Under the guidance of British director David Slade, Eclipse might be the chapter to transcend tween gospel.
It’s been hard to sit through any of the Twilight films without being struck by the feeling that if you’re not in the club, you’re not really being catered for.
Yet while anyone on the post-acne side of puberty may so far have felt a tad alienated by this highschool carnival gone feral, Twihards of the world have revelled in this extreme exclusivity. Under the guidance of British director David Slade (who landed the gig after impressing with his two previous features, Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night), however, Eclipse might be the chapter to transcend tween gospel.
As New Moon set, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) was left to ponder her future as a mortal, still desperate to be turned by her vamp beau Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and struggling to mend her patchy relationship with amply sculpted teen wolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner).
As Eclipse dawns, little has changed. But fear and danger loom ominously on the horizon. A new coven is about to hit town and crash the pre-grad party. Led by the enigmatic flame-haired siren Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her chiselled lapdog Riley (Xavier Samuel), a ravenous army of ‘newborns’ set out to exact revenge on Bella and the Cullen clan, forcing Ed and Jake to put aside their differences and unite to blanket their beloved from the crossfire.
By now the teenage masses have spoken, but for adult audiences willing to judge Eclipse on its own merit the flaws, much like the franchise's popularity, are hard to ignore. Although reprising her role for the second time, Stewart seems all at sea in the lead, while R-Patz assumes his place as Bella's shadow with the possessed fervour of a meth addict. Shrewdly, however, Slade has given more breathing space to various supporting cast members, most fruitfully Billy Burke as Mr Swan, who becomes a go to whenever the dramatic tension begins to suffocate.
Overall – although clichéd soundbites and lingering close ups of achingly overstressed gazes still punctuate every scene – a more harmonious balance has been struck between self awareness and fan faithfulness. Regardless of how you have favoured the franchise previously, there is action, fantasy and humour to be praised here and, beneath a bittersweet outer shell of romance and angst, a moral core that stirs softly throughout.
Or an underbelly of conservative American sentiment choking on its own antiquation. Your call.
Of course, appealing to a wider audience means the singing cash register chorus will be deafening as expected, but it’s admirable nonetheless that the potential of the franchise to be more than a guilty pleasure has finally been realised. New Moon's narrowness made the franchise a phenomenon, but Slade's adult, idiosyncratic approach will win converts. Rightly so.
Ignore the haters and focus on Eclipse as an indulgent highschool melodrama with spouts of well crafted action and decent FX, however, and you’ll come away satisfied, if not entirely contracted to fan mania. But start teasing at that thread of reservation and you’ll be left unravelling the saga’s shortcomings long after next year's Breaking Dawn two-parter has come and gone.
Isn't it time non-Twihards were let into the club?
Consider us bitten, if not entirely turned just yet.
Without doubt the best of the bunch. But that's not saying much...