The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Directed by David Slade
Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner
Release date: June 30, 2010
Hailing The Twilight Saga: Eclipse the best of the series isn’t the ringing endorsement it sounds. Hearing that won’t change the minds of any non-believers and if you are already among the following, you aren’t one that needs converting. It most certainly is, but it’s a pretty relative statement.
I have always taken the stance of non-participation in the popular recreation of Twilight bashing. Attacking the mob mentality of these zealots is a bandwagon that would be easy to jump on, but Lord knows I liked some awful movies when I was younger, so I’ve always given the series a fair shake. They haven’t been great, in fact they have been downright ugly at times, but I can see why so many fans like them. A little.
Eclipse starts off pretty promising. Dark and raining in Seattle, a young man is being chased and hunted by something. This is the first time in this series I got the sense that vampires are dangerous and anything but sparkly and cuddly. It turns out to be Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is still hellbent on exacting revenge on Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) for killing her boyfriend James in the first film. Her plan is to find and kill Bella (Kristen Stewart), presumably so Edward can feel what she felt when her boyfriend died. The young man ends up being a college student from Forks, Riley Biers (Xavier Samuel), who is turned and tricked by Victoria into helping her assemble an army of newborn vampires to help take down Bella and the Cullen vampire clan.
Edward et al get wind of the series of murders in Seattle and start preparing for a battle. Once they figure out that Victoria is in charge of the movement, the Cullens realize they are going to be out numbered and accept the assistance of Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) and the rest of the werewolf pack to help protect Bella. Both Jacob and Edward aren’t exactly pleased with the arrangement, but put their differences aside and go along with it for their respective feelings for her.
There isn’t much else going on in Eclipse in terms of story advancement. I suspect that like the latter Harry Potter films, Eclipse was designed as a build up to set players in motion for the last movie rather than being a standalone story. This is a bit of a double-edged sword. It is good because things aren’t overly complicated and the story can breathe a little and just be. It’s bad because when left to its own devices the central problem that has plagued the series is still there.
Regardless of how much you like them, the three main characters still haven’t outgrown their tendency to stop the movie cold in its tracks with their long, soap opera stares and their thoughtful meditation about how much they love each other, or not. Just when something mildly interesting starts to unfold, there they are again, leering at each other from across the room/cafeteria table/meadow. It is starting to become a clichÃ© thing to poke fun at, but come on already. People are making fun of it for a reason. I was a teenager once so I know the ropes, but in the movies after I’ve basically watched six hours of “You hang up first. No, you hang up first! I love you. I love you more!” it starts to grind after awhile. At its core, the Twilight story continues to be about the feelings of the typical high school teenager. Confusion, alienation, sense of self, sexual tension, love, lust, and the kitchen sink. So as distorted a vision of romance as these kids seem to have, I can still process the undertones.
Bella spent the first movie swooning over Edward. After he left in New Moon, she started to get close to Jacob. In Eclipse, she realizes she has feelings for both and is left to agonize over which one would be better for her in the long run. Aside from their pining over Bella, Jacob and Edward aren’t left with much else to do besides have their little pissing match to see whose feathers can puff out more while they each try to win her sole affection. Bella, on the other hand, is given a little more meat to chew this time around. While she’s central to the love triangle, she seems to be getting fed up with the drama it and she has caused and has a little more pep in her step. She knows what she wants for the most part and is much more assertive about it. Stewart takes advantage of the change in character and gives a decent performance, all things considered. Or as two separate friends of mine put it, “She must be getting better because I didn’t want to punch her in the face.” That’s about as glowing a review as anything I could muster. As for Lautner and Pattinson, not so much unless you count showing off your greased abs or your crinkled brow as a great performance.
There are a couple of funny lines (“Doesn’t he own a shirt?“) that give a wink at how cheesy the series has been perceived by the casual viewer. And this time most of the humor is on purpose, which is a nice change of pace. In other words, a subtle nod to let us all know that amidst all the brooding and angst they don’t seem to be taking themselves as seriously as they have in the last two films.
The source material is what it is, but director David Slade makes his presence known where it counts. The film has a darker feel to it, there is actual violence(ish), and when the battle finally takes place, it is shorter than I would have liked after all the buildup, but it’s still pretty cool to watch. Slade was smart enough to know that while drastically changing the story isn’t an option, enough care can be given to the details to at least keep things interesting. There are a couple of flashbacks of the Quileute tribe and some of the Cullen family that add substance to their back story. Substance breeds emotional attachment. Whether you buy in to it or not, at least the attempt is being made so you aren’t left to just blindly follow these people because they are there. The special effects still aren’t perfect, which is only strange given the license to print money the franchise seems to have become, but they have come a long way since the first film.
On the whole, movie reviews exist for the sake of telling the reader whether or not a movie is worth seeing. These rules of convention don’t really apply to the Twilight series. Fans will eat up the love triangle as it continues to entangle itself further into complication and non-fans will continue to moan about how cheesy the whole thing remains. If you like the series so far, you are going to like this one just as much or more because you are already a fan and for all its problems, there isn’t enough bad to change your mind. If haven’t liked it, you aren’t going to be converted for the same reasons. It has its moments, but there isn’t enough new and good to change your mind either.
For me? I always felt David Slade’s involvement would either make or break me for the series. It turns out that Eclipse made some decent improvements, but for what amounts to little more than a sexless version of True Blood, so I can still take it or leave it.