Greetings SciFi/Fantasy Movie Fans!

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The movies of the Twilight Saga (Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse) were adapted from the hugely popular series of books by first-time author Stephenie Meyer, written and published for young (YA) readers, and which have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide since the first book’s release in 2005.  They are the story of Bella Swan, the vampire Edward Cullen, and Bella’s friend and sometime love interest, the werewolf Jacob Black.

Jacob, Bella and Edward

If you are a Twilight fan, you will love Eclipse.  If you have not seen the first two movies in the series (Twilight and New Moon), or read the books, you may still enjoy Eclipse although there will undoubtedly be many moments when you are just not sure what is going on.  Ultimately, it probably won’t matter.  Eclipse is a love story and an action movie with a little comedy thrown in.  Something for everyone, right?

First, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to say I am a Twilight fan.  As a huge book lover and avid reader, I admit that the books are not the greatest books I have ever read, nor are the Twilight movies what I would think of as “great” filmmaking (sorry!).  But none of that really matters.  I am entertained.  I am drawn in.  I care about what happens to the characters as their stories unfold.  Twilight is a deeply personal experience that you only get to have if you set aside your critical, rational self and step into the story.

Despite my fan status, I am a critical movie viewer.  The following recap/review will point out both what I liked about the movie and what just did not work for me.  You may have a different opinion about some of it.  I welcome and encourage any and all comments.  Maybe you can change my mind about something I didn’t initially like!

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SPOILER ALERT!  WHAT FOLLOWS IS A FULL RECAP AND REVIEW OF TWILIGHT: ECLIPSE SO PLEASE DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU PLAN TO SEE THE MOVIE AND DO NOT WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IN ADVANCE.  GET OUT THERE AND SEE THE MOVIE, THEN COME RIGHT BACK.

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Eclipse is the continued story of Bella (Kristen Stewart), Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner), and the menace to Bella posed by bad vampire Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) as she seeks vengeance for the death of her mate, James.

The movie opens on a rainy night in Seattle and the attack on Riley Biers that would turn him into a vampire.  The scene was beautifully shot, and the handling of Riley’s being turned without being able to see his attacker was great.  [The song from the soundtrack CD for this scene was “Chop and Change” by The Black Keys.] Australian actor Xavier Samuel gives an outstanding performance as Riley, in this scene and throughout the film.  He was beautiful, damaged, vulnerable, cold, and deadly.  I wished I had seen the movie before attending the Eclipse convention in June, 2010 so I could have better appreciated seeing Xavier in person, and really hope that he will be a guest at some future Twilight convention in my area.

Riley (Xavier Samuel)

The first we see of Bella and Edward, they are in the “meadow,” and Bella is supposedly studying for an English final.  Edward asks her to marry him a couple of times and she turns him down flat.  This is one of my least favorite scenes in the movie, for a number of reasons.  The meadow does not look any better than it had in previous Twilight movies.  It still looks like a patch of grass that has been adorned with artificially random purple flowers.  I know that the meadow was an important part of Stephenie Meyer’s inspiration for Twilight, but I personally wish they would quit bringing it back to the movies since it is apparently impossible to make it look like a real place that was created spontaneously in nature.  And, at the risk of incurring the wrath of fans around the world, I thought Kristen Stewart’s reading of the Robert Frost poem, “Fire and Ice,” was poor.  Kristen seems uncomfortable and, consequently, mumbles her way through it.

Edward and Bella in the meadow

The meadow scene is, thankfully, short.  Bella has to get home before curfew.  [Song from the soundtrack CD: “Let’s Get Lost” by Bat for Lashes.] When she gets there, her dad, Charlie (Billy Burke) encourages her to see more of Jacob, who he says is having a tough time and could really use a friend.  Of course Edward is completely against the idea of Bella spending time with a werewolf and tries to prevent her going to the reservation.

