Alrighty, I've seen Eclipse (finally... stinkin' UK delayed release...) and I am pleased, bordering on impressed, with the film's final product. The progression of the talent, the story development and the improved tone were most impressive to me.
The first thing I'm impressed by how much they were able to fit into a two hour film in order to provide background information, plot progression information, and fan-demanded information. Let's review: trip to Florida, virgin conversation, proposal, tent scene, Jasper's background, Rosalie's background, Leah's backstory, reiteration of main points like talents, wolf telepathy, body heat, the make out scenes, punching a werewolf in the face, the jealousy and anger of the Volturi, Riley and Victoria's messed up relationship...
The list goes on. I'll go into a few comments though in my normal manner.
The storyline- cheers cheers cheers to Rosenberg. She had a lot of ground to cover, and she did it well. The story progressed smoothly, and I was most impressed by the one-liners that, ironically, were not in the book, but fit perfectly in the film. She inserted a few lines that took the tone from that scene in the book and worked well in the film. Two lines in particular I'm thinking of: First when Jacob is leaning smugly and shirtless against the VW, girls everywhere swooned, and the tension is cut with Edward saying, “Does he own a shirt?” and when Jacob enters the tent and says, “You're just mad because I'm hotter than you.” These lines give the snarky edge to Jacob and Edward's relationship, without superfluous dribble and, frankly, the extensive exposition from the novel. Yes, they are different from the books, but the tone is spot on, and that's good adaptation- making it work with the pre-existing material and the feeling that exists in that moment from the book, and matching it visually with concise, even if different, words. When those lines were said, we got the anger, jealousy, humor, and poking fun while really loathing the other person quite appropriately.
The acting- Stewart didn't stutter in a horribly awkward way and in fact seemed supremely confident with her character; Lautner didn't bury all of his lines in monotonous tones and really showed his leading man capabilities in scenes like the kiss after the tent and the bedroom scene after the fight; and Pattinson didn't just look sad and tortured; there was contentment, happiness, jealousy, fear, and anger... and Jackson Rathbone finally had a few lines to develop his character beyond someone who just looks constipated and 'in pain' most of the time. Also, the relationships really showed through for me, particularly with Jasper and Alice. I loved the little peck she gave him after they did their battle practice in the woods.
The wardrobe/hair/eyes- I know, it's a bit trivial in the long run, but these can often be the things that people take notice of if it's poorly done, 'wrong,' or different from the books and thus can be a necessary branch of adaptation studies. If we can see the line of the contacts around the actors' eyes, it removes us from that moment of the story; we become critical and say 'oh, I can see the contacts' instead of 'ah, he's just hunted, it must be okay to be around Bella...' etc. etc. The eyes were very well done. Black when they needed to hunt, and the gold was lovely. I think it may have been CGI-ed on this one as it blends well into different shades of gold.
Jasper's hair is finally good, Rosalie finally fits the bill of stunningly beautiful, Alice is dancer-like and svelte and isn't wearing matronly outfits, And the vampire pale-ness no longer looks strikingly fake. Carlisle's hair still needs some work... but meh, not too shabby overall.
The sparkle- finally! No tinkling bells in the background when he sparkles! I hated that cheesy effect. It made the sparkle a gimmick, whereas this one it was simply a fact; something that just happens when he's in the sun. No big deal was made, and there were no stupid tinkling bells.
The flashbacks- I loathed the thought of them because the more I watch Twilight, the more I dislike the ones in the first film; I found them cheesy and contrived. These, however, were very well-handled, and I think that's because of their authenticity. In Twilight, they were sepia-toned, there was seemingly contrived wardrobe (i.e. Rosalie's ruffled collar, and cliche pageboy caps), and inappropriate mardi-gras wolf hats on the Quileutes... the Eclipse flashbacks seem more factual. The story of the third wife, Rosalie's backstory, and Jasper's- they all looked appropriate, they weren't filled with soft-focus cheesiness, and they very much set the tone of the characters and gave them some depth and believable history. It gives a lot of substance to the being. We were able to see Jasper's compassion, and his struggle with killing vampires when Maria ordered it, and Rosalie's dark past was well-handled, as well as her sensitivity and slight humor when she reminisces on killing Royce in her wedding dress as 'theatrical.' As one movie-goer remarked, “You forget how long they've been around; it was neat to see the history.”
Anna Kendrick- Jessica has a minimal part in the novel, but graduation plays a big roll. It was clever to incorporate Kendrick into graduation as an integral player. She has the talent, the recent Oscar/Golden Globe buzz from 'Up in the Air,' and can really carry a scene. It was nice to see Summit give her that kickin' graduation speech to mark the meaning of choices, decisions and the future that we know is playing so thoroughly through Bella's mind, but through the words of Kendrick.
