MovieMantz Review: ‘The Twilight Saga: Eclipse’

“Total ‘Eclipse’ of Their Hearts”

“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse”
Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner
Directed by David Slade

Well, the good news is that the third chapter of the “Twilight” saga, “Eclipse,” is better than the first two movies. The bad news is, not by much.

From a critical standpoint, that hardly matters, since the first two installments – 2008’s “Twilight” and 2009’s “New Moon” – grossed over $1 billion worldwide, despite generally poor reviews. And seeing as how Twilight-mania isn’t slowing down anytime soon, expect the third movie to follow suit, and in a very big way – it’s being released in a whopping 4,416 theaters domestically, making it the widest release pattern in Hollywood history.

In terms of its production values, there’s no question that “Eclipse” is proficiently made and features better special effects than its predecessors. If the first movie cost less than $30 million to make, the third movie cost more than $60 million – and it shows, especially in the action scenes, when they happen.

But despite the best efforts of David Slade (“Hard Candy,” “30 Days of Night”) – the third “Twilight” director in as many films, after Catherine Hardwicke and Chris Weitz – “Eclipse” is still bogged down by the poor plotting, slow pacing and sub-par acting that has, sadly, marred the film series all along.

Those shortcomings will continue to keep the movies (based on the successful book series written by Stephenie Meyer) from preaching to the non-converted, but Twi-hards will still find plenty to swoon about. After sitting out most of “New Moon,” lovestruck vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) returns to court Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), which poses a problem for the equally smitten werewolf, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner).

Watching Edward and Jacob fight over Bella turns out to be one of the best parts of “Eclipse,” regardless of Pattinson’s monotone performance or Lautner’s almost laughable attempt to pose a threat – especially when he’s shirtless, which is most of the time. That’s because despite the sappy dialogue (courtesy of screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, who also wrote the first two movies), the three actors do share a strong connection that prevails over the other shortcomings.

It’s too bad that Slade, who infused nail-biting intensity into 2005’s “Hard Candy,” couldn’t whip Rosenberg’s screenplay into a better narrative. As it is, the backstory – in which the Wolfpack and the Cullens join forces to fight off an army of new vampires – barely registers, while the talents of Dakota Fanning (as Jane, the sadistic Volturi guard) and Bryce Dallas Howard (as vengeful Victoria, taking over from Rachelle Lefevre) feel wasted with all-too-brief supporting roles.

But critics be damned, because “Twilight” fans will love “Eclipse” no matter what, since it will give them more of what they want. And you can’t knock “Eclipse” for the bad acting – let’s face it, Mark Hamill didn’t give Oscar-worthy performances in the original “Star Wars” movies, and it hardly mattered. So expect “Eclipse” to be the biggest “Twilight” movie of them all – at least, until November 18, 2011, which is when the fourth installment, “Breaking Dawn: Part 1,” opens.


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