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Monday, 19 July 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Alright everyone, I suppose this is the one that is going to inspire this summer's great debate. Regardless of the quality of the films, you've got to admit they inspire any number of good and witty exchanges. Of note also is the fact that no franchise today has such equally divided camps of people who absolutely love the franchise and who vehemently hate it. At this stage, going into the new film Eclipse, I stand on a neutral precipice, and this film is the one that will make me decide my position ultimately. I like the first Twilight, although like many first films, it is limited by the fact that it has to do all the "basil exposition" introductions to the characters in the franchise. The second film New Moon on the other hand a terribly boring film which boasts one good performance in Taylor Lautner. So here we are, another year, another Twilight film. Story follows on from the last film, in which (SPOILER ALERT) we left on a cliffhanger after Edward, played by "R-Patz" himself Robert Pattinson, asks Bella, played by Kristen Stewart, to marry him. Here, we follow on from this marriage proposal, and Bella is bottled over as how to tell her father Charlie, played by Billy Burke, and friend Jacob, played by Taylor Lautner. During this time, tensions are at a high point between the vampire and werewolf clans, and when Victoria, played by Bryce Dallas Howard replacing Rachel Lefevre of the previous films, turns local teenager Riley Biers, played by Xavier Samuel, in a vampire, she enlists him to recruit a vampire army to kill Bella. As such, the vampires and werewolves make an uneasy pact to protect Bella. So there's my basil exposition out of the way, now I'll get down to the heart of the argument, and many of you are probably reading it just to see if it is a Twilight mark or Twilight hater's review you are reading. Well, here it is: I really like Eclipse, which means on my own scale that I am no longer neutral and am now on the side of the Twilight fanboys(/girls). And you know what, so what! To start with the good about this film, this time the actors portraying each of their characters have really nailed them spot on. Kristen Stewart, as the heart of the Twilight franchise, gives her best performance as Bella here. Having been labelled as both wooden and an absolute moan in the past, you really do feel there is a flesh-and-bone three-dimensional character here, and this is through the expertise of her performance. Robert Pattinson also, who in the past has either really just had to stand around look good or be completely non-existent finally delivers a performance worthy of the character he's attempting to portray. He has always had a real presence and strong way how to carry himself as a physical actor, but here he really makes Edward seem such a more well-rounded character, as opposed to someone who occasionally squints and purses his lips. Once again though Taylor Lautner steals the film's best performance as Jacob, and like Stewart and Pattinson, delivers his character's best performance. After having been the best thing in New Moon, here he has gotten even better, and the complexity of Jacob's character is portrayed with suitable gravitas, and has really in my opinion overcome his critics who say he just has to run around in shorts and look buff. Edward makes a good joke about that about half through the film, querying Bella "does he ever wear a shirt?" This brings me to the script, which really is at least half-way responsible for the actors to be able to give a good performance. Series scribe Melissa Rosenberg delivers her best script, which is strongly written in the dialogue sense and really nails bang on the head the essence of the interactions between Bella, Edward and Jacob. It's slightly frightening though that the scripts of this series have been of such varying quality, not forgetting the fact that Melissa Rosenberg was one of my Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse in film last year. How does one manage to write scripts of this differing quality? Also, director David Slade injects this film with his sensibilities and it is much better for it. Slade has in the past directed one of the best films of the 2000's in Hard Candy, a really complex and interesting psychological thriller. Also, even though I personally disliked 30 Days Of Night, I will not deny that the film looks really good. Here, the film has a strong sense of visual style. I have criticised cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe's work on New Moon, but I feel that the influence of Slade, himself a former music-video director, has really informed the style of Aguirresarobe. However, while I really like the film, it is not without its gripes. Seeing as how as it is a franchise film, it is understandable that the film has a labyrinthine cast of characters. I don't have a problem with that, and I like any movie that respects its viewers. However, while they have nailed the central relationship between Bella, Edward and Jacob, which is really what the story is about, the film does not balance the background-foreground story aspects correctly. Background-foreground is having two simultaneous types of story being intertwined into one and influencing the directions of the other. For example, the foreground is Victoria and Riley's newborn army targeting Bella, and this is the catalyst for the actions taken in the background story of Bella, Edward and Jacob. Each influences the other. However, the foreground, which is the story that drives the story forward, is overly simplistic and poorly developed. Once again, and disappointingly so considering the three-dimensional and well-rounded feel of the film, the franchise has failed to develop the villains in any way whatsoever. They are poor caricatures of characters. As such, there are large sections, and not necessarily the action sequences by any means, where your attention just completely fails to be caught. I'm not saying devote more screen time to the characters by any means, but just give us an idea of what it is that we are meant to fear so much. 12 Angry Men devotes 90 minutes of screen time to develop 12 fully-rounded characters sitting in a room and the accompanying toilet and we feel like we know all of them by the end of it. It is this simplicity in character development, lack of balance and lapses of interest that condemn it from being a great movie. However, Eclipse is by all means a very good film which is for the most part very well-rounded and thoroughly enjoyable and interesting.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.1/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Pleased

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