Eclipse Eludes Suck of the Summer Season

I am not a Twilight fan.

I can say that truthfully having suffered through over 1,300 pages of poorly-written, insufferable whining and self-absorbed melodrama that runs throughout the Twilight series. So abundant were my problems with the novels that I could not bring myself to finish the third entry, Eclipse.

There are those whose hate is so immense that the mere mention of Twilight is met with a hiss as though it were garlic or some religious relic (even if they’ve never read any of the books). I am not among them, although I can relate to some of their reasons.

While I may have finally shrugged off the novels, having opened myself to so much of the series I am unable to resist the curiosity of seeing how the films fare. I’ve watched each movie optimistically, hoping for someone to come along and make something decent out of the source.

Twilight was abbreviated fan-service that skimmed over the interesting parts of the novel; more a product than an actual film.

New Moon was only slightly better, yet laughable at times and still greatly melodramatic.

But with Eclipse, Twilight fans finally have something to howl at the moon about: a movie that ten years from now they won’t be embarrassed to admit enjoying.

Bella Swan is this close to graduating high school, at which point she and Edward plan to marry and run off to the hills of Alaska so she can be transformed into a vampire without the risk of family or any other humans becoming Newbie lunch. Eclipse isn’t about what happens after graduation (that’s saved for the two-part finale next year). This movie is concerned with those final weeks Bella has to change her mind and vote pro-life - hers that is. But while Bella is visiting her mom for the last time and talking with others about marriage or whether or not to be a blood-sucker, an army is growing in Seattle. Someone is painting the Emerald City red by building a legion of blood-thirsty new vampires. Meanwhile, Victoria, scorned lover of the ill-fated James in the first movie, is toying with the vampire Cullen family in Forks and the Quilette werewolf pack of the La Push Indian Reservation, running along their boundary lines while trying to find a weakness toward her target: Bella.

Director David Slade, of the dark, twisty thriller Hard Candy and the fiercely gory, yet mediocre 30 Days of Night, is the new hired hand here. Thankfully, he seemed to take material that he publicly ridiculed, trimmed out most of the melodrama, and made it something closer to what he might be interested in seeing. Slade’s Twilight has more horror elements than any other entry, good action and effects - and these vampires are no fey emo-hunks; they are tough and can kick ass.

This is, without doubt, the most exciting film in the Twilight film series so far.

But it still isn’t a great movie.

Eclipse features no less than three origin flashbacks, which work well in a novel, but kill the pacing of a movie. What’s worse is these interludes add nearly nothing essential to the movie and thereby waste twenty minutes of the film; they are clearly only included because they’re part of the book.

Kristen Stewart, who turned heads in Adventureland last year, clearly can’t figure out how to make Bella Swan interesting. She’s toned down the loathsome self-centeredness in the novel but unfortunately failed to replace that with any magic or personality (the vampires have more life in them); the result is a bland central character.

Also, not only does Eclipse steal what little mystery the novel had by introducing the vampire army too early, but it also has moments that lack logic or consistency. For example, there’s a snowstorm in June. It’s never dropped below thirty-five degrees in Clallam County at that time of the year. And why aren’t the vampires sparkling every time they’re in sunlight?

Having said all that, there is more to like in Eclipse than anything else this series has ever offered. The performances by Taylor Lautner and the vampire cast is strong, particularly for Jackson Rathbone, who’s finally asked to do more than stare in some way. Lautner’s Jacob may treat Bella’s choices with a desperation and urgency typically saved for those ‘end is nigh’ disaster films, but he is engaging and persuasive as the boy Bella has every reason to be with.

What’s more, a theme regarding maturity and identity creeps in by surprise, making the ‘will she/won’t she’ dilemma at the heart of the story something more than maudlin drivel. The action subplots also offer unexpected thrills and satisfying creature effects.

Eclipse may not be Twilight’s Azkaban, fully legitimizing the series and drawing newcomers to it, but David Slade has pulled together something decent and exciting. It isn’t a masterpiece, but Eclipse stands apart from those other films that are currently waiting in the darkness to suck their victims' wallets dry.


6/10

Should you see it? Buy tickets (fans) / Rent (open-minded non-fans)


Eclipse is out now in theaters.

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