“Eclipse” Eclipses Its Two Predecessors

Vampires and werewolves and the Volturi! Oh my!

Yes, unless you have been comatose, you know that all of these made their triumphant return to the big screen on Wednesday at midnight when “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” opened nationwide. This is the third film based upon the best-selling novels written by Stephenie Meyer. The first two films in the series, “Twilight” and “New Moon,” were released in November of 2008 and 2009, and they have earned in excess of $1.1 billion at the box office around the world so far. There is no reason believe that “Eclipse” will be any less successful than its two predecessors.

In “Eclipse” the love triangle of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), and werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) reaches its apex as Bella tries to convince Edward to “change” her by biting her and thereby turning her into a vampire. But Edward is an atypically honorable bloodsucker who wants Bella to marry him before he chomps on her neck to give her eternal life. And, of course, the hunky Jacob wants Bella for himself.

In the meantime, the evil Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) desperately wants to kill Bella to avenge the loss of her lover, whom Edward killed while defending Bella. To make matters even worse for the Cullens, a band of newly turned vampires who are particularly vicious are on their way to Forks to aid Victoria in killing Bella. Now the Cullens and the Wolfpack must form an unlikely alliance to protect Bella and thwart Victoria’s plan for vengeance. And the Cullens must also beware of upsetting the Volturi, the equivalent of the vampire Mafia, that wants to make sure Bella becomes immortal.

Although I have not read Meyer’s novels, I have seen all three films based upon them, and I definitely enjoyed “Eclipse” the most, but I would recommend that everyone see them in order because the tension builds consistently throughout all of them. I have watched a lot of vampire films in my day, and what intrigues me about these films is how they manage to convey the idea of incredible violence without drenching the screen in gallons of fake blood.

Stewart, Pattinson, and Lautner once again triumph in their respective roles of Bella, Edward, and Jacob. These three young stars have attained a mastery of communicating their thoughts and emotions through their facial expressions and the looks in their eyes. All of them have managed to turn brooding into a high art form, and why in the hell would they be happy anyway? Edward is 109 years old and desperately wants to marry a high school senior whom he is hesitant to turn into one of his own. Bella is torn between the sulky, pasty-skinned Edward and the hunky Jacob with warm blood coursing through his veins. And Jacob is a novice werewolf who realizes that Bella prefers Edward to him. Yes, life pretty much sucks for all of them.

It should come as no surprise that Stewart, Pattinson, and Lautner are so successful in portraying their respective characters. After all, this is their third film playing the same parts. Nevertheless, I can picture no one else playing these characters, and the most amazing physical transformation throughout the films is Lautner’s. This guy must have spent hours at the gym, and he now sports an abdominal six-pack that would make Rocky Balboa envious.

In the supporting roles, the consistently superb Dakota Fanning excels in her all too brief role as Jane, a leader of the Volturi, and Howard is sufficiently loathsome as the irrepressible Victoria. And the computer-generated werewolves are absolutely spectacular. They are magnificent animals, and you would swear that they are real.

In addition to the lack of copious blood, the Twilight Saga is unique in that it is more about maturing, relationships, and making choices than it is about horror. In the film’s production notes, Meyer offered some insight into her books.

“For me the biggest theme was always about having to face the consequences of your choices, and that even the right choices have consequences, and not making a choice has a consequence. One of the biggest things about growing up is that grownups realize, if I do A then I have to deal with B, and they take that into account. Bella has to become a grownup and start dealing with the consequences of her actions.”

Pattison also added some interesting insight to the film.

“The first film is about new love. The second film is about loss. This film is about just how difficult a relationship can be when it’s real. It’s become a committed relationship, which makes this more difficult because Edward has definitely decided to very much become a part of Bella’s world. Edward has been quite similar in the last two movies because he’d been allowed to live in a very isolated way. Now, he’s accepting the fact that he’s in a real relationship with Bella, it means that he has to become part of the real world and actually integrate himself and become more human. He’d been living so aloof, that it’s quite difficult to get up to speed and behave normally and feel everyday emotions that normal people feel. Dealing with that becomes quite difficult when you haven’t done it so long and you’re forced into doing it. He finds it very difficult to be normal because he can’t remember.”

As you would expect, the ending of “Eclipse,” (Let’s give it a final score of 7.) sets us up for the fourth movie in the series. I’m not world’s biggest fan of this saga, but the films have aroused my interest to the point that I will definitely watch the next one. And if Bella and Edward don’t finally become Mr. and Mrs. Undead, it will really suck!

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