Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse – review

Director: David Slade

Release date: 2010

Contains spoilers

Let us recap – I rather liked the books as I felt that, despite not being the best or most original prose in the world, Stephanie Meyer wrote a good character. As the series progressed she ramped up the supernatural peril and wasn’t too in your face with her cockeyed views on social morality and religious ethics (probably because the writing wasn’t strong enough).

When it came to the films we had a problem. The first film, Twilight, looked pretty but needed a fast forward button. I rather liked Robert Pattinson’s performance as Edward but Kristen Stewart as Bella was flat, one-dimensional and all in all it was a very poor performance. By the second film, the Twilight Saga: New Moon, things went horribly wrong. Pattinson obviously felt guilty about acting when his real life girlfriend didn't and so didn’t either. Those lesser characters with good actors were side-lined, perhaps so as not to out-perform the main stars. Ashley Greene as Alice suddenly emerged as the only thing worth watching in the film. So, what a surprise, in this Ashley Greene has been side-lined with very little to do.

the romance sludges on
So, over-all there is the continuing angst filled Bella, Edward and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) love triangle that less simmers and more sludges along with the intensity of a dead mackerel. This is not the love of the century, at least in these young actors' inexperienced hands. To be fair there is a little more chemistry between Pattinson and Stewart in this one, probably spilling in from their real life romance, but they provide no depth to their characters and thus no depth to their love.

Victoria and Riley
So, it’s bad then? Well, let us explore the supernatural peril side and the change in director. David Slade was brought in, who you will know as the director of 30 Days of Night; a horror/action film. As the main film plot concerns the building of an army of vampires, by Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard), one guesses this was why Slade was brought in. A word about the change in actress; Howard replacing Rachelle Lefevre as Victoria. Lefevre may have a grievance at losing a pay-check but the input of Howard in the film was so minimal that Lefevre barely missed anything as an actress.

army of vampires
Anyway, where were we… army of vampires being led by Riley (Xavier Samuel) who believes Victoria loves him and they must kill the Cullens to be free of their tyranny whilst actually only being used so that she can kill Bella and thus avenge herself for the death of her mate at Edward’s hands. This leads to an 'iconic' scene of the vampire army emerging from water that was better realised when Romero had his zombies do similar in Land of the Dead. Of course, the army necessitates the Cullens and the wolves teaming up to destroy the army of new-borns. Surely this is why Slade was brought in?

working together
The trouble is, Slade proved himself to be average at action direction (at best) in Thirty Days of Night and this was one of the reasons the earlier film is not the classic it could have been. The action direction in this is better (to a point), it has to be said, but it manages to feel lightweight, lacklustre somehow and is minimal on screen. The point I mentioned is the action's pay-off. The vampires break like porcelain dolls, none of the good-guys die and when we have humans attacked by the new-borns the film is modest about the attacks to the point of puritanism. Slade at least had some good gore in Thirty Days.

Peter Murphy
The film has some flashback scenes that worked well enough – especially the tribal history flashback that featured Peter Murphy as the Cold One, his first appearance in film since the Hunger. My question, of course, is why such an intriguing cameo? Those who the Twilight Saga is ultimately aimed at are unlikely to have heard of Bauhaus or seen the Hunger. The use of flashback was ultimately harmed by the modesty I spoke of earlier. That said, Jackson Rathbone actually got a chance to do something, both in flashback and in film, and he wasn’t too bad.

beware our old-fashioned garb
Like the flashbacks, the appearance of the Volturi – or, more fittingly, the agents of the Volturi – were badly handled. Wearing out-of-date clothes does not render one imposing or sinister. Dakota Fanning is wasted and I felt that Slade could have done much more with them – despite the limited story impact – to render them the big bad they are meant to be. This leads us on to one of the biggest near misses of the film.

Jodelle Ferland as Bree Tanner
Bree Tanner (Jodelle Ferland, Masters of Horror: The V Word and Bloodrayne 2: Deliverance) was a minor character who then achieved her own novella. Rumour is that the novella will become a film also and so it is not surprising that the film highlighted her, but for no real reason. She is turned, she fails to fight the Cullens and she dies at the hands of the Volturi. The problem is twofold. Firstly it is a waste of a young actress, with an impressive resume, who does more in those few short scenes than many of the bigger stars (even managing to out act them when in the background of a shot). Secondly the camera again cuts off from the killing blow, which could have actually added some weight to the Volturi being the sinister force they are meant to be, had it been shown.