Bella and Charlie

This is one of the areas in which the movie and the book diverge, and although Team Edward will be content, Team Jacob and fans of the other wolves may be a little disappointed.  Eclipse the novel dedicates quite a bit of time to Bella’s visits with Jacob and her determination to see him despite Edward’s strong objections and his ability to thwart her plans with the help of Alice’s visions.  The movie strips most of that out.  I do not personally have a Team affiliation, but I had hoped for more Jacob/Quileute time in the movie.  Sadly, the castmembers portraying the wolf pack (Kiowa Gordon as Embry Call, Tyson Houseman as Quil Ateara, Julia Jones as Leah Clearwater, Alex Meraz as Paul, Bronson PelletierChaske Spencer and Booboo Stewart) had very little screen time since their scenes were nearly always in wolf form.

Wolf Pack

Having even less screen time than the human-form wolf pack were Bella’s high school classmates played by Anna Kendrick (Jessica Stanley), Christian Serratos (Angela Weber), Justin Chon (Eric Yorkie), and Michael Welch (Mike Newton).  [Tyler Crowley, played by Gregory Tyree Boyce, only appeared in the first film in the series, Twilight.]  We see them in the school cafeteria talking about graduation and, later in the film, at the graduation ceremony itself.  Jessica and Angela are also present very briefly at the post-graduation party.

Bella's Classmates

But back to our story: Edward takes Bella to visit her mom in Florida, and when they get back, Jacob shows up at the high school, in part to check that Bella is still human.  Against Edward’s wishes, Jacob tells Bella that while she was gone Emmett and Paul had nearly started a Cullen/wolf war chasing Victoria along the border between their territories.

The Emmett-Paul confrontation was a great addition to the film version of the story.  Instead of being told about what happened, we get to see it.  This is a terrific action sequence with the Cullen family (minus Edward) (Alice Cullen, played by Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone as Jasper Hale, Rosalie Hale played by Nikki Reed, Emmett Cullen played by Kellan LutzPeter Facinelli as Dr. Carlisle Cullen, and Elizabeth Reaser as Esme Cullen) on one side of the river, and the wolf pack on the other side, trying not to break the treaty by stepping over the boundary while in hot pursuit of bad vampire Victoria.  The performances and the special effects were all really good.  You get the speed, the danger, the determination of the hunters, Victoria’s cleverness and her fear of being caught, the wolves’ animosity toward the vampires, and the frustration when Victoria gets away.

After Jacob’s revelation about Victoria, and having learned that Edward lied to her in order to get her out of town, Bella jumps on the back of Jacob’s motorcycle and takes off for the reservation.  This is another change from the original story, and for me it is a little awkward.  First of all, Bella is upset with Edward for lying to her, but their conversation about that never happens in the movie and she seems to just forget about it.  Second, she walks away from Edward to go off with Jacob, and Jacob seems to be happy to let that happen even though he has just told Bella he had not been returning her calls because he had “nothing to say” to her.  Third, I think it was way too watered down from the book version, where Jacob shows up unexpectedly at Bella’s school and she jumps at the opportunity of escaping her vampire “babysitters” to get some quality time with Jacob.  All of the tension of Bella and Jacob longing to see each other and having to find a way around Edward’s hyper-protectiveness/jealousy and Alice’s visions is missing from the movie.  I think its lack minimizes the Bella/Jacob emotional bond and makes her ultimate decision appear less difficult to the movie viewer.

When they get to the reservation, there is a brief Bella/wolf pack reunion at Emily’s (Tinsel Korey) place, followed by a Jacob/Bella conversation where he tells her all about imprinting and she tells him she plans to become a vampire after graduation, which is only a month away.  [Song from the soundtrack CD: “Jonathan Low” by Vampire Weekend.]

