WARNING: POST CONTAINS MAJOR 'ECLIPSE' SPOILERS

Of all the movies to hit theaters this summer, who knew that 'Eclipse,' the third chapter in the ongoing 'Twilight Saga,' would be one of the very best?

Yes, you read that right, and yes, I'm still surprised by my reaction. Up until last Wednesday, I wasn't much of a Twi-hard (in the battle of Team Edward vs. Team Jacob, I was firmly on Team Michael Sheen), and as I headed into the screening, my expectations were about as low as the temperature of Forks in winter.

WARNING: POST CONTAINS MAJOR 'ECLIPSE' SPOILERS


Of all the movies to hit theaters this summer, who knew that 'Eclipse,' the third chapter in the ongoing 'Twilight Saga,' would be one of the very best?

Yes, you read that right, and yes, I'm still surprised by my reaction. Up until last Wednesday, I wasn't much of a Twi-hard (in the battle of Team Edward vs. Team Jacob, I was firmly on Team Michael Sheen), and as I headed into the screening, my expectations were about as low as the temperature of Forks in winter.

Granted, though I've never been a fan, I have enjoyed witnessing my friend Courtney and, of all people, my 28-year-old brother flip out over the franchise, and there have been times when I myself have enjoyed its OMG-worthy plotlines. I mean, who wouldn't want two hunky guys fighting for your heart, especially when they look like Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner?

My issues with 'Twilight' -- mainly, that it sends a regressive message to young women -- stem primarily from its source material. Of course, these are issues that the movies couldn't fix without uprooting the entire story, and by then, what's the point?

So in order to enjoy 'Eclipse,' I knew that I had to throw my pre-conceived notions out the window and accept 'Twilight' for what it was. And what do you know? It worked. Seconds into 'Eclipse,' I was already seeing 'Twilight' in the a new light, and by the time it was over, I was ready to declare it one of the most enjoyable films of the year. I say this as someone who loves Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick and Ingmar Bergman films.

So what makes 'Eclipse' so much better than its predecessors? For starters, there's a lot more going on here than the usual Team Edward vs. Team Jacob drama -- enough for the non-Twi-hards out there to keep from glancing at the exit signs. Yes, Bella, Edward and Jacob are still brooding and sulking over Bella's Choice from 'New Moon,' but there are bigger threats at play here -- in this case, the Newborn Vampire Army, which has been terrorizing the state of Washington and is quickly on its way to find Bella and the Cullens in Forks.

Watch the 'Twilight: Eclipse' Trailer

What results is a dark and at times terrifying 'Twilight,' in which limbs are ripped off, heads are shattered and nobody is safe. For a franchise previously known for its sparkling vampires, CGI werewolves and tween drama, you get the sense that the movies are finally starting to grow up.

Such is also true in the case of Bella, Edward and Jacob, who, on the heels of their high school graduation, are being forced to make grown-up decisions of their own. With the Newborn Vampire Army approaching and multiple lives at stake, Bella sees two different paths: one with Edward and one with Jacob. Should she pick Jacob and thus stop the vampire war from happening, or should she follow her heart and go down the more dangerous, potentially deadly, path with Edward? 'Eclipse' makes a legitimate case for both.

The Twilight Saga: EclipseThough, I have to say, at the risk of offending every Twi-hard on the Internet, I will never understand why -- spoiler alert -- Bella picked Edward over Jacob. I say this more as a credit to the quality of 'Eclipse' and the performance by Taylor Lautner than as a knock to the franchise.

When we were first introduced to Jacob in 'New Moon,' he was simply that other guy with the really, really hot body who lived in the woods and occasionally turned into a werewolf. But in 'Eclipse,' he's on a much more even playing field with Edward, and in his quest to win back Bella's heart, he comes off as arguably the most rational and level-headed person in Forks; even Edward thinks that Bella should be with Jacob.

And why not? He's basically offering Bella the best of both worlds -- a chance to love and be loved, and to keep living life as a normal human being. At the end of the movie, ask yourself: Is all that vampire drama really worth it? I'd say no, but maybe that's why I'm still single, and probably why I was never much of a 'Twilight' fan to begin with. (But admit it: That Jacob-Bella kiss was pretty hot.)

Putting all of that aside, as much as I hate to admit it, I enjoyed 'Eclipse,' and I'm actually excited to find out what happens in 'Breaking Dawn,' especially now that Oscar-winning writer-director Bill Condon ('Gods and Monsters,' 'Kinsey') is on board. I probably won't freak out when the trailer comes out, but it's still something to look forward to. And in an otherwise dismal summer movie season, what's not to love?

(Oh, and for the record: In case you already didn't guess it by now, I'm totally Team Jacob.)

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