The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is about as good as New Moon, not as good as the first Twilight movie. It includes a payoff for the Victoria the Vampire plotline which has been running since the first, which is a bit colorless and disappointing. But despite all that, it feels pretty authentic and moves the ball down the field just competently.

The actors are fine, but again seem engaged in a struggle against mediocrity in writing which has become more and more strained trying to (a) I guess, keep a PG-13 rating for a bloody vampire tale and (b) perhaps assume too much knowledge of the books' plots, or stay faithful to them in a way which hurts the cinematic impact of the movies.

I still haven't read anything by Stephanie Meyer, and don't intend to. Odd that I'm a fan of the movies and have no interest in the books. I even read The Bridges of Madison County after seeing that Clint Eastwood movie (movie's way better, of course). I just have a strong instinct that Meyer trapped some lightning in a bottle with her story dynamics, and I prefer to watch that unfold as it will on the big screen.

The first film had novelty going for it. The vampires of Twilight are unique on film, and seeing their debut was kind of a treat, even if the ultimate surprise is the rather bland and boring nobility and niceness of the vampire clan portrayed. It also had a fresh romance between compelling leads, and a nice subplot with Jacob Black (Tyler Lautner) and his nascent wolf pack. The second film managed to be more successful than this one in creating dynamic and watchable conflicts, even with the physical absence of Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) for much of the film. His presence in New Moon was palpable and intriguing, causing Bella (Kristen Stewart) to take risks and question herself.

This film begins with a misquotation of Robert Frost's immortal poem "Fire and Ice." One word is exchanged, "I" is substituted for Frost's "it," and I sigh to report that this brought a loud dreamy teenage sigh from the crowd when I watched it. It feels cheap and unearned. And Kristen Stewart's reading of it is so arrhythmic and anti-charismatic that "fire" and "ice" become fellow words on the line with no particularly extreme emotional temperatures.

But it's a soap opera, I'm not looking for great literature, I'm looking for the tween Gone with the Wind, with vampires. The plot of this one concerns Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, okay with not a lot to do) raising an army of powerful newborn vampires to avenge the killing of her vampire husband James by Edward, by threatening his love, Bella. Along the way, the romances between Bella and Edward, and Bella and Jacob, do deepen, change and conflict--and get talked to death. At least half an hour of dialogue about this could have been cut without blinking. I was excited to see David Slade, the director of 30 Days of Night, a fairly no-nonsense, satisfying action vampire film with a great Danny Huston performance, take the helm for this one, as I assumed these kind of useful cuts would be second nature to his style. But I think somebody must have gotten in his way.

The result is a rather slow pace, which really drags at times. I also found some of the action and effects dragged the film down. Things seem unmotivated, unless you think a dramatic motivation is to get to the next drawn-out dialogue mess. Not all the dialogue is hopeless, but less is most often more when it comes to star-crossed love. The effects are not as bloody, stark or thrilling as one might wish. Unlike in real life, seeing is not necessarily believing at the movies, especially in today's huge, effects-driven blockbusters-in-waiting. Twilight Saga, you haven't blown it yet, but let's keep it moving, top priority. Try having a little more respect for these doomed teenage characters, played by appealing actors, and you'll do fine. But you are on notice.

The ending especially, for me, lacked some drama and impact, and the very ending seemed way too happy and bright. New Moon announces its intentions quite openly in the title: there will be mooning. Yet Eclipse provides not quite enough darkness. They're splitting the next book in two, and they couldn't find a dramatic cliffhanger anywhere in the last 50 pages of this book, or the first 50 of the next? Storytelling 101, people.

The first film in this series is really quite good, and the second is as competent as this, but slightly better. Another new director, the estimable Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Dreamgirls) may provide a dose of badly-needed fresh blood to a series which, despite the best efforts of the cast, seems constantly in danger of going from clever and pleasantly morbid to totally moribund. It's not there yet, but this film leans slightly more that way than the last. It's okay, it's good, that's all.

6-30-10


Links for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Follows The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)

Internet Movie Database Entry

Roger Ebert Review

Official Site

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