Jacob and Bella

Meanwhile, Riley goes to Bella’s house and steals her red shirt.  (Maybe one of you can answer this question for me: If newborn vampires are so out of control, and Riley is only a year old, how is he so controlled that he is able to keep from attacking Charlie at the house?  In the book, Charlie was supposed to have been asleep in his room which would at least put some small barrier between them.  In the movie, Riley leans over Charlie as he lies sleeping on the couch with Riley’s missing persons file on his chest.  Just asking….)  Another difference between the movie and the book was the addition of Riley’s back story.  In the movie, Riley is a local boy that has been missing for about a year (I guess the first scene of the movie took place a year before the rest of the action).  Bella’s dad, Charlie, meets with Riley’s parents, looks at his picture and the missing person fliers his parents had posted all over, and falls asleep on the couch with his case file on his chest.  Later in the movie, Edward tells Riley that he was chosen by Victoria because he was from Forks and was familiar with the area.  I have to say, I don’t how all of that advanced the story or added anything important to the movie.  I think it took up screen time that could have been better spent elsewhere, but that’s just me.

Cullens

Once they figure out that some strange vampire has been in Bella’s house, the Cullens agree that someone is making a newborn army, probably to fight the Cullens for territory.  I kind of wish they had put information into the movie about why territory would be important to vampires.  Readers of the books know that it has to do with feeding, but non-readers will not get that part.  After some argument, it is agreed that Bella will take advantage of her friendship with the wolves to provide added protection.  Of course, jealous Edward and equally jealous Jacob have a little trouble with the handoff, giving Bella a chance to say her “I’m Switzerland” line.  Again, I wish that the script had given just a little more dialogue to that part.  I wanted that window into Bella’s perspective, her strong desire that they just be Jacob, Edward, and Bella, not werewolf, vampire, and human.  It is another missed opportunity to imbue the film with some of the deeper emotional content of the book.

Jacob, Bella and Edward

With Bella temporarily in his care, Jacob takes her to a campfire tribal council meeting where she hears Billy Black (Gil Birmingham) tell the story of the Quileutes’ first encounters with the “cold ones” and of the third wife’s sacrifice.  The filmmakers take advantage of the opportunity to turn that narrative and into something even better by giving us a reenactment during the telling.  The Quileutes’ story is changed a bit for the movie, but not in any substantial way.  They obviously put some time and effort into making the village and its people historically realistic and the scenes with first the male vampire (Peter Murphy) and then his vengeful mate (Monique Ganderton) were, I thought, quite good.

Bella and Jacob

Meanwhile, Riley is building his out-of-control newborn army and we see Bree Tanner (Jodelle Ferland) for the first time.  If you have read the Bree Tanner novella, your mind will fill in a lot of detail with regard to the newborns, but this information is not at all necessary to enjoy Eclipse on its own.  I did have some trouble buying into the two scenes with the newborns in Seattle.  Even though the colors, the costumes, and the atmosphere were all very compelling, the scenes just looked to “staged” to me.  Everything looked too carefully placed.  Despite the dark feel and the little bit of fire, everything seemed too clean.  The newborns’ movements seemed sort of random and not nearly ferocious enough.  For example, when Riley is talking to Bree, they talk about the fact that she is “thirsty.”  Then why, if the other newborns are just a few feet away drinking from fresh kill, is Bree not compelled to be over there fighting for her share?

On Bella’s next visit to the reservation, Jacob finally just tells her that he is in love with her and moves in for the kiss, whereupon Bella punches him in the face and hurts her hand.  Once again, the movie really strips most of the emotion from this scene and I wish they had done a better job.  However, the resultant confrontation between Jacob and Edward, interrupted by Charlie, was very funny.  Taylor Lautner’s delivery was fantastic as Jacob explains what happened.  But the next scene didn’t make any sense at all.  They have Bella and Edward back at the Cullen house, Carlisle wrapping her damaged hand.  Why would she have gone there to have her hand wrapped?  I know that is what happened in the book, but in the book Charlie had not known about it until afterward.  In the movie, Jacob takes her home, Edward pulls up, they argue, Charlie comes out and asks what’s going on, and Jacob tells them Bella broke her hand.  Charlie would have taken her to the hospital.

