Published on SoCal.com

Actions have consequences, kids. If we take nothing else away from watching The Twilight Saga: Eclipse it should be that our choices may lead to sorrow and pain, or hurt the ones we love, but we shouldn’t be afraid to choose what is right.

Or, you know, whoever is hottest. Whatever.

The third installment in the planned five-movie epic, Eclipse has accomplished what the previous two Twilight movies were far less adept at: selling the story. Based on the wildly popular novels by Stephenie Meyer, The Twilight Saga’s first two movies failed to live up to the expectations of fans or critics, though still reaping huge box office rewards. Eclipse, however, braids together the mythology and fan-favorite moments of the books with action sequences and visual effects that pop off the screen, making the movie a much better balance between chick flick and action-adventure.

If this is your first Twilight experience, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a broody, intense young girl, has fallen in love with 100-year-old teen Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a vampire who has also resolved that life is not worth living without her. Due to events in the previous films, Bella must be turned into a vampire or face the wrath of the bloodsuckers’ oversight committee, the Volturi. She has no issue with this, as it is something she wants as well. She can’t very well be hooked up with a 17-year-old when she’s 30, right? In fact, she wants to do the deed just after graduation, but Edward’s got a condition: she must marry him first.

Here is where Bella has a real problem. If she consents to getting married at 17, people will think she’s knocked up. Or worse yet–foolish. Divorce rates are astronomical, after all (though Edward wryly notes that vampire-human divorces are far rarer). He presents her with an antique ring anyway, and she promises to think about it.

Back home, as her chief-of-police father Charlie (the ever-perfect Billy Burke) searches for a boy named Riley Biers (Xavier Samuel) who has been missing for nearly a year, news reports of a spike in brutal killings in Seattle has him worried. When Edward suggests that Bella visit her mother in Florida, Chief Swan immediately agrees—then finds out that Edward is planning to go along. The chief has his reservations, but allows her to go.

As Bella soaks up the sun with her mom (the delightfully free-spirited Sarah Clarke) and enjoys what will probably be her last visit before becoming undead, audiences are reminded again of what will be lost because of her decision to be with Edward. Back in Forks, viewers reunite with another soon-to-be casualty: the best friend who is in love with her (and also happens to be a werewolf), Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner).

Soon Bella has bigger problems than which guy loves her more. A vicious vampire named Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, assuming the role from Rachelle Lefevre) has been hunting her since the end of the first film, in which the Cullens killed her mate, James. Never mind that he was trying to kill Bella at the time. Victoria has her mind set on vengeance against the entire Cullen clan, but must formulate a plan that their psychic sister, Alice (Ashley Greene), can’t see coming until it’s too late. Just days before they arrive, she finally “sees” the attackers—an army of newly made vampires intent on killing Bella.

Apparently, newborns are the most dangerous and unpredictable of all vampires. Brother Jasper (Jackson Rathbone), the only one with experience with these young vamps, resolves to train werewolf and vampire alike in the fighting skills necessary to win the battle. Meanwhile, as the preparations for the turf war are underway, a battle for the heart (and literal soul) of Bella rages between Jacob and Edward.

Does becoming a vampire really mean more to Bella than loving someone she can grow old with? Is everlasting life, albeit always in hiding, compensation for losing her soul? Can sparkly skin and really, really sharp teeth make up for cutting ties with her entire former life? And do any of those questions really get answered?

In response to the last question, the answer is a definite no. In the end, the trading of humanity for immortality comes down to one thing: hormones. As in, the old-fashioned Edward refuses to have sex until he’s married. The unbearable agony of a chaste relationship does what the losing of her soul or fear of punishment by the Volturi failed to accomplish: Bella says yes.

Visually speaking, Eclipse is a masterpiece. The CGI on the werewolves is immensely better than on New Moon, and the representation of vampire speed and strength are improved upon as well. There is a definite suspension of disbelief watching newborn vampires and giant wolves attacking one another. The soundtrack is also flawless, both the songs created for the movie and the ones chosen to accent specific scenes.

