The heightened tension of the love story — mixed with killer fight sequences — makes The Twilight Saga: Eclipse the best film in the series.
The movie, opening Wednesday and based on Stephenie Meyer's third book, works equally well as a love story and action film because of the first-rate work by director David Slade.
The love story continues the fight for the affections of Bella (Kristen Stewart) by her vampire love, Edward (Robert Pattinson), and her hopeless werewolf suitor, Jacob (Taylor Lautner).
Slade manages to find time for all of the angles of this triangle to play out, culminating in a verbal showdown between the guys. The mix of serious tone and light comedy makes the romance interesting.
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The scenes featuring Edward and Jacob work better than in the other films because Pattinson has such a strong handle on playing the moody Edward and Lautner has finally become comfortable enough in his buff skin as Jacob to be on an equal acting plane.
Slade — with the help of screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg — balances the love story with well-staged action sequences, including the final big showdown full of vampires and werewolves. Meyer's book loads most of the action in the last third of the book, but Rosenberg sprinkles the action throughout.
Bouncing from the romance story to action this way magnifies the tension in both.
There's so much going on in Eclipse that the film feels a little top-heavy with extra players. Bella's high school buddies — and even the feared Volturi — have only a few lines more than the background extras.
Even with this small problem, Slade might have done too good a job. There are two more films planned in the series, but Slade plays out the romantic triangle and handles the threat to Bella with such skill that this could have been a pleasing finale.
The person who should be worried is Bill Condon, the director tapped for the two-part finale, Breaking Dawn. He's got a real challenge to make movies as good as Eclipse.