Lore wise nothing has really moved on, except for the idea that vampires are at their strongest when first turned – due to the human blood still in their system (evidence of which was not offered as porcelain flesh failed to release blood on breaking). This is an inversion of normal lore, of course.

ok... he's a dog
Eclipse was very much a film of two-halves. The love story was as poor as we have come to expect. One-dimensional, badly written and awfully acted. On a plus note, Bella’s school friends are relegated to two scenes. The action side was more interesting, but Slade didn’t manage to add a gravitas to the action, failed to generate a sinister atmosphere and bottled the money shots. Worse, there were aspects he could have built upon – following the novel be damned – that he failed to capitalise upon. 3.5 out of 10

The imdb page is here.


Zahir Blue said...

Maybe I'm not critical enough, or have a different set of expectations or simply am coming from another "place," but all three films have been well-above-average renderings of average-quality adaptations of perfectly readable stories to me. Not a lot of depth, most of the real insight that is at least explored in the books gone, etc. Typical, but not horrible. I thought the cast did a good job with what they were given. Had I gone in thinking this was anywhere near the quality of Strigoi or Shadow of the Vampire then boy would this be one annoyed filmgoer! But I didn't so I'm not. A poor analogy would be complaining because 13 Ghosts was nothing at all like the original The Haunting. Well, yeah, but that wasn't what I was looking for. Just wanted the cinematic equivalent of a nice plate of cookies. Which is what I got.

30 Days of Night? A pretty good taco.

Let Me In? A top quality dish of boef bourgingon over rice.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Zahir, the stories were perfectly readable because of characterisation and there was certainly beauty in the photography in places but I can't agree that the cast did a good job with what's written.

Certain cast members are very good, Ashley Greene (who was sidelined in this) and Jodelle Ferland. But the key stars vary from below average to rubbish. If Greene and Ferland can make more out of less then they should be able to as well. I nearly went to 4 out of 10 in this, because of the action sequences, but Slade bottled it and ultimately they weren't that high a quality.

New Moon was atrocious (and stopped me actually bothering watching this at the cinema) and this below average imho.

I agree, 30 Days is a good taco and Let Me In a boef bourgingon - a brilliant analogy btw. This was more a take away doner kebab with some very limp salad involved. :)

Be that as it may, different opinions are what make this world go round. I will just mention - being picky ;) - that 13 ghosts was a remake of 13 ghosts (and the original 13 ghosts was a rubbish film, the remake was actually superior). The original the Haunting was one of the best ghost stories submited to celluloid, the remake (also called the Haunting) is not mentioned... best forgotten methinks

Christine said...

Now, I am not Twilight-hater - that fashion is irritating virus polluting net like slime - BUT I don´t think Twilight looked even pretty. Is it me or were all colours sickly greenish blue? And then Bella sighs "Oh my God. You are beautiful" for some guy perspirating... sorry, sparkling with that sick-looking lighting. Hm. I suppose Eclipse is more the same. Although lack of gore is always good in my books. Yep, I´m fat old prude.

Nicole Hadaway said...

I actually like the 13 Ghosts re-make (Matthew Lillard makes the film), and The Haunting with Julie Harris and Claire Bloom is my all-time favorite scary movie. The re-make -- I just pretend it never happened. ;-)

Eclipse didn't do it for me, either on a book or movie level, because it had too much teenage whiny drama. I realize that loads of people love it for this, and as Taliesin said, differences make the world go around.

I prefer my teenage vampires to sport mullets and jean jackets, a la The Lost Boys.

Thanks for the review, Taliesin

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Christine and Nicole, cheers for the input.

Christine the film is about 50-60% more of the same but then 40-50% more action orientated - sans gore.

Nicole, you'd definitely like my hooded top with a certain mulleted vampire reproduced on it and the legend Real Vampires Don't Sparkle.

watch movies online said...

A superb love story ever. A teenage girl risks everything when she falls in love with a vampire. A densely erotic, twisted take on teen screen romance, Twilight zones out beneath the crushing weight of underage lust intensified and complicated by the excruciating abstention here of unorthodox vampire appetites.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

pity the main actors can't act - seriously watch movies online, what you peddle might be the studio blurb bur it is not the filmyou desribe, it is a badly acted, overlong film.