If there is one big flaw to be pointed out, it is that all the Twilight movies seem to rely on fans reading the story ahead of time in order to fill in some of the blanks. Meyer’s novels are lengthy, to say the least, and so much of the back-story and mythology that would help the stories make sense to newcomers is missing. Granted, it would make for a sloggy moviegoing experience to include it all, but so many small details are sacrificed in order to keep the film on pace.

Whether you’re a big fan of the series or just like to deepen your movie experience, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Two-disc Special Edition DVD (Summit Entertainment, MSRP: $32.99) and Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack (MSRP: $40.99) come loaded with special features that are truly worthwhile.

Along with the movie are two full-length audio commentaries that are worth the price of the sets alone. The first, between Stewart and Pattinson, is sure to make fans swoon. Though they were in two different countries while recording the track (she in Vancouver, Canada and he in L.A.), their commentary alludes to the pair’s rumored relationship off-set (“You don’t look like that when you get bitten by a vampire,” Pattinson jokes, watching a scene where Riley has just been attacked and is writhing in pain. “You’re much sexier.”). While never admitting to being a couple, the two have chemistry far beyond that of Bella and Edward. Listening to them argue plot points and acting choices is a welcome glimpse behind the curtain, as well as their opinions of the other characters (“Grr, I really hate that guy,” Pattinson jokes as Jacob snuggles with Bella on-screen). The pair jokes that their commentary might be very soothing when used as a soundtrack to fall asleep. No doubt there are fans out there who will do just that.

The second commentary track, recorded by Meyer and producer Wyck Godfrey, is another jewel. Meyer has been granted the kind of access to these films that many authors would kill for, and she is very active on the set and behind the scenes. It is refreshing to hear her take on the characters on-screen and to know what elements she fought for and of which she wasn’t a fan. She also comments on new material screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg added, some of which, she admits, she likes “much better.” Godfrey, meanwhile, gives viewers the technical view behind the scenes. Film buffs and those who aspire to be in the movie business will find their take fascinating. The two share a lighthearted banter and ease that grows from spending a lot of time together, and it makes for easy viewing.

Disc two of the DVD set has its own set of gems, feature-wise (which are also available on the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack). Best and brightest is a six-part making-of documentary that can be seen in pieces or as the entire hour-and-twenty-seven-minute feature. Commentary from the director, actors and Meyer all weave in between snippets of filming from preproduction through final editing. It’s great to see that Meyer is not only the creator, but is a genuine fan of her own work and doesn’t pretend it’s a lofty masterpiece. She talks about the characters as if they’re friends, and it is, again, reassuring to know that she has had a good deal of influence on the final product.

The deleted and extended scenes are standard stuff. One particular scene between Angela (Christian Serratos) and Bella, which producers and Meyer really liked but was ultimately cut for time, shines. The rest are only minor extensions that were better off left out of the film.
Unlike many deleted/extended scene packages, this one also has a commentary feature by director David Slade (30 Days of Night) that walks viewers through the reasons these scenes were filmed and why, ultimately, they didn’t make the cut.

For your eye candy needs, a photo gallery featuring a six-minute slideshow of production stills and photos is also included, many of which are unique to the DVD. With a balance of werewolves, vampires and main characters, there is plenty for everyone to enjoy. Also included are two full-length music videos, one by Muse (“Neutron Star Collision (Love is Forever)”) the other by Metric (“Eclipse (All Yours) ”).

Finally, but most importantly to fans who are firmly on Team Edward or Team Jacob, there is a bonus feature just for you. “Edward Fast Forward” and “Jacob Fast Forward” allows fans to watch the movie via only the scenes featuring their favorite vampire or werewolf. At 46 minutes, Edward’s section is longer, but Jacob’s 31-minute package has far fewer shirts. The Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack also features six additional “Fast Forward” options: The Love Triangle, The Cullens, The Wolfpack, The Humans, Victoria’s Army and Action Sequences.

Is The Twilight Saga: Eclipse for you? Can you live without seeing the extras or swooning over the commentary (in which case, single-disc versions of both the DVD and Blu-ray are available that feature just the film for $28.99 and $34.99, respectively)? It all begins with a choice, boys and girls. But be prepared to live with the consequences.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

No comments:

Post a Comment