The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Directed by David Slade
Screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg
Xavier Samuel as Riley
Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan
Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen
Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black
Billy Burke as Charlie Swan
Justin Chon as Eric
Anna Kendrick as Jessica
The Best of the “Twilight” Series is Still Not a Winner
Theaters around the country are functioning at capacity yet again this week because of the newest addition to the Twilight franchise, Eclipse. Lines are out the door for every show, and marketers are using this opportunity to promote those other massive, literary-based franchises, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eclipse will no doubt be the summer’s biggest box-office success (though to be fair, it’s shaping up to be kind of a terrible summer for movies).
The last two sparklevamp movies, based on books by Stephenie Meyer, have been mediocre (Twilight) and terrible (New Moon). The third film is definitely the best of the series. For Eclipse, Summit Pictures brought on a third director: Brit horror veteran David Slade. Slade, who made the gritty indie Hard Candy in 2005, also helmed the 2007 vampire flick 30 Days of Night, which features an entirely different sort of vampire. Slade’s investment in the terror inherent in vampires—something Meyer adroitly avoids with her “vegetarian” clan of good vampires—adds a new dimension to the third film.
Eclipse opens the way a hundred slasher movies have: a guy leaving a bar is brutally attacked in the midst of a pouring rainstorm. He writhes, shrieking, on the pavement, and the film proceeds to the other aspect of the tale: the epic love story. Eclipse picks up shortly after New Moon left off, with our protagonists, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire paramour Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) madly in love and debating their romantic future. Of course, Bella has recently had to stop Edward from committing suicide via sparkle, been attacked and maimed, and discovered her best friend Jacob Black is a werewolf (or, more accurately, a shapeshifter). In short, this is no normal teen romance. It is, in fact, much sillier and more melodramatic. Luckily the plot of Eclipse is more complex and intriguing than the previous material, and as a result the movie’s characters gain depth now that the introductions are over.
In Eclipse, evil vampire Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, replacing Rachelle Lefevre) seeks revenge on Edward for killing Victoria’s mate, James. An army of newly changed, “newborn” vampires threaten the safety of Washington State at Victoria’s behest so Edward should feel the pain she endured at James’s demise. Meanwhile, Edward proposes marriage to Bella, whose broken family has made her leery of the institution. Edward and Bella debate her wish for him to turn her into a vampire and his desire for marriage, all the while suffering from an overload of hormones. Yes, it’s utterly ridiculous, but so is being seventeen.
Let’s first point out that Bella Swan is a blank slate: a clumsy, pale, skinny brunette on whom girls everywhere can project their own fantasies. Edward Cullen, the beautiful, sparkly vampire love interest, is a rather inert character whose only intentions are to “protect” Bella. “Protecting” her includes watching her while she sleeps, disabling her truck so she can’t visit her friends, and lying to her. Were it not for Meyers’s vividly imagined cast of characters and scenarios, this would sound like a Lifetime movie about abusive relationships. Bella’s best friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner), a shapeshifter, is the natural enemy of vampires—and very much in love with Bella. In Eclipse the wolves and the Cullens, mortal enemies, join forces to protect Bella from the army of newborns, while living in fear the Volturi, the vampire lawmakers, may return to ensure Bella has been changed into a bloodsucker. But frankly, whose teenage fantasy doesn’t involve two hot guys with superpowers battling it out for her affections? Meyer is no literary genius, but she certainly understands teenage girls—and teenage girls reciprocate by attaching themselves obsessively to her novels. (In line for the film, two girls wore handmade Team Edward and Team Jacob shirts.)
Slade is adept with artful violence; a scene in which the Cullens play-fight to teach the wolves how to fight newborns is quite good, and even sexy. The final battle between the army of newborns, the Cullens, and the wolves is well done but not bloody. Though the visual effects aren’t fantastic, they aren’t distractingly bad either. Stewart, who proved she has serious acting chops in The Runaways, is still rather wooden and gawky as Bella. Pattinson, a good-looking if slightly unwashed young man, is likewise a cardboard cutout as Edward. Lautner, whose underage six-pack draws moans, gasps, and giggles from Team Jacob (and might convert a few who are adamantly Team Edward), is still the charming kid he was in New Moon. Stewart’s chemistry with Pattinson is palpable and she seems at ease with Lautner as well. Bella’s father, Charlie, played with great comic timing by Billy Burke, is a sweet, if awkward, father figure and audience favorite. Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, who also penned the first two films, manages to pull the best she can from Meyers’s novels. Dialogue between characters is terrible. However, Rosenberg and Slade manage to give Bella some backbone in Eclipse: she makes her displeasure known; in a rare role reversal, she wants Edward but can’t have him; the character played by Stewart seems less manipulated, more substantial.
Eclipse is by no means a great movie; it’s not even a good one. However, it’s by far the best of the Twilight films. The acting is wooden, the dialogue awful, and the story utterly ridiculous. But let’s be honest: if you’re reading this review, you’re probably curious about the movie because you adore the books or you want to rag on the latest teen phenomenon. For simple, mind-numbing brain candy, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse could do worse.