There’s a bit of a celebrity du jour running around the UK right now, thanks to the success of the latest installment in the Twilight series, Eclipse. The movie soundtrack, in particular, has been climbing the charts, giving music fans the chance to sing along with Taylor Swift and others as they experience an eclipse in real life.
Eclipse is the final chapter in the Twilight series, where Bella (played by Taylor) ventures out into the real world and meets up with her vampire mate, Edward (played by Robert Pattinson). There have been a total of five Twilight films, with the latest installment, Eclipse, being the most expensive of all, largely because it needed to be completely authentic to the novel, which was written by Stephenie Meyer. Sadly, the production budget for Eclipse came in at a colossal £60 million, and it’s clear the film couldn’t pull in the same box-office revenue as the other four Twilight films, which grossed a combined total of nearly £500 million worldwide.
With billions of dollars being pumped into Indian cinemas, the need for an English-language movie from the country was great. Indian filmmakers clearly needed a helping hand from Hollywood, and Eclipse filled that role nicely. The fact that it’s the final Twilight film might also explain why it was such a huge production. At least, it provided Indian audiences with a fitting swan song for the franchise. It also showcased the versatility of Hollywood star Robert Pattinson, who was able to play a convincing vampire should he so choose.
The Producers’ Behind-the-scenes TLC
While many fans might be over the moon about Eclipse, it’s fair to say that the filmmaking process wasn’t without its troubles. It was initially reported that Eclipse was going to be two hours long, but that was quickly amended to just under two and a half hours. The extra thirty minutes were needed, it was claimed, because the filmmakers “failed to secure enough funding for two hours of screen time”.
One of the chief financiers of Eclipse is none other than Miramax Films, the production company responsible for bringing us the Twilight franchise. While we might not usually expect to see Disney, Paramount Pictures, and other studios competing against each other over an independent film, in this case, it was a battle of titans. Disney’s acquisition of Miramax in 2010 for $41.3 billion undoubtedly proved to be a masterstroke, as the combined media giants are responsible for such groundbreaking hits as Elizabeth, Toy Story, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the deal has been Summit Entertainment, the company behind Twilight and several other big-name Hollywood blockbusters, which has enjoyed unprecedented success since being acquired by the House of Mouse. The fact that so many studios are now competing for limited screen time might become a moot point, as the upcoming fourth installment of the Twilight series is set to be an Avengers film!
The Director’s Vision
Despite the behind-the-scenes drama that surrounded the making of Eclipse, the movie itself is a triumph. It’s no secret that director Bill Condon (Grossing / Snow White and the Huntsman) craved his own adaptation of Twilight, and it’s clear that he sees Eclipse as his answer. Having gone through extensive work securing the rights to the series, Condon was finally able to bring Bella’s high school years to the big screen. It wasn’t just about following the plot of Twilight, though; Condon took the opportunity to rework parts of the narrative and bring in some cleverly crafted allusions to the rest of the series. The result is a movie that’s as exciting as the first three Twilight films combined. It would be an understatement to say that Condon captured the essence of Twilight perfectly.
Condon directed and co-wrote the script for Eclipse with Monster writer/director Scott Beck, and it’s clear that they had a grand vision in mind. They wanted to create a darker, grittier film, something that would feel authentic to both Beck and Meyer’s literary works. While the movie might not be for everyone, particularly those who love their superheroes au naturelle, it’s clear that Condon and Beck succeeded wildly. Most noticeably, they injected all of the trademark darkness and realism of Beck’s work into the adaptation. It starts, unfortunately, with the very first scene, where we see a blood-soaked Bella picking her way through a field of flowers, looking for her next meal. Even more unsettling is the fact that this is the first time we’ve seen Bella outside of her comfortable bubble, and it’s clear that she isn’t at all prepared for the harsh realities of the real world. This is a woman who spends her days cooped up inside an ivory tower of an office, surrounded by beautiful people and glittering cityscapes, dreaming of the day when she’ll meet the man of her dreams. Suddenly, she’s thrust into an apocalyptic world where nothing is as it seems and every shadow is a hungry monster ready to pounce.
The Cinematographer’s Masterful Eye
Another brilliant detail that makes Eclipse stand out above the rest of the Twilight films is its cinematography. While they might not be known for their action-adventure flicks, Tony Walton (Harry Potter / Snow White) and Dan Hancox (Sherlock Holmes) bring a certain flair to the big-screen adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic story. The scenes where Bella explores London are especially dazzling, with the cinematographer capturing the city’s grandeur and majesty in exquisitely designed compositions that would not look out of place in an Oscar-nominated film. One of the most memorable images from the movie is the sight of Taylor Swift riding a motorcycle alongside her roped-in musician friends as they tear around a London suburb.
While it might not be the smoothest ride, it’s easy to see how Evans could be so enraptured by this chaotic display of driving talent. While the other Twilight films were mostly shot during the day, with some breathtaking night-time scenes, Eclipse was mainly filmed at night, which enabled the cinematographer to capture the city’s dazzling lights and beautiful architecture. London’s streets serve as a magnificent backdrop for a number of exhilarating chases and fights, as well as the love story that drives the narrative. It might not be for the faint-hearted, but this is a movie that begs to be seen by anyone who loves their entertainment.
One of the things that make Twilight special is its costumes. Sure, the films aren’t set in the modern day, and the designers had to work some pretty tricks to make the main characters’ wardrobes look contemporary and fashionable, but it’s clear that they wanted to push the boundaries of what was acceptable attire in 1920s London. It might not be for everyone, but there’s something incredibly liberating about seeing women wear outfits reminiscent of the Jazz Age.
The costumes for Eclipse were designed by Michael B. Kelly and created by Waverly Couture, who used a combination of hand-me-down clothes from friends and family, as well as vintage pieces from the period to piece together an original look for each character. (Kelly and Couture are both responsible for the costumes in the first three Twilight movies.)
Kelly also worked on costumes for the 1933 musical film Black Orchid, starring Barbara Hutton and featuring an original score by George Gershwin. The Oscar-nominated costume designer put together a wardrobe for Hutton consisting of over 125 individual pieces, many of which were created specifically for the film. Similar to the work done for Black Orchid, Kelly designed a number of costumes for Taylor, and it is clear that he has a real flair for styling female stars. While we only get a glimpse of a few of those outfits during the film, it’s still plenty to draw inspiration from.
While many might focus on the spectacular visuals in Eclipse, it’s the film’s incredible musical score that most people will be talking about. It was originally composed by James Newton Howard; however, given the scope of the project, a lot of the orchestrations had to be redone by acclaimed British composer Thomas Newman. What’s more is that Howard and Newman took the opportunity to include some iconic pieces of classical music in their score. As twilight turns to night, we’re treated to the haunting strains of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, which sets the eerie mood for the proceedings. Another classic, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 5th Symphony, also makes an appearance towards the end of the film. (Newman has worked with the House of Disney multiple times, scoring films such as the upcoming Jungle Book.)