While Bella is at the Cullen house she approaches Rosalie and we get to see some of Rosalie’s back story.  The story of how Rosalie came to be a vampire is possibly the ugliest of all the Cullen clan because it is not just violent, but involves sexual assault by someone she knew and cared about, gang rape, and her having been left for dead which gives the incident an even more savage quality.  I thought the filmmakers did a very good job of sharing all of that information without making it so explicit that younger viewers would either pick up on all that was implied or be traumatized by it.  Nikki Reed’s telling of Rosalie’s story helped quite a lot in that regard, an unemotional recital with all the feeling just bubbling beneath the surface.  I particularly enjoyed Rosalie’s expression when she says she was “a little theatrical back then.”

The Volturi, Jane (Dakota Fanning), Demetri (Charlie Bewley), Felix (Daniel Cudmore), and Alec (Cameron Bright) observe the newborns tearing it up in Seattle.

Volturi

Bella and her friends (human and vampire) graduate from high school, with the proud parents looking on, and Jessica Stanley (Anna Kendrick) giving the valedictorian address.  At the graduation party afterward, Jacob gives Bella the wolf charm bracelet he made for her, Alice has a vision of the newborns coming to Forks, and the werewolf-vampire alliance is formed.  [Best line: Jacob’s “What damn army?”  Song from the soundtrack CD: “Neutron Star Collision” by Muse.]

Finally, we are getting back to the action part of this movie, and we get to see a lot more of Jackson Rathbone as Jasper Hale.  Jasper leads a demonstration/practice session on how to kill an army of newborn vampires with the CGI wolves looking on, and it is a lot of fun to watch.  We understand that everyone is taking the training seriously, that the approaching battle is dangerous and they will all need this knowledge to be victorious.  But there is also a sense of fun, a playfulness, and warmth and respect between the Cullens for one another.  The individual fight sequences were nicely choreographed and really well-acted.  I loved Nikki Reed’s hair in this scene, perhaps the only really good hair in the entire film, and the mess they piled on Kristen Stewart’s head is the most noticeably awful.  Whoever is responsible for Kristen’s wigs should be staked.  I cannot believe that there was no possible way to make her look more natural.  A better wig?  Extensions?  I know net to nothing about fake hair, but I have seen enough movies with wigs to know that they can be a whole lot better than this.  Horrible!

Rosalie and Emmett

Esme and Carlisle

Alice and Jasper

After the practice session, Bella gets Jasper to tell his story and we get to see it happening as he tells it.  Again, we can see the time and effort put into recreating Jasper’s experience, a Confederate officer during the Civil War, traveling alone, meeting the vampire that would be his maker and for whom he would build and train an army of newborns.  Jackson Rathbone is really, really good in this sequence, and leaves you wanting to see more of his character.

Jasper’s story becomes part of Bella’s dream that night and she awakens realizing that Victoria is behind the newborn army, hiding behind the newborns to prevent Alice seeing her plans.  With Victoria involved, Edward will not leave Bella unprotected, and eventually agrees to stay with her somewhere far away from where the battle is to take place.  They enlist the help of Jacob and Jasper to test whether Jacob’s scent would mask Bella’s enough to prevent the enemy finding her trail.  As Jacob carries her through the woods, he reveals that he turned down his rightful place as pack leader.  He also tells Bella he knows that she has feelings for him and says he can “sense how I make you feel—physically.”

When Bella gets home, Alice is saying goodbye to Charlie, having just arranged Bella’s alibi for the battle.  She will supposedly be keeping Alice company while the rest of the Cullens are camping.  They will actually be hunting that night, leaving Edward and Bella alone at the Cullen house.

Bella talks to Charlie about marriage, which he thinks is a good idea unless you have to get married.  This brings on the uncomfortable safe sex talk, which the audience seems to really enjoy.  Billy Burke just about steals the scene as Bella’s dad, and his line about liking Edward a little more after learning Bella is still a virgin never fails to get a good laugh.

