A film review by Craig J. Koban December 8, 2010



2010, PG-13, 124 mins.


Bella Swan: Kristen Stewart / Edward Cullen: Robert Pattinson / Jacob Black: Taylor Lautner / Victoria Bryce: Dallas Howard / Charlie Swan: Billy Burke / Jane: Dakota Fanning / Dr. Cullen: Peter Facinelli / Jasper Hale: Jackson Rathbone / Esme Cullen: Elizabeth Reaser

Directed by David Slade / Written by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer.

If the first TWILIGHT film and its sequel - the self-importantly named THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON - made me care very little about the central romance between a centuries-old vampire and his teenage girlfriend, then the third film in the planned four part series, ECLIPSE, made me care even less.  

These films, based on the exceedingly popular book series by Stephenie Meyer, are critic proof in the sense that most film critics are not early adolescent girls that ravenously gush over every minute detail of the soap opera/Harlequin romance trials and tribulations of Bella, Edward, and Jacob.  The central arc of the last two films is the “ultimate choice” of Bella as to whether she’ll choose an icy cold member of the undead or a hairy and ferocious lycanthrope.  Call me crazy, but this lass needs to seek immediate psychiatric care before making any commitments. 

The series thus far, I guess, facilitates every young girl’s most primal, pornographic fantasies about having to select between two unattainably attractive young boys that want her in every way possible, which makes the choice that much more titillating.  I have always conceded that TWILIGHT, NEW MOON, and ECLIPSE are not so much steeped in forbidden love as they are about the sinful pleasures of teen lust.  Seriously, what other possible motive would young Bella have for wanting to spend all her available time with a monster like Edward?  Remember, he is a 100-plus-year-old Nosfuratu that has completed the 12-grade over 80 times (talk about hell on earth) and must feed on blood to survive.  He cannot die, which precludes that if you want to spend eternity with him then you’ll have to also be turned and become an everlasting blood drinker.   Poor Bella will have to lose her virginity in more than one way with this hideously unstable creature.   

Alas, ECLIPSE and its immediate predecessor go to mind-numbing lengths to be parables about teen chastity.  Bella (Kristen Stewart, who looks, more than ever, bored and uninvolved with her role) wants to nail Edward (Robert Pattinson, miraculously becoming more mannered and wooden with each new episode), but he does not want to sleep with her nor does he want to “turn” her, mostly because he’s a traditionalist.  He won’t do the no-pants-dance or facilitate her transition into becoming a vampire until after marriage, but that pesky and conflicted Bella does not seem ready for marriage at 18.  Hmmm…she’s not ready for exchanging life-long vows, but she is ready to become a creature of the night.  Riiigggghhht. 

Then, of course, we have the Quileute Indian childhood friend - and werewolf - of Bella, Jacob (Taylor Lautner, a likeable performer, but one that is getting by far, far too much on his pecs and abs than on his thespian skills) that wants Bella, especially if it will mean stealing her away from Edward, seeing as vampires are the sworn enemies of the werewolves.  Jacob’s steadfast desire to woe Bella makes Edward’s fangs really protrude, and through most of the film we get the obligatory standoffs between the boys followed by lots of posturing followed by lots of mutually pining and swooning over Bella…and so on.  Bella, through the course of this highly odd romantic love triangle, can’t seem to let go of one of the eligible suitors and, more or less, does a considerable amount of leading on, which ultimately makes her the least sympathetic and likeable persona of this series.  She is not so much an innocent victim here as she is, for lack of a better and more appropriate phrase, a cock tease.   

Yet, surrounding the perpetual struggles of Bella choosing between being a member of “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob”, are other larger concerns.  The evil and malicious vampire Victoria (initially played by Rachel Lefevre and now replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard, hamming it up to eye rolling levels of mockery) is back with a nasty plan for revenge against both Bella and the Cullens, Edwards’s pseudo family.  She has taken it upon herself to create a group of newborn vamps, which are apparently really unstable and violent during their initial period after being turned.  Her new gullible protégée/ lover, Riley (Xavier Samuel, bland, one dimensional, and indistinctive) decide to unleash the full force of the new undead army on the Cullens, and Edward and his family see this coming and decide to prepare for the worst.   

