David Slade’s The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is all about sex and lust and teenage infatuation, a lot of it coming from a 109-year-old character that ought to know better. There´s a lot of talk about love and marriage, but they´re just words hanging in the air, the meaning lost on this group of adolescents.
Jacob loves Bella. Edward loves Bella. Bella maybe loves Jacob, but she loves Edward more. Edward wants to marry Bella. Bella doesn´t want to be imprisoned by the institution of marriage. Bella wants to have sex with Edward. “Old-fashioned” Edward won´t have sex with Bella till they get hitched. That´s Eclipse in a nutshell. The film begins and ends with the same shot of Edward and Bella in an idyllic meadow, with little of consequence happening in-between.
I wish they provided some kind of running, quantifiable graphs relating to the characters´ love for one another, because that´s something the series of films has failed to convey so far. You know, who loves who and to what degree. Amongst fans of the Stephenie Meyer novels, you have Team Edward and Team Jacob, but what are they going by? Watching the melodrama unfold, I felt like I had no dog in this race.
And yet, while Eclipse doesn´t transcend the material like Catherine Hardwicke´s Twilight, it´s leaps and bounds ahead of Chris Weitz´s awful New Moon, the second in the series. Eclipse fully embraces all the silliness and churns out grade-A cheese like a good daytime soap or Harlequin romance. It understands the material and its audience better than either of the previous films, and while it plays out straight-faced it also frequently gets laughs; the kind that say we´re in on the joke, and we know you are, too.
When New Moon left off, the vampire elite Volturi had ordered human Bella (Kristen Stewart) to become a vampire. Edward (Robert Pattinson) agreed to turn her, even though he didn´t want the vampire life for her. Through Eclipse, they talk a lot about this, and nothing really happens, even though Bella will be killed if she doesn´t become a vampire. No rush. Werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is thrown in to complete a romantic triangle, though given that we already know Bella must soon become a vampire, all this stuff seems inconsequential.
The Volturi in Eclipse are represented by Jane (Dakota Fanning) and her shrouded, red-contact-lense-wearing minions, who appear in two scenes. They´re supposed to represent the ultimate evil, as Jane displays with her Darth Vader-like telekinesis. But the actors are so horribly miscast and represented (as they were in the previous film) that they draw unintended laughs whenever they´re onscreen.
The self-contained story of Eclipse involves a band of Newborns (newly-turned vampires) led by runaway Riley (Xavier Samuel) who are tearing up Seattle and on their way to Forks. Lurking in the background is the rogue Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, replacing Rachelle Lefevre from the previous films).
There´s a big action climax, which is far superior to anything like it from the previous films; the CGI is much improved, even though the wolves still don´t feel right – they´re far too big to make any kind of sense, and seem to fly through the air weightlessly. Director Slade brings the same kind of intensity to the proceedings that he brought to his previous films, Hard Candy and (the also-vampire-themed) 30 Days of Night, even though here it´s all a run-around. There´s a sense of style that surpasses what we´ve seen before.
Nothing much happens in Eclipse, but that bothered me less than it did last time around. Stewart and Pattinson and Lautner are legitimately charismatic performers, fun to watch even without much of a plot to help them hold our attention.
I worry about an audience that takes the Twilight Saga too seriously, but the packed theatre I saw Eclipse with seemed to be taking it all with a grain of salt, plenty of laughs and groans and catcalls to go around. Take it for what it is – a beefed-up fantasy telenovela – and Eclipse is tolerable enough.