The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
What It Is
As The Twilight Saga: Eclipse begins, Bella (Kristen Stewart) has made up her mind. About to graduate from high school, she’s determined to become a vampire like her boyfriend Edward (Robert Pattinson). She’s remarkably stubborn on this point, despite her beloved’s repeated cautions that vampires are in fact eternally gloomy, pained, and soulless (this as he glitters and sighs and looks very soulful indeed). Still, in order to sate his own overwhelming determination to posses Bella, he agrees to what he calls a “compromise,” namely, he’ll change her if she marries him.
Still, and again, Bella remains attached to her human world, her good guy father Charlie (Billy Burke), her friends at school (whose screen time decreases yet again in this third installment), and of course, Jake (Taylor Lautner). He insists that if only she chooses him instead of Edward, she’ll be able to stay alive, to have a heartbeat and not a brutal thirst for blood. In one of the film’s more affecting scenes — both melodramatic and funny — the boys discuss their competition over Bella while she’s asleep between them: it’s a telling scene, as her adolescent love does make her look less than wholly conscious most of the time.
Though Bella denies her love for Jake, his offer does look tempting, as he and his pack share with her a familial warmth and Quileute tribal history around a campfire. By contrast, as witty as some of Edward’s coven may be, for the most part their stories are tragic: Rosalie (Nikki Reed) shares an especially harrowing tale, when she was gang-raped by her fiancée and his drunken friends, then resurrected by Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), a trauma that has left her a perpetually disconsolate teenaged vampire.
As much as Bella believes she will be a happier vampire — forever entwined in Edwards arms — she must delay her desire to “start living” her undead life while the local clans engage in yet another battle to the death. This time it’s an army of “newborn” vampires, extra thirsty for blood, extra cruel and careless, and initiated by the vengeful Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) and led by her gullible newborn boyfriend, Riley (Xavier Samuel). The Cullens and the Quileutes come together to fight off this new threat, while the Volturi, still overseen by Jane (Dakota Fanning, looking especially pale and short in her hooded cape), dither about whom to punish and how viciously.
Why It’s Fun
Again, Bella’s emotional roller coaster ride is partly melodramatic and partly just silly. The mix allows viewers to feel with her and also be aware of the manipulations, so that her first kiss with Jake or her acceptance of Edward’s proposal evoke squeals of delight, which are then redoubled as everyone hears each other squealing and so squeal again. Which is to say, that as much as the Twilight movies are must-have DVDs, they are also great fun as group experiences, to be shared in dark theaters on hot summer nights. Given how few movies today conjure this effect, Eclipse is a sure hit, and one likely to attract repeated customers.
The vampires’ signature mad dashes through the woods are less thrilling than they once were, but the werewolf effects are improved from New Moon. No longer do these creatures seem other-dimensional; now they are more integrated into the human-vampire world, as they growl and leap. At one point, Bella pets Wolf-Jake between his ears, and they look positively cute together.
The film also offers a far too brief scene between Bella and her mother Renee (Sarah Clarke), who encourages her to consider college in Florida, where she lives, rather than Alaska, which is where Bella’s lying about going as she plans her shift into the vampire world. The contrast between Bella and Renee in the healthy, Vitamin D-rich sunshine and Edward skulking inside, watching through the window is underlined when Renee notes, “You’re different with him: he moves, you move, like magnets.” Bella sees this as true love, but you also get the feeling that mom’s concern — based on her own experience of relationships with men — might merit Bella’s attention.
Who’s Going To Love It
Of course, fans of Stephenie Meyer’s books and the previous films need no prompting to see this third episode (word is, the next book will be split into two films, à la Harry Potter). Eclipse may be the most coherent of the movie series so far (though that’s not saying a whole lot), even if it does repeat by-now very familiar plot patterns. That said, the familiarity is part of the appeal: again and again and again, Bella faces the same decision, and putting off the resolution creates a kind of exquisite agony, much like what she appears to be feeling, again and again and again.
What To Be Aware Of
Like the other two Twilight films, Eclipse is all about sex, virtuous and restrained as it may be. Thus kisses that might lead to bites stand in for other sorts of physical intimacy, and bodily transformations are, of course, metaphors for young adolescent urges, phases, and changes.
The fight scenes — ironically, given all the talk about blood — are mostly bloodless. Instead, they are made up of lots of punching and martial-artsy flipping grunting and bodies flying into trees and walls, some dismemberments and a couple of beheadings. The newborns enact the most egregious violence, but this tends to set at a distance, and signaled (a writhing, faceless form, an overturned, burning car) rather than graphic.
A flashback to Jasper’s (Jackson Rathrbone) Civil War past shows that after he was a Southern Army soldier, he served a very selfish lady vampire (Catalina Sandino Moreno), who had him training her own army of newborns, then killing them before they became mature vampires: he’s visibly anguished, though the images of his violence are muted (shadowy and cut to avoid indicting him too deeply). Similarly, Rosalie’s horrible rape takes place off screen, though her face as she tells the story suggests it was dreadful.
The tensions lead to occasional mild language (“hell” and “ass”).
The most pressing concern here is the frequent lies told. Edward lies more than a few times to Bella (and when she finds out, she’s always furious), but she also lies to her parents and her friends — by omission if not outright. While Edward insists he only wants to protect Bella, and she doesn’t want to upset Charlie or Renee, neither Bella nor Edward seems to take seriously how important not lying can be, especially in romantic, intimate and long-term relationships.
7 out of 10
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Director: David Slade
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard, Billy Burke, Dakota Fanning, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Anna Kendrick
Studio: Summit Entertainment
US Premiere: June 30, 2010
UK Premiere: July 9, 2010