This review was written by George Lang. The film received two out of four stars.
Up to this point, the film versions of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” books felt like souvenirs for fans— trinkets that offered light allusions to the stories on the page. They skimmed along the surface and offered up visual cues, but for people who had yet to crack one of Meyer’s vampire books, 2008′s “Twilight” and last year’s “New Moon” felt bloodless, virtually drained of any real drama.
So “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” constitutes an improvement, offering more action and forward momentum thanks to director David Slade, the “Hard Candy” director who injected uncommon intensity into the modern vampire genre with 2007′s “30 Days of Night.” Slade proves to be a good choice for “Eclipse,” which builds to a battle between opposing vampire factions, but even with ramped up action, the stakes never seem genuinely high for Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) or Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner).
In “Eclipse,” a series of grisly murders in Seattle and the disappearance of a young Forks, Wash. resident, Riley Biers (Xavier Samuel), lead Edward to believe that the killings are the work of a “newborn” — a vampire with an insatiable, uncontrollable desire for blood. Edward and the rest of the Cullens (Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Jackson Rathbone, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz) soon determine that Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) has assembled an army of these newborns, and the Cullens join forces with the wolf pack to fight off Victoria’s incursion.
Howard was an inspired choice to replace Rachelle Lefevre as the lethal Victoria, but her significant threat feels more like a subplot, since more time and weight are given to the often tiresome love triangle of Edward, Jacob and Bella. Bella is perfectly willing to become a vampire, but Edward, a vampire with traditional values, insists on marriage first. When he is not shape-shifting into a wolf, Jacob spends most of “Eclipse” steamed over Bella’s choice, giving Lautner little more to do than pout without a shirt.
Fans of the novels and the film series who enjoyed “Twilight” and “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” on the screen will probably like “Eclipse” more. But the emotions in this entry still feel muted, as if the considerations of becoming an immortal creature of the night carry no more consequence to Bella than deciding on a prom date. This could be Stewart’s fault — the actress can deliver strong performances, but she is borderline somnambulant as Bella.
But Slade still manages to extract fire from “Eclipse,” particularly during the climactic battle scene, and the appearance by the Volturi in the final moments is especially effective. These elements elevate “Eclipse” and will make non-fans dragged by their “Twi-Hard” significant others squirm in their seats a little less, but it’s a shame that a series with such a devoted following has yet to deliver a sharper bite.