[UPDATE: Kristen Stewart on The Late Show with David Letterman, now attached on page 2.]
Last week’s EW cover declared Eclipse “The Best Twilight Movie So Far” without a single word inside to back up the claim. Today the trades weigh in with the same assessment and give us a few reasons to believe them.
THR’s Kirk Honeycutt praises the three leads and credits the director for tapping the right vein:
Since Rosenberg’s writing has never been the problem in the series, much of the credit for the success of “Eclipse” probably belongs to the series’ third director, David Slade (“Hard Candy,” “30 Days of Night”). He quickly establishes a rapid yet unhurried pace, a willingness to let tongue perch in cheek and an unapologetic indulgence in this basic fantasy of every teenage girl — that two high school hunks are in love with her and willing to die for her, except, of course, that one is already undead.
The three leads shine under his direction. Stewart anchors everything with a finely tuned if not slightly underplayed performance that catches her character in moments of doubt about the course and the man she has chosen. Pattinson makes you forget the white makeup and weird eye contact lenses to concentrate on a person torn over his love for a woman and the sacrifice he knows she will have to make to stay with him.
But it’s Lautner who nearly steals the movie with his ripped muscle and steely acting. He definitely has the “it” factor Hollywood always looks for.
Variety’s Peter Debruge agrees that the series has finally established a steady cinematic pulse, and re-translates the material in the best tradition of pulp fiction renovations: ripping out the framework down to the studs (so to speak) and rebuilding the structure into something sturdier.
The pleasant surprise this time around is that the result finally feels more like the blockbuster this top-earning franchise deserves. Employing a bigger budget, better effects and an edgier director (“Hard Candy’s” David Slade), “Eclipse” focuses on what works — the stars — even as the series’ parent-friendly abstinence message begins to unravel…
Slade and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg wisely intercut the puppy-love scenes with uneasy horror-movie jolts… Rather than attempting to elevate Meyer’s swoony prose to the level of literature (the poor scribe exhausts herself trying to find synonyms for “perfection”), Rosenberg’s task is to faithfully adapt the material for fans in such a way that works onscreen; that means having the freedom to remove, reorder or completely rewrite certain passages. She also has to contend with “Eclipse’s” muddled message — Bella’s in a hurry to be bitten, while everyone else is telling her to slow down — and devises a nice graduation speech for best friend Jessica (Anna Kendrick) on the merits of not rushing into things.
Despite the somewhat simple-minded source, the producers plot everything as if it were a strategic game of chess, paying off earlier gambles — Jacob played third wheel in the past, but gets the sexier kiss here — while seeding future films.
Both critics say the Twilight series looks its best in Eclipse:
Variety: Though Slade inherits “New Moon” d.p. Javier Aguirresarobe, his choice of lenses and shooting style (including a fair amount of handheld camerawork) gives things a more dynamic energy.
Visual effects have improved considerably, with no fewer than 11 companies working on everything from Edward’s sparkling skin to CG wolves that realistically blend with live-action characters. A scene of Bella side-by-side with canine Jacob feels perfectly plausible, but nothing beats the sight of vampires and werewolves going at it in the climactic battle. If anything, the digital work outshines the other departments, with bad makeup, lifeless wigs and creepy contacts being the elements that disrupt the fantasy.
THR: Speaking of the wolf pack, the CG wolves, huge creatures whose ferocity fails to mask their tenderness, are very cool, and the fight at the climax among wolves, vampires and one poor human is no letdown. It delivers the goods without overstaying its welcome, which is more than can be said about most CG movie fights.
Production values are aces with DP Javier Aguirresarobe and production designer Paul Denham Austerberry very much taking advantage of the dark, woodsy and utterly beguiling beauty of British Columbia.
(Just like Bright Star — except even less risk of pollination.)