Debussy is playing at the Cullen house when Bella arrives for her night alone with Edward, an homage to the first Twilight film and Bella’s first visit there.  They go to the bedroom right away and Edward presents Bella with a heart to go with the wolf on her charm bracelet.  The gifting seems a little perfunctory, but whatever.

Bella and Edward

Bella wastes no time in asking Edward to promise he will try for complete physical intimacy while she is still human.  Bella is all for trying it right now, they have a steamy few minutes of hot and heavy foreplay, but Edward is a little old fashioned and wants to preserve Bella’s virtue.  He proposes again, and she finally accepts.  [Song from the soundtrack CD: “My Love” by Sia.]

Meanwhile, Victoria is preparing Riley for the next day’s battle.  He finally understands that she is not planning to fight with them and he is a little confused.  He loves her, but does not quite get why the Cullens are the threat she claims they are if they have not come to defend Seattle after all the carnage the newborns have inflicted there.  [Song from the soundtrack CD: “Rolling in on a Burning Tire” by The Dead Weather.]

Victoria

The day of the battle finally dawns and Bella pricks her finger, smearing her blood here and there in the woods near the clearing to help set the stage for the newborns’ defeat.  Then Jacob lifts her into his arms, and runs with her into the woods and up the mountain.

There are a series of cuts to Jacob running Bella up the mountain, the newborns massing along the Seattle waterfront, Edward waiting for Bella at the campsite on the mountainside, Jacob and Bella, the newborns walking under the water, Edward on the mountain, and Jacob and Bella arriving at the campsite.  Jacob will stay with them until Seth comes to relieve him in the morning, a means of communication with the others via the pack mind.

That night, a storm blows in and Bella is shivering violently in her sleeping bag in the tent.  Edward looks worried and miserable but is keeping away from her.  They don’t remind you in the movie, but from the book we understand he stays as far away from her as possible because his cold vampire skin would only make things worse.  Jacob finally comes into the tent and suggests that he could warm her up, him being a toasty warm werewolf and all.  Although Edward hates this idea, he eventually agrees for Bella’s sake.  Jacob slips into the sleeping bag with Bella, she gets warm and falls asleep, leaving Jacob and Edward to have a little private chat.  This is a really cute scene in the movie, and the audience response every time I saw it was very positive.  We like seeing the rivals having an honest conversation about what they want and how they feel, about Bella and about each other.  Plus during the entire conversation Jacob is spooning with Bella and Edward is sitting in the corner of the tent, a nice turn of events for Jacob who usually has to endure watching Edward and Bella together.  The only thing missing from their conversation is the dialogue about fighting for her, which means the audience doesn’t fully understand some of the things that happen later in the film.  Anyone who has not read the books won’t know they are missing anything, but it wouldn’t have taken more than a couple of lines to add that element to the film.

In the morning, Jacob wanders off to be a wolf and communicate with the pack, and Bella and Edward have a little talk outside in the snow.  Why isn’t she wearing a coat? Her shirtsleeves are pushed up, she has no coat, no hat, no gloves.  There is snow on everything; in fact, she is standing in snow.  The night before she nearly froze before Jacob stepped in.  Now snow is just not that cold.  Huh?

So Edward tells Bella one of his best nights is when she agreed to marry him, Jacob overhears (which Edward knew would happen) and takes off down the mountain.  Bella is furious with Edward for springing the news on Jacob like that and she runs after Jacob.  He is understandably upset and says he is heading down to the fight, maybe to get himself killed and thereby solving all their relationship problems.  Bella freaks out and begs him to stay, finally asking him, formally, to kiss her.  Jacob is no fool and wastes no time taking advantage of the situation.  They have a very romantic kiss standing there on that picturesque mountainside and all the Team Jacob fans, I’m sure, were swooning.  No longer suicidal, Jacob goes off to battle.