The sex- Yes there's a big debate out there right now about abstinence and the message and all of that.. but I'm not going to go into that. From a film-critic point of view, I think it was pretty great. They spoke as teenagers speak, acted as teenagers act: with passion, intent, awkwardness, and honesty. Their chemistry was real; you could feel it and believe it in every kiss, embrace, hair touch, forehead kiss, boob-grope and chest-stroke. It was nice to see the filmmakers bravery in taking this challenge: a charged and heated topic in the fandom and with the parents of the fandom, and just showing what needed to be shown. Like any other part of the book, they took the tone and information from the page, and translated it to the screen, and I think the tension and anticipation that we all loved from the books was there in spades. I missed the 'this would be difficult on a couch' line, but that's just a smidge of nostalgia; the line wasn't necessary for the scene to work- the making out and the tension was necessary, and they got that.
I also greatly enjoyed the opening scene in the meadow. In the first film their relationship moves so fast, the ending was satisfactory, but it can seem quite rushed. By this film, they are utterly devoted to each other, and its scenes like this that illustrate the natural partnership that they have. They just look so comfortable and easy with each other. It's lovely, and I think it has the feeling of attraction, suspense, and subtle eroticism of that first meadow scene from the novel that fans were looking for in Twilight's meadow scene. They're so stinkin' cute
The 'virgin' conversation: Just awkward enough. I loved the movement through that scene too. How Charlie just stood his ground, determined to make it through this conversation and Bella is continuously moving towards the stairs, fleeing as fast as she can, but still giving her dad the information he needed to stop worrying.
Choices- I would have loved to be a fly on the wall of Rosenberg's thought process to change Bella into a wicked stronger character in this one. We all love Bella, but she really can be a bit pathetic; always in need of rescuing, protection, and always needing a man. In this, she still needs protection and still needs her men, but she is more definitely her own person. She gets angry at Edward for lying to her, goes off with Jacob against Edward's wishes because it's her decision and what she needs to do to be with her friend, and my most favorite Bella moment is the speech in the meadow at the end where she says 'yes, I love you' blah blah blah, but also 'I don't fit in here, I'm not normal, I belong in another life, your life.' Meaning with him, but also as a vampire. It so clearly makes it her decision and not dependent just on being with the man, but flourishing and becoming her own person on her own terms in a life of her choosing.
It's best in that scene, but also in that conversation with Rosalie on the balcony. We see Bella, the strong capable human who survives and holds her own in superhuman situations, and can see how she can fit into this other world. Well done. I hope Meyer was down with it as it changed Bella's central being, but I think it changed it in a way most people imagine Bella anyway; we all want to defend and champion her, but it can be tough with her actions from the text at times. This Bella in Eclipse gives us all of the fodder we need to illustrate her as a strong leading lady (who still needs some rescuing, but so do Edward, Seth and Jacob as she sacrifices herself left right and center to save them).
Parent relationships: They are so underplayed in every aspect of the story (they're not very active in her life), and there are some really lovely moments that are played up in this film effectively in order to show what Bella is giving up in order to be with Edward. There's the easy, touching scene with Renee, the success of which has a lot to do with Stewart's performance, and of course all of those lovely 'Charlie Moments' like where he utters 'super' and tries to have some serious conversations with her. I love Billy Burke; such a rockin' guy, and great actor.
Also the Carlisle and Esme moments where you see their parental tendencies in their family. Carlisle tries to appease the Volturi and keep the peace when Edward loses his temper ("if you had arrived half an hour earlier..."), and both he and Esme were the ones in shot, ready to take responsibility for Bree.
Well good on ya for making it this far.... but I'm going to stop there for today. There's so much more going on in my head that I want to sort out; These are just my initial thoughts of the film, but there's so much more to consider in the adaptation of event films. I'm thinking about the marketing, the cross advertising, Volvo is tied in, Burger King, and how the imagery has changed in the promotional materials; colors changed from the cold iciness of Twilight to the soft, warm browns of New Moon, and to the steely grays for Eclipse (see image from My TwiLife), the lines, the storyboarding process (Slade and Rosenberg worked together to adapt this one where she would have the script, he would get it and storyboard it, and he would give it back to her to adapt the script to fit the shots; very cool process and unusual for this saga at this point).
See, I'm waxing on again... okay. Stopping now! Would love to hear your thoughts, and I'll be mulling over a few more in the next few days... and hopefully seeing it again a few more times!