After much postponing, last night I finally watched "Eclipse" and despite having heard beforehand different reviews - from my friend, Jess (who should be getting married soon), who loved it, to my latest Twidom-related acquaintance Karrie (about whom I wrote last time) who hated it and called it the worst teenage movie, and several opinions inbetween from my former group, who said 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.
I thought David Slade would have done a bad job, Rob would not have problems playing Edward (cause how difficult can it be?), and that Jackson and Nikki would try to make strong Jasper and Rosalie appearances.
I stand corrected.
After the first 3 minutes I relaxed in my seat that the cinematography is not hopeless and decided to give Slade a break. And as I watched the film and the agony dragged on (more on that later), I told myself that given the little playroom he must have had, and the pressure from a controlling studio, overly involved book author, lousy screenplay, unmotivated actors and a team of lightning/makeup/costume people which he probably didn't have much say about, David had actually done an ok job as far as the things a director can control in such a franchise. So he's off the hook as far as I am concerned and I would actually not mind seeing other stuff from him...
The same can't be said about the screenplay. Oh.My.God, I don't know what Melissa must have been thinking (has fame got to her head?) but this could qualify as one of the poorest book-to-screen adaptations- and I don't mean it in a "What has she done with my favourite book of the saga?"-way but rather in a "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 eyerolling and the giggles there must have been when they 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 no need- for turning on the melodrama (if anything, it should have been toned down, as the original has already got enough bashing for that same thing) and instead of adding monologues and dialogues that are not in the books (and which make even less sense) she should have focused on picking out from the book some more memorable sentences, and deciding on leaving some non-essential stuff for Breaking Dawn where she will have more room (as it will be in two films).
But what's done is done and the screenplay really ruined a lot of the actor performances for me, cause it was obvious- at least for the main trio- that they were not in tune with their characters but were keeping some kind of distance. With the exception of Kellan, whose Emmet was down to a tee and really brought a smile to my face everytime he showed up on screen, none of the other perfomances 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 the limitations of the screen time) but none of the cast (except Kellan) was especially memorable.
Xavier got more screen time than Bryce which was odd but his Riley was not scary enough (and unconvincing telling our beloved Edward "You're dead"). Bryce was ok but her version of Victoria never stood a chance against comparison with Rachelle's one...
And I had expected a bit more of Jackson, Nikki and Ashley.
Jasper's hair colour 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 (but I still have high expectations for him in "The Last Airbender") and I just kept remembering nostalgically his vision in "Twilight" which was his best. Nikki played Rosalie in a semi-ok way, far from "This is my chance to shine and I want to nail that part"- and though Rosalie's skin complexion and hair was better this time, please, can't the makeup 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 "Twilight" which was also her best.
Now about the trio. Kristen was, unlike in "New Moon", 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 expected and from time to time was delivering his lines in such a non-mascular way that he made me think about those rumours 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, and overdoing a bit "Let me show Bella is mouth-watering by swallowing loudly"-bits, 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 pulling out from each other good performance, and were in character. It was really surprising to see their good chemistry (much better than Rob and Kristen), and the pinnacle for me in Rob's game was when Edward flipped out on Jacob (after Bella had broken her arm) and threatened him. My God. The way his whole body shook with rage, and the way he said it- 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 3 seconds in the entire film, actually Rob didn't disappoint in the action scenes- far from it, he was very believable and I thought ironically that he looked more the action hero than Taylor who dreams about a career in actions films. 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 the Rob's holding-and-carrying-the-lighter-like-it's-the-Olympic-torch (what is it with this boy and holding lighers or cigarettes?!- for a smoker like himself it's embarassing!), 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 embarassment); glad that I am not (an active?) part of the Twidom (cause this piece of work is unpromotable&undefendable and would have been hell discussing it with devotees); but most of all optimistic about Rob's chances for a career beyond Twilight/romantic dramas and interest in his future roles . The raw masculinity, the outrage- I am totally buying a ticket for a "Fight Club"/"Gangs of New York"- type of film with him in it, 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 him in a role where he fights for nothing and even dies in agony, and I want to cry while I am watching the film. Cause the kid's got it- and I think he knows it, too, and he's sick of playing Edward - but if he's a professional, he should just finish the job, and play Edward believably next time ... so no cutting slack and cutting corners, he should suck it up and do it.
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 when I left. AND I am glad it got my interest in Rob's work renewed cause I'd lately written him off a bit...
In other Twi-related news, I am happy to report that this summer I tried an "Eclipse" icecream on a stick while I was in Bulgaria- which was actually tasty- but still made me laugh to myself while I was eating it (forbidden pleasure?). Also, the other day I was watching an episode of "Scrubs" and laughed when I heard "We have to bring out the big ones- tell them the cast of "Twilight" is here"- just as a smiled when I saw yesterday a poster and a trailer for the "Vampires Suck" parody which hits the cinemas here next weekend. So, it's good to know, Twilight is still a positive/humoristic/self-ironic thing (memory..reference?..can't explain it).
Keep you posted :-)