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To Love and Be Loved in Return: Twilight's Eclipse proves to be the best of the series 

The Twilight Saga hits its stride with Eclipse.

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Hundreds of pre-teen and teenage girls, moms, a few boyfriends (who were dragged kicking and screaming, no doubt) and a plethora of twenty-something's who know better than to love Twilight, but do anyway, stood in line outside of Old Mill 16 on Tuesday night for the midnight premier of The Twilight Sage: Eclipse. The weather gods decided to give us a taste of what Bella goes through while camping in the film with a chill. Not to that extreme, of course, but it is officially summer and I'm pretty sure it was warmer during the November 2009 debut of New Moon. But whatever, it was worth the wait and besides, as the Source Weekly's senior Twilight correspondent, it was my duty to be there.

Eclipse is far and away the best film of the Twilight series, which was to be expected, as its most Twi-hard's favorite of the novels. In this installment, Bella and Edward are graduating from high school and dealing with Bella's impending vampire transformation. In addition to sorting through the repercussions that come with the change, Bella's also stressed about an evil vampire seeking revenge and is caught in the ultimate love triangle.

The acting has improved by baby steps, but definitely not by leaps and bounds, though all of the actors feel more comfortable in the skin of the characters created by author Stephanie Meyer. Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner all breathe life into their respective characters, and are at their best in the series so far. Stewart brings a tenderness and innocence to Bella, making her more relatable in that we all just want to love and be loved in return.

With each Twilight film comes a new director and a new style. The first Twilight film, directed by Catherine Hardwick (Thirteen), had a campier, independent feel. New Moon, directed by Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass), took a more cautious approach, but the colors in New Moon were more vibrant, perhaps because they had to match the film's high emotions. Now, with Eclipse, director David Slade (30 Days of Night) brings his horror movie expertise to the series, giving this film the necessary darker tone.

The score helped create the dark mood of the film. Looking back, New Moon didn't exactly have a score, and all of the music seemed to come from within in the movie's scope. This worked for New Moon because it accentuated Bella's melancholy feelings. In Eclipse, Slade does use a score to turn up the intensity. The use of cliché horror movie orchestral strings when the newly vampired Riley invades Bella's room takes the terror factor up a notch. Also, the Eclipse soundtrack is an indie rock dream: Beck, The Bravery, The Dead Weather, Metric, Flo + the Machine; it's phenomenal.

One flaw in the film, at least for people who have not read the books, would be references that don't make sense out of context. For example, the history of the Quileute shape-shifting is incredibly long and drawn out in the book, but in the film, screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg cuts out 90 percent of the story, which is fine, except for Billy doesn't explain who the third wife is in relation to the legends because so much is left out.

In Eclipse, Rachelle Lefevre is replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard in the role of Victoria, a character that comes to the forefront in this third film, as she's the brain behind the newborn vampire army set to destroy Bella and the Cullen clan. The doe-eyed Howard has an innocence about her, which makes her portrayal of the hell-bent on revenge Victoria less believable than the more sinister Lefevre.

The film's overall darker tone seeps its way into nearly every aspect of the film, which can be attributed to Slade. The romance is more intense and more adult, the Cullen clan looks darker, but in a cool and not creepy way. Slade's horror background benefited the film well during its rapid-fire action sequences and moments of chaotic vampire destruction. The cinematography was amazing; from the beautiful, majestic mountain shots outside of Forks, to the rapid crane shots around Jake and Edward when they're fighting over Bella, a moment when it seemed that the Twilight Saga had finally hit its stride.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

4 of out 5 Stars

Directed by David Slade. Starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner.


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