Twilight Saga: Eclipse
There was a time when the primary component of monster movies was, well, monsters. Over the last decade or so there has been a major transmogrification of the genre taking it from the primary focus of a movie to more of a setting or perhaps a recurring theme. There has always been an element of romance in traditional gothic horror that has itself become the center of the action. This holds especially true for movies geared towards the dominant demographic of our time; the tweens. These kids on the verge of becoming teenagers are driving the entertainment industry wielding billions in potential revenue. The major upside of this trend is many of these supernaturally infused movies are based on popular novels written specifically for this youthful audience and I’m all for anything that encourages kids to turn off their electronic devices and open up a book. Still when considering a flick of this nature it is important to remember just who it was crafted to please. While there are certain cinematic elements that are required to gauge how it works as a film in general the story line and plausibility are almost entirely subjective and effectiveness will depended more than usual on the age and gender of the viewer. For a movie such as ‘Twilight Saga Eclipse’ the opinions of an adult male will most likely not coincide with that of a pre-teen girl. With the wild popularity of this saga specifically the plot point featuring a rather unorthodox romantic triangle theaters are besieged by girls wearing either ‘Team Jacob’ or ‘Team Edward’ tee-shirts. My best friend and I decided to counter by having our own shirts made with the face of Max Schreck on it and the caption ‘Team Orlok’ on it. Sadly on one got it. This is how vampires looked when we were their age not the sullen, angst ridden brooding teens prevalent today. As such I decided the fairest way to approach ‘Eclipse would be to consider how well it works at reaching the expectations of its intended audience now matter how distant they may deem to me.
As with the previous two parts of this franchise was created by Stephenie Meyer. With this series wrapping up Meyer is posed to move on to another of her novels, ‘The Host’ that will certainly going to ensure her continued popularity. One thing working in favor of this film as part of a highly successful franchise is continuity in the scripting. Meyer has worked alongside screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg on all three movies so far. As with any adaptation of a novel for the screen some threads and plot points have to be altered or completely removed in the name of dramatic license, continuity and to fit a shorter visually intensive medium. Rosenberg is one of the most successful screenwriters on the scene bringing another literary cult classic, ‘Dexter’ to television as well as teleplays for ‘Birds of Prey’, and teen favorite ‘The O.C.’. This at least is demonstrative of understanding the necessary elements for this story; supernatural, dark compulsions and salacious desires. Taking on the directorial chores for this installment of the Twilight Saga is David Slade. While this is his first time up for the franchise he has a pair of films on his credit sheet that offer a unique perspective on the subject matter. First was another take on film vampires with ’30 Days of Nights’ and the other, ‘Hard Candy’ that suggests a brutal way for a teenage girl to cope with the neighborhood pedophile. Considering, as my daughter so succinctly put it the female lead is caught between bestiality and necrophilia such an offbeat vantage point is beneficial.
In this third film mortal teenage girl, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is caught with warring feelings between those for her true love, vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and the werewolf Native American Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) with whom she has been highly attracted to in the past. As this movie opens Bella is definitely predisposed to captaining ‘Team Edward’ with the two of them flirting with the idea of marriage. Part of this discussion involves the process and timing of turn Bella to join Edward as a vampire. Although well over a century in chorological age Edward was turned just a year younger than Bella’s eighteen years. Bella is not quite ready to marry just yet but Edward won’t turn her until they are wed; a little supernatural twist on saving it until the wedding night. Edward’s sister vampire Alice (Ashley Greene) can glimpse the future seeing the building of a rival vampire nest into an undead army. The Cullen vampire families in order to better protect Bella and defend themselves are forced into an uneasy alliance with Jacob’s werewolf pack. The impending war comes to the attention of the vampire ruling council, the Volturi, who dispatches the ancient yet youthful of appearance vampire Jane (Dakota Fanning), capable of inducing an unimaginable pain with just a thought.
Most of the cast are reprising their roles from the other two movies but taking up the part of the redhead vampire Victoria is Bryce Dallas Howard. Her character is out to kill Bella to avenge the death of her mate on the Cullens. I’ve haven’t been overly impressed with the previous performances given by Ms Stewart. While her affect remains for the most part rather flat she is beginning to show signs of growing into her profession. Albeit she still needs work on her interviewing acumen but hopefully that will shortly improve as well. The true scene stealer here is Dakota Fanning. Although the youngest member of the cast she has a decade of experience honing her craft so that even in a smaller role such as this one she provides a powerful, pivotal performance. Of course many of the members of the audience are not interested as much in performances as they are in the special effects and in that quarter the film is magnificent. When one of the perpetually shirtless boys turns into a werewolf the change takes a mere frame or two giving a jump cut that increases the impact of the effect. This is the best of the films so far. The first movie suffered from the usual heavy exposition of an origin flick required to set the parameters for the ‘universe’ and introduce the characters. The second film continued this with additional background on the vampire hierarchy and explaining the influence of the werewolves. By this third movie the basics are well established and the film maker is free to get right into the action.