Not much has changed since last time. Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) is still plotting to avenge her lover’s death at the hands of the Cullen clan. Bella (Kristen Stewart) is still mopey, (though slightly less so) now that she and her vampire beau Edward (Robert Pattinson) are officially a couple; much to the consternation of werewolf extraordinaire Jacob (Taylor Lautner). However, Edward and Jacob (as well as their respective vampire and werewolf communities) are able to unite over a common enemy when a newborn vampire goes on a killing spree in the town of Forks. Saying that Twilight: Eclipse is the best film of the Twilight Saga is (to paraphrase Doug Stanhope) a lot like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. But, there you have it.
Director David Slade (30 Days of Night, Hard Candy) brings a stylistic flourish to the proceedings that had been sorely lacking. Now bear in mind, we’re grading on a curve here. The first two films could be mind-numbingly tedious, at best. While it’s not on par with when Alfonso Cuarón helped the Harry Potter franchise find its voice with Prisoner of Azkaban, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. This film finally finds a modicum of humor in the proceedings. Granted, it’s not like the picture was directed by Judd Apatow but it’s somewhat lighter tone was refreshing. But fear not 14-year old girls, sulking and brooding abound. Bella’s torn affections between Edward and Jacob leave her languishing. Edward mopes over Bella’s temptation. Jacob is morose over Bella’s decision to be with Edward. Man, my thesaurus is really getting a work out. There are only so many synonyms for “sulk” one can reasonably be expected to know.
Sadly, much of what I found disconcerting about the first two films is still present; namely, the entire story seems to be a metaphor in support of domestic abuse. Edward loves Bella because he’s drawn to her blood but he can’t consummate their relationship without fear of consuming her. While Jacob could lose his temper at any minute and become a werewolf in a berserker rage. Jacob discusses at length his tribe’s tradition of “imprinting,” a process by which a man connects to a woman with a level of relentless severity that will cause him to do anything to “protect” her. He then follows up his tutorial by telling Bella that she would be “better dead” than with Edward. And, no matter how “purty” Taylor Lautner might be, that still sounds like stalking to me. Aren’t there any kids at her school that just want to go to prom?
The film does finally make some mention of the age difference between Bella and Edward. He is, after all, ninety-seven years older than she is; although it is used mainly as a plot device for ensuring our heroine’s chastity. But realistically, what could these two possibly have in common…besides a mutual interest in moping, of course. Pattinson and Lautner finally get some screen time together which serves to show us that while Pattinson is the better actor, Lautner is the more likable actor; a subtle but important distinction when it comes to predicting the future non-Twilight success of each.
I can’t tell if the special effects have improved or if Slade is better at hiding them with directorial embellishments. Either way, they’re much less laughable than less time. And while there is still a sparsity of action, a problem that’s plagued the entire series, when the Cullins and the werewolves finally clash with an army of newborn vampires it’s (dare I say it) kind of cool. But as much as Twilight Eclipse is step forward, I still find myself using phrases like “less laughable”, “kind of” and, you know…that Denny’s comment. But I’m no fool. If ever there were a critic-proof movie, it’s this one. And if you enjoyed the first two, then this is probably your Empire Strikes Back. But it sure ain’t mine.
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