The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

(2010) ** 1/2 Pg-13
124 min. Summit Entertainment. Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner.

/content/films/3786/1.jpgNot unlike a TV sitcom, in which maintaining the status quo is job one, The Twilight Saga is a film series not big on plot momentum from one episode to the next. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse has almost the same plot as the previous installment, New Moon.

As before, peeved redheaded vampire Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, taking over for Rachelle Lefevre) lurks out of sight, plotting the revenge murder of waifish human Bella Swan (Kristin Stewart). As before, Bella frets over this threat to her life, but frets far more about her love triangle with vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). And most egregiously, Eclipse sends audiences out with the same ending as the previous installment, having advanced Bella’s marital plans not a whit.

Despite this fundamental puzzlement, Eclipse is the most bearable (by which I mean, least boring) of the three Twilight Saga films based on the runaway-hit young adult novels by Stephenie Meyer. I strongly suspect fans will go gaga for Eclipse, which dutifully stokes the romantic embers between Bella and soul-mate Edward, escalates the confusion Bella feels regarding love-professing Jacob, and more than ever keeps Lautner in a state of undress (about 75% of his performance is shirtless).

Surely some unwilling males of the species will grudgingly accompany their dates to Eclipse, and director David Slade (Hard Candy) keeps them in mind with a pseudo-Narnian storyline of interspecies battle training in the woods. Anticipating an army of trouble-making vampires from Seattle, the Forks, Washington vamps and the native Quileute tribe of werewolves form an uneasy alliance to practice their butt-kicking—make that jugular-biting. With more success than his forebears, Slade calibrates the balance of moony romance to CGI-enhanced action (with a dash of monster mythology).

”Decisions, decisions,” sez dry-witted bloodsucker Jane (Dakota Fanning), one of the Volturi overlords who police vamp activity. The two words sum up the sole theme of Eclipse, which matches New Moon’s Romeo and Juliet allusions with a film-opening reading of Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice.” The symbolism is bleedin’ obvious to anyone paying attention: cold-as-ice Edward or fever-warm Jacob? The film doesn’t much succeed in convincing us that there’s any doubt in Bella’s mind, but the scripting, acting and direction show enough micro-improvements to make the prolonged mooning and smoldering seem a bit more substantial and even, for a fleeting moment, fun (Jacob’s not-quite double entendre to Edward, “Face it, I’m hotter than you”).

The life choices of Eclipse, aligned as they are with Bella’s graduation anxieties, neatly reflect the angst of transitioning tweens and teens. Sure, most of them aren’t considering becoming a vampire to spend an eternal married life with their (puppy) loves, but the principle applies to college selection, the custody conflicts of divorce and the like. Plot or no, increasingly picturesque photography, amped-up action, borrowed poetry, and age-old romance have The Twilight Saga on its surest footing yet—that is, until the youngsters grow up and realize True Blood tells the same story so much better.

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Aspect ratios: 2.40:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 12/4/2010

Distributor: Summit Entertainment

Summit delivers The Twilight Saga: Eclipse in a Blu-ray + DVD flipper disc. Image quality is top-notch, given the stylized source material. The look of these films won't be everyone's cup of tea, but Summit's hi-def transfer rigorously recreates that look for home screens, with a film-like veneer of grain, richly reproduced color, and excellent detail and texture. Some of the most shadowy scenes struggle a bit, but they looked pretty murky on the big screen, as well; this is just about as good as hi-def gets. Audio comes in a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that nicely prioritizes dialogue over impeccably handled music, ambience, and busy special effects.

Bonus features kick off with audio commentary with actors Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, and audio commentary with author Stephenie Meyer and producer Wyck Godfrey. I think it goes without saying that the former—with Stewart and Pattinson's recollections of shooting the picture— is the one swoony fans will go over, repeatedly, with a fine tooth comb, despite some unfortunate gaps, though the latter offers more substance, with the franchise creator giving her observations.

The central bonus is the feature-length, six-part documentary The Making of 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse' (1:28:00, HD). One can watch the doc as a picture-in-picture track (not sure why one would want to...) or in fullscreen. Either way, you get six segments: "Introducing David Slade," "Pre-Production: Setting the Stage," "The Heart of Eclipse," The Dark Side of Eclipse," "Lights, Camera, Action," and "Post-Production: Leaps in Technology." Most of the principal cast and crew participate in this thorough look behind the scenes.

Rounding out the disc are eight deleted/extended scenes (12:33, HD) with optional director commentary, a Photo Gallery (HD), and the music videos "'Neutron Star Collision' by Muse" (4:18, SD) and "'Eclipse (All Yours)' by Metric" (4:20, SD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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