It’s all half-baked rubbish, though it contains enough supposedly shocking moments to send the intended demographic into a swoon.
Calling Eclipse the best of the three Twilight films so far is certainly fair, but it edges into “best of the worst” territory. The first two movie were the cinematic equivalent of getting jabbed with dog poop on a stick, and Eclipse’s ability to transcend that, while an improvement, still doesn’t make for worthwhile cinema. Not that the Twi-hards will care. It retains the same Tiger Beat mixture of non-threatening boys and PG sensuality as the first two films. Those inclined towards such material will gobble it right up, unwilling to acknowledge how much of it is compost.
This time, at least, we see some signs that the filmmakers understand the genre, as the life of Bella Swan (Kristin Stewart) again takes a turn for the worse. Director David Slade has a real vampire movie under his belt (the flawed but fascinating 30 Days of Night) and the best parts of Eclipse make good use of his experience. The benevolent Cullen clan of vampires has largely served as moving scenery before now; here, key members finally receive their due, revealing the pain and tragedy of their pasts in a decent series of flashbacks. It’s telling that every single one of them feels more interesting than anything happening to the ostensible heroine: brief tales full of horror, loss and bloodshed befitting the nature of their characters.
Slade also delivers on the film’s biggest conceit: an army of newborn vampires, created by the vengeful Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) to destroy Bella once and for all. Though the climax never fulfills the promise of earlier scenes, it still earns a few solid shivers, as well as letting Howard and Dakota Fanning (playing a very scary senior vamp) strut their stuff. Slade’s sense of style further results in a tighter overall flow than the first two films, while developing parts of this universe beyond romantic high school wankery.
Sadly, the wankery remains, in far, far greater amounts than any rational human being should tolerate. The bulk of the film covers the ongoing love triangle between Bella, pretty-boy vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and hunky Native American werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner). Both the boys make cow eyes at their lady love and veiled threats at each other, while Bella moons about how awful it is to have to such wonderful guys love her so completely. She also frets about becoming a vampire, getting married to Edward, and other concerns which should probably go on the back burner when hordes of gibbering undead are coming to kill you.
Again, the fans paid to see this soap opera, and they certainly get copious amounts of it. It’s all half-baked rubbish, though it contains enough supposedly shocking moments to send the intended demographic into a swoon. The key word there is “supposedly,” since Eclipse clings to the same homogenized version of the vampire fantasy that its predecessors did.
It mentions the blood, sex and animal desires in passing, but remains too frightened to do more than peek at them like a wallflower at a strip club. Edward has a line about not ravishing Bella until they get married that stands as the single most pussified thing any vampire has ever said. Ever, ever, ever. Vampires are supposed to ravish unmarried virgins. It’s what they freaking do! But the chaste, Christian waffling of the Twilight films turn the concept into a pathetic punchline.
The same holds true for Bella herself, squatting at the rotten, narcissistic core of the entire series like a poisonous toad. Once again, the other characters circle her like planets around a blazing sun, either obsessed entirely with her happiness or moving heaven and earth to destroy her. No one possesses any motivation or interest beyond their relationship to her… which she compounds with her self-centered whining, feigned helplessness, and odious bits of prom-queen drama.
The worst moment comes with a speech in which she posits herself as a quirky outsider: someone deeply misunderstood and forced to walk through life “never fitting in.” Memo from the world’s actual quirky outsiders, sweetie: shut the fuck up. You’re the most popular kid in school on your first day, your family and friends hang on your every word, and the abject humiliation you so casually inflict on others has never troubled your happy little cover-girl life. You’ve never been beaten unconscious for what you’re wearing, experienced life as an endless series of public torments, or realized that the person you love more than life itself thinks you’re a walking joke.
People who endure such slings and arrows know who they are, and stop giving a crap whether other people like it. That’s what it means to be an outsider. But until it happens to you—until you experience the first ten minutes of Carrie as Sissy Spacek, not Nancy Allen—you do not get to lay claim to their hard-won identity just because you think it’s cool. Not you, and not the childish wish-fulfillment fantasies devoured by your adoring fans… the most recent example of which still has a long way to go before passing muster.