MOVIE REVIEW: Eclipse movie reviewer Paul Daza on why the made-for-tween movie, <em>Eclipse</em>, works.

The third time’s the charm for the Twilight movie saga, whose third installment, Eclipse, is in theaters now.

You would be forgiven for thinking that Eclipse was directed by a woman, just like the very first Twilight film, which was helmed by Catherine Hardwicke. Eclipse begins in an idyllic, sun-kissed field of colorful flowers, where Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) are gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes, talking about the future and the problems they face because she is a normal, mortal being and he is an immortal vampire. Later in the story, the audience is repeatedly shown a clutch of muscular, bare-chested men who look like they’ve been gathered for a Cosmopolitan bachelor photo shoot. As it turns out, they’re not beefcake models, but werewolves who prefer not to wear shirts because such clothes would be ruined if they suddenly had to morph into their hairier alter-egos. Getting more close-ups than the other werewolves is Jacob (Taylor Lautner), whose love for Bella is the third side of a love triangle that has made the Twilight saga a book and movie phenomenon for millions of teens and tweens all over the world.

As it turns out, Eclipse was NOT directed by a woman, but by the talented David Slade, who also helmed the stylish 2007 vampire movie 30 Days of Night. Slade appears to be just what the doctor ordered, because Eclipse, based on the third bestselling book in the saga by Stephenie Meyer, is superior to the previous Twilight movie, the yawn-inducing New Moon, especially in terms of story and pacing. (FYI, New Moon was directed by Chris Weitz, male).


In Eclipse, Bella is getting ready for college and looking forward to marrying Edward and becoming a vampire herself. Complicating their "we’re-from-different-worlds" relationship is the werewolf Jacob, who’s convinced that Bella also has feelings for him. Problem is, Bella might not even live to choose between Edward and Jacob, because the vampires behind a series of murders in Seattle have targeted her as well, and are headed toward her town of Forks, Washington to settle a score. It is while Edward, Bella, and Jacob are waiting on a mountain for this attack that the film’s best line is said. As Bella shivers from the biting cold winter evening, Jacob offers to keep her warm by hugging her tight. He looks at the jealous Edward straight in the eye and says, "I’m hotter than you are." It’s a priceless double entendre, delivered perfectly by Taylor Lautner.


What makes Eclipse more compulsively watchable than New Moon (where Edward was absent for most of the film) are the many scenes where Robert Pattinson as Edward and Taylor Lautner as Jacob are trying to impress Kristen Stewart’s Bella with their "qualities." In this contest of one-upmanship between vampire and werewolf, director David Slade makes viewers chuckle and hoot simply by giving the characters many opportunities to throw jealous glances at the other, and by repeatedly contrasting the pale, sensitive, skinny Edward with the buff, animalistic Jacob. It’s a tribute to Slade that even though he’s a man, he knows exactly which buttons to push to thrill the mostly female fans of the movie, who reacted tirelessly with girlish squeals and giggles in the screening I attended.


And lest male moviegoers fret that there’s nothing for them to enjoy in Eclipse, there are several visceral and kinetic fight scenes involving vampires and humans that are quite exciting, including the climactic confrontation that’s all the more beautiful to watch because it takes place in a snowy winterscape.

A few quibbles. That Eclipse is "only" a mid-priced Hollywood movie (its budget is reportedly US$68 million) is obvious in the B-level quality of the visual effects and in the dull depiction of Seattle. The special effects aren’t special at all, especially in their treatment of the werewolves, which move more like computer-animated creatures than living, breathing animals. The vampire attacks in Seattle, on the other hand, look like they could have been filmed anywhere, since they’re staged in dark streets with nondescript walls that one can find in any city in the world. Good thing though that there are enough sweeping aerial shots of Bella’s picturesque home town, with its beckoning mountains and swoon-inducing seashores, that will make you want to take a vacation there, pronto.

And speaking of Bella, why hasn’t Kristen Stewart’s acting improved or become more seasoned? This is her third time to portray Bella Swan, but she doesn’t appear to be any more mature here than she was when we met her in Twilight. The most important line she has to utter in Eclipse is "Kiss me," but her delivery falls flat and doesn’t make you gasp the way you know the line should.


As a whole, though, Eclipse works. After stumbling with New Moon, the Twilight movie franchise is on the right track again. For those like me who have not read any of Stephenie Meyer’s phenomenally popular books, the Eclipse movie is a convincing argument for why these books and movies have seized the imaginations of young people all over the world.

Rating: . •••. 3.5 Spots.

Check to see where the movie is showing.

Photographs from Summit Entertainment.

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