Desperate to save themselves, the Cullens decide to team up with their enemies, the werewolves, and declare an uneasy truce between them so they can fend off Victoria once and for all.  Meanwhile, the Volturi are lurking in the background watching these events led by a red-eyed vampire played by Stewart’s RUNAWAYS co-star Dakota Fanning in a role so seemingly inconsequential and vaguely developed that you kind of wonder why scenes involving her were just not excised from the film altogether; what a tremendous waste of her talent. 

ECLIPSE (sorry, I refuse to preface it with the terms THE TWILIGHT SAGA anymore) is arguably the most laugh inducing of the series to those not insatiably devoted to its literary source material.  Much akin to many of the recent HARRY POTTER films, this newest entry does little to propel the main characters and their plights in any new direction.  Bella is still a dislikeable, selfish minded, and manipulative young woman that toys with the emotional fragility of the young men that want to win her affections; Edward is still a diamond-skinned shimmering vampire that only wants what’s best for Bella, but still wants to marry her; and the everlastingly shirtless and rock-hard sculpted visage of Jacob still whines to Bella about how he is a better choice for her and how he will never stop trying to be with her.  The film begins and concludes with these same character dynamics, which makes everything that transpired in-between during its 124 minutes (a snooze-inducing and self-indulgent running time) feel redundant. 

There are some attempts, albeit feeble, at developing subplots involving some side-characters that, frankly, are not worth our interest (do we really care that one of Edward’s “brothers” was once a Confederate soldier before he was turned?).  Sandwiched in-between those scenes are other moments involving some of the most banal and mechanical dialogue exchanges your likely to hear all year.  Lines like “I know the consequences of the choice your making” or “I promise to love you every moment forever” or, my personal favourite (as Bella speaks to Edward during one late moment) “This wasn’t a choice between you and Jacob.  It was a choice between who I am and who I should be.”  Oy vey.  Stewart in particular deserves a special technical Academy Award for performing with the most moody and sullen of faces while reciting the most god-awful dialogue without hysterically breaking down on camera.  I did, however, like a one-liner by Edward directed to Jacob: “Don’t you own a shirt?” 

There is more action in ECLIPSE, but this is, after all, a PG-13 film, so many of the wolf-on-vamp carnage is remarkably bloodless and goreless (not to mention that the CGI werewolves look as hastily executed as the last time around).  The very competent David Slade, who made one of the Ten Best Films of 2006 in HARD CANDY, directed ECLIPSE.  He proficiently makes the film look good and creates some panoramic shots of visual interest, but for all of the complexity he brought to the characters of HARD CANDY he seems, in comparison, completely neutered by the requirements of ECLIPSE’s tailor-made, teen-audience centric scripting.  Ultimately, it really does not matter who directs these films because the filmmakers are essentially puppets and are lost in the shadows.  The TWILIGHT franchise is not interested in what the auteur behind the camera wants to bring; they are more compelled with just having someone slavishly bring the novel’s elements on to the screen. 

ECLIPSE is a film that's hard to give a damn about.  I gave passable two star reviews to its two prequels, but I find myself being far less forgiving now.  It’s really difficult to not side-splittingly laugh at a film like this that takes itself as seriously as a heart attack.  Consider one late scene where, conveniently, Bella, Edward, and Jacob are on a mountaintop in a tent surrounded by a massive artic gush of frigid air.  Bella is freezing, but snuggling to Edward won’t help (he’s cold blooded).  Jacob, being a wolf, is warm, so he cozies up to Bella under her sleeping bag to keep her alive, much to Edward’s jealous chagrin.  During this highly awkward moment, Edward and Jacob profess how they could…perhaps…like one another if they were not mortal adversaries.   

Wait a tick: Edward and Jacob both cheat on Bella by pulling a full-on BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and sleep with each other!  Now that would make the TWILIGHT series a “saga” more fiendishly compelling.

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