Nothing much has changed in the Twilight universe and if thereís a problem with Eclipse thatís the biggest one. Iím told repeatedly by fans that the next movie gets really crazy, but for now weíre sort of stuck rehashing the same story we saw in the last movie. A depressed, awkward girl named Bella (Kristen Stewart) is in love with a vampire (Robert Pattinson). Her vampire feels terribly guilty about this and wishes sheíd stop. Meanwhile, Bellaís being politely stalked by a roid-raging werewolf named Jacob (Taylor Lautner), who hopes to steal her away from the other guy before he finally gets around to sucking out her blood. This is a job Iím fairly confident any other slightly self-respecting vampire would have gotten done before the end of movie one, but here we are in the third film still debating the same old blood sucking issues.
Maybe thatís not all bad. The best thing about Eclipse is that it at least attempts to treat complex emotions in a complex way. Any other love story would have had these two married and honeymooning in Vegas long ago, but Eclipse, even more so than the other two films, is determined to examine their feelings and their relationship possibilities from every angle. It addresses difficult questions without resorting to easy answers and spends a lot of time wondering whether a teenage girl is capable of making the right decision when sheís besotted. It forces its male characters into hard romantic choices, and asks them to wonder whether being in love with someone is enough.
Eclipseís best scene happens in a tent where permanently shirtless Jacob and permanently pale Edward, bitter enemies till now, finally lay their cards on the table and find common ground in their love for Bella. Itís a scene which could have been filled with romantic platitudes, but instead itís laid out with a kind of naÔve honesty in which both characters confess their failings and decide the girl they care about is more important than whatever prejudices they hold against each other. Itís also the place where Twilight finally establishes that Bella, till now mostly a bland pawn, actually has some say in things. Both potential lovers agree theyíll let her decide between them, as if had they wanted, they could have made the choice for her. Would Bella mind if they did? She protests, but somehow I donít think she would.
Still the complexity with which Eclipse attempts to address these issues is in its own way admirable, but at some point maybe itís also too much. The biggest problem here, as it was with the other two movies, is the material on which itís based. The thing is, at least in the broader strokes, these just arenít very good stories. Individual moments sometimes work but thereís never really a big picture beyond Bellaís obsession with Edward that seems to matter or make any real sense. Thereís some attempt to set up a broad vampire conspiracy, but all of that seems utterly out of step with all the romantic pondering going on through the rest of the movie. It feels like itís only there as an afterthought, because the author knew that even teenage girls can only take so much romantic introspection.
And maybe thatís the real problem. A lot of Eclipse plays out like filler. At times it indulges in flashbacks, which do nothing to move the story. Bella goes to graduation, but it plays no real role in the narrative. Her human friends make another cameo, but they have no impact on her life other than to take up space next to Bella at a party. Thereís a big battle, but it feels like itís only there for the sake of having a big battle.
At least this time the action sequences make some attempt to be entertaining. Theyíre not particularly well staged, the final fight takes place in an open field which weíre told gives the outnumbered Cullen coven a tactical advantage. Except standing in an open field waiting for superior forces to walk out of the forest and slaughter you was sort of discredited as a legitimate tactic somewhere around the Revolutionary War. Yet while the tactics are bad and some of the special effects arenít perfect, theyíre still a big step up from the previous movies. Director David Slade has a lot of fun pounding the diamond-constructed vampires of Stephanie Meyersí world into literal dust. Itís not the hardcore fanged killing of Sladeís last vampire movie, 30 Days of Night, but lost in the Twilight wilderness, itíll do.
Yet even those battles are just sort of there to break up all the endless talking about Edward and Bellaís relationship. Twilight: Eclipse is fairly well acted and directed, but what is it that all this effort is being put into creating? Twilight: Eclipse works well enough, but what are we watching? Itís really just an endless conversation about an immature, moody, generally unlikable, teenage girlís feelings. In a world without money to be made, maybe that wouldnít have deserved three full movies. Please Bella, grow up.
Reviewed By: Josh Tyler