Catherine Hardwicke's direction of the original 'Twilight' movie, inspired by the writings of Stephenie Meyer, was a hard act to follow. And where Chris Weitz seemed to fail to grasp the concept of 'New Moon', director David Slade has been faithful to the words on the page, successfully giving a real insight into the characters and their backstories here.

As one of the most complex books in the series, 'Eclipse' offered lots of possibilities, and with them plenty of risks of pitfalls. The third instalment in this franchise covers a lot, which was always going to make the story difficult to sift through.

We pick up with Bella (Stewart) and Edward (Pattinson) trying to get back to normal after all the recent drama in their lives. Bella's father Charlie (Burke) still doesn't trust Edward. Jacob (Lautner) can't see a way for him to remain friends with Bella, who has stolen his heart a long time ago. But not only does she not seem to return his affections but she is also flaunting her love for vampire Edward in front of him.

But as usual, it's not just about the drama of teenage romances. There's also some serious trouble brewing. A spate of killings in Seattle is gaining widespread media attention and causing the Cullens to become suspicious about the circumstances of the various disappearances and murders. Believing that an army of newborn vampires might be behind the headlines, they decide to investigate further, hoping to deal with the matter before the Volturi get wind of it, and possibly decide to check up on the status of Bella's pact with them. But there's more to Seattle's gang, fronted by newcomer Riley (Samuel), than the Cullens initially feared and an old enemy is hatching a plan for revenge that could have serious consequences if the vampires can't renegotiate their treaty with the Quileute tribe and gain the help of the growing wolfpack.

In the background to all this, Bella is pushing Edward to accept her life-changing decision, while Edward has a plan of his own, that will involve a major compromise for her. And, interestingly, we get to track back in time here also, to find out how both Jasper (Rathbone) and Rosalie (Reed) came to be where they are.

'Eclipse' hits the right mix of drama, romance and tension, giving more weight to certain characters and storylines than the book, but without missing any of the detail that progresses the story. Although this one has a strong focus on the love triangle between Edward, Bella and Jacob, lots of the characters on the peripheries also get in on the action. Charlie has genius one-liners. New vampire Riley really makes an impact. And, although the appearance of the Volturi lacks the impact of Caius and Aro, Dakota Fanning certainly makes Jane a force to be reckoned with again in this outing, while Felix's (Cudmore) cold menace is unsettling.

The movie is also shot interestingly, mixing shaky hand-held footage with over-head shots and sweeping pans of the beautiful mountain landscape, giving a less-polished, rough-round-the-edges vibe to the whole affair and contrasting well with the supposed perfection of the Cullen clan. Probably what impresses most about 'Eclipse' is that the details are carefully considered, with back referencing evident throughout. It does, however, mean that this instalment doesn't really work as a standalone movie but, considering the success of its predecessors, that's hardly likely to be a concern.

A great take on the captivating stories of part three of the saga.

Linda McGee