The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: I’ll admit this right off the bat: I went into this movie expecting to enjoy it. However, I figured I’d enjoy it for the same sorts of reasons I loved New Moon – that it would be awesomely bad and unintentionally hilarious. But I actually liked it quite a bit, and mostly on its own merits. It helped that it was fairly self-deprecating (lines like “Doesn’t he own a shirt?” and “I’m hotter than you” were priceless), but the primary reason was that so much of the stupid crap from the book was removed. Major props go to screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, who has truly outdone herself this time. When I read the book, I was pretty unimpressed with both Edward (portrayed here by Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner), and more than a little disappointed in Bella (Kristen Stewart) for giving either one of them the time of day. Ah, but in the film, both boys come across as (more or less) attractive options, save a bit of over-protectiveness from Edward and desperation from Jacob. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the cinematography plays up the guys’ best physical aspects – Lautner’s stunning physique and Pattinson’s charming smile. (I have to mention that watching the camera caress Lautner’s washboard abs is an extremely uncomfortable experience, for he is a child, and no child should look that tasty. I’m sorry, “but he’s 18” doesn’t help your case when you’re over 30.)

The plot in a nutshell: Edward wants to get married, but Bella, who is perfectly willing to spend eternity as a vampire with him, is balking at the idea. To complicate matters, werewolf Jacob has stepped up to the plate, offering himself as a saner alternative to the living dead. In the meantime, longtime foe Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) is forming an army of superstrong newborn vampires to destroy Bella and the Cullens as revenge for them killing her mate in Twilight. Though sworn enemies, the vampires and the werewolves have to team up to defeat Victoria’s minions.

With all the exposition covered in the prior two movies, there’s less melodramatic angst this time around and more believability in the relationships. I spent most of Twilight trying to figure out what attracted Edward to Bella in the first place, and much of New Moon wondering about Jacob’s poor taste in women. But in Eclipse, it’s taken for granted that these two guys are in love with the same girl, and the whys don’t matter much. It helps that Stewart and Pattinson spend a lot more time smiling, making it appear as if they actually enjoy each other’s company. Pattinson and Lautner are clearly having a ball playing rivals, even if there were times when I wanted to tell Jacob to just give it a rest already and move on.

The costumes and make-up are better this time around, though Cleolinda is totally right: the Cullens do resemble Gap/Old Navy commercials pretty much every time they want to look tough. The wolf pack didn’t give me any more West Side Story flashbacks, which was both heartening and a little disappointing. Because I love the wolf pack and all their cheesy goodness. The CG wolves are far more believable than in New Moon, even if most of the actors have difficulty delivering their lines convincingly to things that aren’t really there. And let me just say this: Bella’s engagement ring is ugh-lee. It looks like a cheese grater. Seriously.

The acting of the main trio is considerably improved. Stewart is Twitchy McStutters less often and even closes her mouth from time to time. Pattinson sounds less like he can’t remember his lines. Lautner has learned to portray a far greater range of emotions. Speaking of good acting, Billy Burke (as Bella’s father Charlie) remains one of the bright spots of the film, delivering every line so well he stars in all his scenes.

Now, this is far from a perfect film. I can’t imagine anyone with a hatred for (or even extreme disinterest in) the Twilight universe liking it all that much. Vampires still sparkle, werewolves still imprint, and teenagers still talk about true love as if they have any experience to go on. This is unquestionably the best movie of the series so far, but the first two admittedly set that bar fairly low. (Actually, technically it was the books that set that bar, but you know what I mean.) It’s sort of a cross between a Syfy Original and a romantic comedy on ABC Family.

Anyway, I’ve blathered on long enough. Eclipse is a fun little film, clearly written for the fans, and something I’d watch again and still enjoy – perhaps even without MST3K-ing it to death. The same could not be said for Twilight and New Moon. Oh, David Slade, why couldn’t you have directed all of them?

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