The good news is that it's definitely a marked improvement on its depressing predecessor; the downside is - like before - all the angst and drama of the Twilight world can get a bit weary. Edward's (Pattinson) still being all traditional and is desperate to marry Bella (Stewart) but she's more interested in staying eighteen forever than becoming Mrs Cullen. While she's still umming and ahhing about the whole thing there's a convenient distraction on the horizon - nearby Seattle is being rocked by a spate of gruesome murders and disappearances. The Cullens recognise the work of newborn vampires and suspect someone is coming after Bella (yet again). Luckily they have Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) - the newest vamp in the family - to help train them, although his expert advice seems to consist of everybody running at each other very quickly. Just to make things more complicated, they form an uneasy truce with Jacob (Lautner) and his wolf pack, which of course means that the love triangle between our three heroes gets top billing once more.
This being a Twilight movie, there's no escaping the ubiquitous wallowing and brooding that ensues, but at least Eclipse manages to keep the action moving. Stewart is a natural at the perennially awkward Bella, deftly conveying her struggle between an eternity with Edward and missing life's biggest moments. A quick tussle in the bedroom - swiftly stopped by the virtue-protecting Edward - gives a hint of what to expect in Breaking Dawn, while Bella's easy relationship with dad Charlie (Burke) provides welcome laughter and a cringeworthy sex talk. Pattinson - whiter than ever in his vampey make-up - doesn't really do much but look pretty and seems overshadowed by Lautner who looks like he's having the time of his life as he prances around shirtless, snags one liners and steals forbidden kisses.
It's clear this movie knows what its audience wants and expects - hence the copious shots of our stars looking all flawless and tortured, all intensified by the menacing landscapes and achingly cool soundtrack. Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg and director David Slade have done well to condense the action into one movie, but at 120 minutes it does drag in some places. That being said, it at least allows extra screen time for characters like the deliciously villainous (and easy-on-the-eyes) Riley (Xavier Samuel) to have his story fleshed out more than in the book. Reflections on Jasper's army background and Rosalie's fairytale life-turned-violent-end are also welcome, but it's a shame the same can't be said for the unhinged and vengeful Victoria (Howard) who oozes evil from every strand of her fiery red hair.
Let's face it, this is a guaranteed blockbuster no matter what anyone says and nothing will stop the Twi-hards storming the cinema in droves to catch a glimpse at their fictional icons. Thankfully for them it's a definite step up from New Moon and might even leave the harshest critics just a teeny bit excited about what's in store come the two-part Breaking Dawn... The countdown to November 2011 begins...
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