If any film can rival the World Cup in terms of anticipation by a global legion of fans, it is the new, third installment in the romance of teenager Bella and her beloved, ageless vampire, Edward. Here's a look at The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.
It actually started a couple of years ago with the first film adapted from the wildly popular Twilight romance novels written by Stephanie Meyer. The saga continued last year with New Moon, and now in Eclipse, headstrong high school student Bella Swan affirms her love for classmate Edward Cullen, a soulful and very pale teenager. Of course, Edward is really more than a century old, but, as a vampire, he remains eternally young. As if that were not enough of an obstacle to their relationship, there is also her lifelong best friend, Jacob Black. Not only is he jealous, he is also a werewolf, sworn enemy to all vampires.
Xavier Samuel, center, stars in "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse"
The rising tensions between Edward and Jacob must wait, however, because a bigger threat is descending on their mountainside town of Forks, Washington.
"Someone is creating an army."
"An army of vampires?"
"They are coming here."
The approaching danger forces an uneasy alliance between the wolves and the undead.
"They're after Bella? What the hell does this mean?"
"It means an ugly fight with lives lost."
"All right, we're in."
Taylor Lautner stars in "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse"
Taylor Lautner co-stars again as werewolf Jacob and the now 18-year-old says he has grown along with the character.
"Jacob definitely matures quite a bit because he has been dealing with his new self now, he has come to know his new self and the situation he has been put in - romantic-wise and a lot of stuff," Lautner explains. "He deals with a lot. He becomes frustrated in this one a little bit because he gets this close all the time and then gets told 'no' over and over again. So it's quite a bummer, but he's persistent."
Robert Pattinson stars in "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse"
Robert Pattinson is Edward and the English-born actor likes the freedom this latest film gives him to go deeper into the character and his predicament.
"His flaws, I think, in the first two movies …earlier on the story …were caused by his dislocation from reality," Pattinson says. "So when he finds one thing to hold onto, that's where the possessiveness comes from. I think as the series goes on he accepts more and more that he is part of the contemporary world and I think all the things that were deemed to be flaws before start fading away. That's how I'm trying to play him and I think he's coming out of his shell a bit in Eclipse."
Kristen Stewart stars in "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse"
Torn between the two young men is Kristen Stewart, returning as Bella. She knows that to stay with Edward means she must give up her mortal life and become a vampire too.
"She is pushed to the point where a decision has to be made in this one; but she does that in each movie and what's cool is that things change," explains Stewart. "As certain as she is sometimes and as absolutely gung-ho and young and courageous and brave, she is also willing to take a step back and go 'okay, I'm going to reconsider my options and how I'm treating everybody' because she acknowledges that she's being a little bit selfish. She makes the choice, but I feel like the choice is made as soon as she sees him the first one. It's done, but it's hard for her to get to the point where everyone is going to accept that and this is the one that it, sort of, happens in."
English-born filmmaker David Slade directs this third film in the series and like his two predecessors he says the big challenge was to include everything fans of the books want to see.
"I think sticking to the emotional character arc was the most important thing, yet we had so much story to tell and it was great story," notes Slade. "I think the hardest thing was combining those two things and then figure out what the hell we were going to jettison. That went from pre-production through shooting and through editorial: how do we get this down into a movie and still have all the salient points, not detract from the main story and pay respect to the source material? It is the dichotomy between such great content and story and how you shave off without hurting."
It is not over yet. The Twilight Saga continues with the adaptation of the final book, Breaking Dawn, which is being divided into two more films, the first of which will be in theaters in 2011.