in the series and the story needed someone who would give the newborn vampires some teeth. Slade succeeded in this respect. Even those dragged to the theater by their Twihard loved ones will be impressed by the action sequences. The final confrontation is intense and it’s clear that the special effects budget was amped up and used wisely this time around. Meyer’s vampires are hard as granite and must be dismembered and burned to be killed and the metallic ripping sound that accompanied the first newborn beheading was both shocking and strangely satisfying. At the screening I attended the effect had half of the audience wincing and the other half cheering.
That said, I don’t see non-fans loving everything else. I’m used to how slowly the events unfolded in the books, so to me it felt like things moved at a nice, steady clip. But to someone unfamiliar with the story the pacing might be a tad on the sluggish side. There’s a lot of blah blah blah between the scenes with the good stuff and those not predisposed to hanging off of ever word Edward has to say may find themselves glancing at their watch from time to time. And if you don’t already love the characters there aren’t a lot of redeeming qualities to be found- Edward is too old fashioned and overprotective, Bella is wishy-washy and impetuous, Jacob is stubborn and a tad pushy. This film isn’t meant to stand alone and without the back-story I’m afraid those jumping in at this point simply won’t appreciate it.
For fans, though, Eclipse delivers. It shadows the novel well and keeps all of the must-have scenes intact. It also gives us a window into Meyer’s world that was for so long closed to us: a place where confrontations happen and we actually see them play out. Here’s hoping they continue the trend for Breaking Dawn.
Eclipse: Twilight Saga
by Kellie Abrahamson