Review in a Hurry: The Twi-hards will adore The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, no matter what. It's made for people who thought the first movie was quality cinema, after all, and for them, our grade may as well be an A+, since it's slightly better than Twilight.
If you're part of that crowd, feel free to stop reading right now.
This review is for everyone else. Those of you who may have heard that Eclipse is supposed to be the best, most action-packed, most mass-appealing of the franchise.
It's not, and here's why:
The Bigger Picture: As if you didn't know, Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner return for the latest installment of will-she-or-won't-she make it with either sensitive vampire or abdominally enhanced werewolf.
In director David Slade's hands, the story plays like two movies in one, neither being particularly well made, whether it's the would-be action horror of a brewing vampire-on-werewolf fight or the endlessly talky Bella-Edward torpor.
Slade was considered an unusual choice as director for this third chapter in the series, a guy who supposedly earned horror cred with the more violent vampire voyage 30 Days of Night. But he has plenty in common with the Twilight series: two previous features that were generally overrated by fans, and a knack for creating characters nowhere near as appealing as they need to be.
His Hard Candy mistook a ballsy premise (teen avenger torments possible pedophile) for art while making neither of its protagonists likable, and 30 Days of Night took some cool vampire designs from an existing comic book and plunged them into a fairly standard thriller template, whose characters I can only remember now because one of them was Josh Hartnett and the rest weren't.
In Eclipse, Slade favors that stuttery, drop-frame, fast-motion style of action directing that looks like he simply shot stuff in slow motion and then sped it up, all while goosing it so that you can't quite make out what's going on.
He gets off one good action sequence early on—a chase through the forest along a river bank, as Bryce Dallas Howard's villainous Victoria leaps back and forth between werewolf and vampire territory while pursued by both. But the final showdown that makes up most of the trailers so far is no Underworld, and it's not like the Underworld movies set a super high standard for that sort of thing.
The plot, for those who care and yet somehow don't know it, goes something like this: Angry, widowed vampiress Victoria, as in New Moon, is continuing her really slow march toward revenge on Edward and Bella for killing her bloodthirsty mate in the first Twilight.
More importantly, as far as fans and the storyline are concerned, Bella continues to blow off Edward's marriage proposals, despite being undoubtedly in love with him, all while selfishly leading on the considerably more rugged and practical wolf-boy Jacob.
Both men want to protect her from the inevitable showdown with Victoria's new apprentice Riley (Xavier Samuel), but—hold your breath here, folks—they can only succeed if they stop bickering long enough to work together.
In fairness, said bickering is by far the highlight of the film. Slade plays the sitcom-ish jabs between both male leads as more obvious camp than prior directors did, giving Stephenie Meyer's earnest world a welcome dose of humor. Here's hoping Bill Condon can continue down that path in the fourth movie.
The 180—a Second Opinion: As is par for the course by now, Billy Burke's Charlie Swan and Anna Kendrick's Jessica steal every scene they're in. Though, frankly, given the way Jessica has been portrayed onscreen, the fact that she's valedictorian in this doesn't speak too highly of Forks High School.
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