After much postponing, last week I finally watched The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Despite having heard different reviews beforehand, for example, from my friend and Twilight-blogger, Jess (who recently got married … yay!), who loved it, from my latest Twidom-related acquaintance Karrie (about whom I wrote last time) who hated it, and several opinions in-between (something to the effect of, “Well, it’s not a masterpiece but you know, for the fans it doesn’t really matter …”)—I had tried to keep my expectations down and stay away from promo-pics and trailers. Yet, as I discovered in the process of watching the film, somehow I had still managed to form some preconceptions, which blew up in my face.
After the first three minutes I relaxed in my seat and realized that the cinematography was not hopeless, and I decided to give Slade a break. And as I watched the film and the agony drag on (more on that later), I told myself that given the little playroom he must have had, and the pressure from a controlling studio, an overly involved book author, a lousy screenplay, a bunch of unmotivated actors and a team of lighting/makeup/costume people about which he probably didn’t have much say, David Slade had actually done an ok job as far as the things a director can control in such a franchise.
The same can’t be said about the screenplay, though. Oh. My. God. I don’t know what Melissa Rosenberg must have been thinking (has fame got to her head?!) but this could qualify as one of the poorest book-to-screen adaptations ever—and I don’t mean it in a, What has she done with my favorite book of the saga?—way but rather in an, I don’t appreciate her way of showing us she has a huge problem with the book/Stephenie’s writing, it was so transparent!—way.
As I watched the actors struggle with the melodramatic lines they were supposed to deliver, I could picture very well the eye rolling and the giggling they must have done when they’d first got the script and rehearsed together—just as I could picture Melissa shrugging shoulders and complaining confidentially that she could not work magic out of the original material. Whereas the truth is that she just hasn’t done her job right, period. There was no need—absolutely any need!—for turning on the melodrama in this installment—if anything, it should have been toned down!! Instead of adding monologues and dialogues that are not in the books (and which make even less sense), Melissa clearly should have focused on picking out from the book some more memorable sentences, and should have left out some non-essential stuff from the plot for Breaking Dawn where she will have more room to develop the storyline (as BD it will be in two films).
The screenplay really ruined a lot of the actor performances for me, because it was obvious that they were not in tune with their characters but were keeping some kind of distance. But in general, with the exception of Kellan, whose Emmet was down to a tee and really brought a smile to my face every time he showed up on screen, none of the other performances were great. The parental figures played their parts professionally (Gil was overdoing Billy a bit, but maybe it was the heavy eyeliner and the melodramatic, “almost breaking in tears when I hear my son scream of pain” moment—both not his fault) and the werewolves were ok (given their limited screen time) but none of the cast (again, except Kellan) was especially memorable.
Jasper’s hair color and facial hair blew my mind (and not in a good way) and distracted me but Jackson’s attempt at a southern accent didn’t make things better, and I just kept remembering nostalgically his vision in the first Twilight which was his best, really.
Nikki played Rosalie in a semi-ok way, far from, “This is my chance to shine and I want to nail that part!”—way and though Rosalie’s skin complexion and hair was better this time, please, can’t the make-up people still figure out that her dark eyebrows look unnatural?
Ashley … well, for all the bashing she gets in the media for trying to milk the franchise for what it’s worth (which I personally think she’s free to do), she didn’t deliver value for money but rather played Alice like “Yeah, whatever …”—and was no way nearer to her chirpy interpretation in the first Twilight, which was also her best in my opinion.
Unlike New Moon, this time Kristen was really annoying—even though I can’t put my finger on why exactly. On the surface, she was playing Bella as she normally does, but … maybe it was the film lighting, maybe it was her struggling with the screenplay … something wasn’t clicking there.
Taylor was a skinnier version of Jacob than I had expected and from time to time he was delivering his lines in such a non-muscular way that he made me think about those rumors but mostly made me think that with that kind of acting, his Jason Bourne-dream will be moving further away from him. In his defense, the screenplay required him to be melodramatic and we didn’t see much action from him in a human form but still, he wasn’t as macho as one would expect from a werewolf.
Rob, oh, Rob … I was taken aback when I saw him struggling with the acting in the first half of the film (he got better in the second—which I am guessing was filmed in reverse order). On the surface, he looked the part and was doing the usual Edward cute/serious faces, strike-a-pose, but underneath, he wasn’t feeling it, and I wasn’t feeling his Edward. Until the parts where he actually started playing against Taylor and they were really in character. It was really surprising to see their good chemistry (much better than Rob and Kristen), and the scene when Edward flipped out on Jacob (after Bella had broken her arm) and threatened Jacob was amazing. Rob was great! The way his whole body shook with rage and the way he delivered his lines made me sit at the edge of my seat, having one of those “Wow, I can see this actor in other roles!”—moment.
And though I thought this would be the only good thirty seconds in the entire film, actually Rob didn’t disappoint in the action scenes that followed—far from it, he was very believable and I thought ironically that he looked more the action hero than Taylor.
The scenes in the snow-covered mountains were a whiff of nostalgia back to the Twilight-cinematography (blue looks good on Rob with that makeup and that background) and despite the unrealistic decor and Rob’s holding-and-carrying-the-lighter-like-it’s-the-Olympic-torch (what is it with this boy and holding lighters or cigarettes?!), actually that part of the film went very well.
All in all, I left the cinema drained from the experience (like I’ve just experienced second-hand embarrassment) and kind of glad that I am not (an active?) part of the Twidom because this piece of work is unpromotable and undefendable and would have been hell discussing it with devotees. But most of all, I left optimistic about Rob’s chances for a career beyond Twilight and other romantic dramas. The raw masculinity, the outrage—I am totally buying a ticket for a Fight Club/Gangs of New York—type of film with him, if he makes one!
If I didn’t think he could pull it off before, now I believe he actually can (please, please, please, let some famous and demanding director or actor adopt him and mold him!). I am dying to see Rob in a role where he fights for nothing and even dies in agony, and I want to cry while I am watching the film. Because the kid’s got it—and I think he knows it, too, and he’s sick of playing Edward—but he just has to suck it up and do it better next time.
So, yeah—a bit of mixed feeling after watching Eclipse, but nevertheless grateful for the experience. I’m glad I’m not missing out on much as far as the franchise is concerned, and that I left the Twidom when I left. AND I am glad it got my interest in Rob’s work renewed because to be honest, I had written him off a bit …
Keep you posted.
(You can read about Step Three here.)