At last! The long anticipated battle scene!  And I have to say, it was worth waiting for.  I wish it had been longer, but I understand that there were not that many newborns to kill and both the Cullens and the wolves to kill them, so it could only take so long.  It was a very exciting sequence with lots of slow motion bodies flying, wolves leaping and biting, and Cullen vampires looking strong and confident, some of the more aggressive among them showing pleasure in the fight.  We saw the cooperation and coordination between the good vampires and the wolves, and we saw the dismay and ferocity of the newborns.  The outcome of the battle was obvious from the start.  Victoria is seen on the edge of battle, and readers know that she is figuring out Edward is not among the combatants and wherever he is, Bella will likely be as well.

Soon Edward hears Victoria’s thoughts and knows that she has found them in the snow, on the mountainside.  They will have to face her alone.  Edward tells Seth to “go,” but I didn’t really get where he was supposed to be going or why.  I assume it was to communicate their situation to the others, but it was not at all clear from my viewing of the film.  Anyway, Victoria is not alone; Riley is with her and he is the first to emerge from the trees.  Edward tries to convince Riley that Victoria has only been using him to avenge her true mate but Riley remains loyal to Victoria and the fighting begins.  (This is where Xavier Samuel delivers the “You’re dead” line that I really liked.  Don’t ask me why, there is just something about his expression when he says it.)

In a slight divergence from the book, Bella imitates the actions of the third wife from the Quileute legend and cuts herself with a sharp rock to distract Victoria and save the day.  Unlike the third wife, who killed herself by stabbing herself in the heart, Bella just gives her arm a good slice but it does the trick.  Afterward, Edward tears a strip from the bottom of Bella’s shirt to bind her wound.  I thought that displayed an uncharacteristic lack of chivalry on Edward’s part.  Shouldn’t he have torn his own shirt instead?  Anyway, they have to hurry back down the mountain because Alice has had another vision and the Volturi are on their way.

As soon as they rejoin the rest of the Cullens in the clearing, a stray newborn jumps out and Jacob is badly injured helping Leah to take the newborn out.  Although in the book this happens while Bella is still at the campsite, she is there in the clearing and sees him hurt in the movie.  He immediately phases back to his human form in the movie, too, so we see even more of Taylor Lautner than usual for a quick second.  I actually like this change from the book (shame on you, not because of that).  I think it is more powerful for Bella to witness Jacob’s being physically hurt than hearing about it through the wolfy grapevine as interpreted by mind-reading Edward.

I did not like how the movie portrayed Bree Tanner’s final scene, however.  In my opinion, the sequence was illogical.  In the book, Jasper keeps Bree pinned down near the pyre where the other newborns’ bodies are burning.  He keeps her there because she is a newborn, without self-control, and Bella is a human, an irresistible source of fresh blood.  Bree wails to Jasper, asking how he can stand to be near Bella, to resist her.  But in the movie, Bree is behind the line of Cullens, mostly behind Carlisle and Esme.  She looks a little uncomfortable, but really she looks more afraid of what might happen next than to have any interest in the only human present.  It isn’t until the Volturi notice her that Jasper moves to stand near her, and then it isn’t clear why he does that.  Anyway, we all know what happens to poor Bree.

Bree Tanner

The Volturi having gone home to Italy, Bella rushes to Jacob’s side back on the Quileute reservation.  Taylor Lautner gives a moving performance as Jacob suffering terrible pain from his injuries and resigned to dealing with his deep sadness over his (so far) failed attempt at winning Bella away from Edward.

Back at the meadow, for some reason, Bella and Edward talk about the plans for their wedding.  They have set the date and Alice is arranging all the details.  The only good part about this scene for me was Bella’s explanation as to why she chose to marry Edward.  It shows her growth, and indicates a thoughtfulness on her part that is not always apparent.  She is not just allowing herself to be ruled by her emotions but has come to an understanding about herself that helps her to know her own right path.  Now to tell her dad….

[Songs from the soundtrack CD that cover the credits: “Eclipse (All Yours)” by Metric, “Heavy in Your Arms” by Florence + The Machine, and “What Part of Forever” by Cee-Lo Green.]

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