SAGA: ECLIPSE (2010)
STARRING: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson,
Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard, Billy Burke, Dakota Fanning, Ashley Greene,
Peter Facinelli, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz
2010, 124 Minutes, Directed by:
the nausea brought on by 2008’s
Twilight, I was stunned to find myself moderately intrigued with the next
chapter of the saga, 2009’s New Moon. Director Chris Weitz found something
resembling a pulse to the vampire vs. werewolf proceedings, pushing the
paralytic material to contentedly mediocre, but encouraging results, ending the
event with a cliffhanger - a question of lifelong commitment that promised the
Twilight series would soon lead to more challenging demands of drama.
Instead of a film with fertile
conflict and legitimate swoon, Eclipse returns the franchise to square one,
booking a bullet train to dullsville as director David Slade replaces Weitz’s
careful, mournful movement with clunky battle cry theatrics that appear more in
line with a shoddy SyFy Channel movie.
After a marriage proposal from
Edward (Robert Pattinson) promises a chance for everlasting love and some needed
time between the sheets with her chaste vampire boyfriend, Bella (Kristen
Stewart) faces some hard domestic choices while contemplating life as
bloodsucker. Standing in the way is Jacob (Taylor Lautner), Bella’s irritable
werewolf pal, who’s desperately in love with the drowsy girl, yet can’t turn her
attention away from Edward for very long.
As queen vampire Victoria (Bryce
Dallas Howard, thankfully replacing Rachelle Lefevre) prepares a legion of
newborns for an attack on Forks with help from drone Riley (a vapid Xavier
Samuel), Edward and Jacob must put aside their differences to protect Bella,
who’s caught between the humanity of the werewolves and the mystery of the
vampires, with her future happiness on the line.
Eclipse should’ve been a thrill
ride of a feature film. After all, Slade is handed perhaps the most volatile and
cleanly mapped novel from author Stephenie Meyer’s imagination, while building
off Weitz’s momentum, which propelled New Moon to an astronomical box office
gross. Eclipse is a combat film of sorts, with a massive swing of romantic
combustibility to tinker with, while allowing for potentially compelling
character depth, as the Cullen clan is probed beyond the stares and lip-licking
they were permitted in the previous features. Yet, the new film is a heartless,
clumsy motion picture, returning matters to the pedestrian level of director
Catherine Hardwicke, who worked deaf, dumb, and blind manufacturing the initial
slab of Twilight.
"Why do any of these creatures make such a fuss over this dead-eyed,
dithering bore of a woman?"
An erratic visual stylist,
Slade (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night) tries mightily to color within the
lines, but his grasp on the material’s Sweet Valley High style of romantic aroma
is tenuous, and he’s unable to shake the actors out of their melodramatic comas.
What should’ve been a heroic film of affection and protection is reduced to a
dawdling, exposition-heavy slog, retracing several plot points from the first
two films while barely making any headway of its own.
Slade has his trusty
cinematographic urges and the most action-intensive script of the three films,
but the creative effort is indistinguishable - the director is comfortable in
studio employee mode, doing nothing to keep the performances from becoming
tic-heavy embarrassments and the action a crunching blur of suspect special
effects. Slade can’t tame Eclipse or find an artful tone, instead crudely
filling the film with a broken iPod of tuneless soundtrack cuts to provide
atmosphere, while grinding the story down through a tedious routine of swoon and
Love it or hate it, but
Moon maintained an intriguing sense that something epic loomed on the horizon
for these characters. Eclipse turns that anticipation into unintentional comedy.
The storytelling’s concrete
boots are one thing, but Eclipse also manages to make Bella one of the most
reprehensible characters of the film year, and yes, I’ve seen Sex and the City
2. Nursing feelings of affection for both Jacob (he of gym rat abs and intense
body heat) and Edward (he of locks and access to diamonds), Bella doesn’t play
the turmoil sly; instead, the stammering high school graduate plays her monsters
off each other, silently delighting in the war of flared-nostrils and graceless
acting she’s created.
Bella often snuggles up Jacob in front of Edward during
Eclipse, making one feel sorry for the sparkly vampire, who wants to take a wife
and spend eternity with his beloved girl, while she suffers through half-hearted
commitment issues the script merely employs to display Lautner’s body and
Pattinson’s pout. Considering her status as the main character of the franchise
and the keeper of its heart, it’s interesting to see each film make Bella into
an even bigger creep than previously imagined, with Eclipse turning the
indecisive heroine into a mean-spirited provocateur unworthy of all the
attention lavished on her.
I have no idea why any of these creatures make such a fuss over this dead-eyed,
dithering bore of a woman. We’re talking werewolves and vampires. By now, you’d
think the franchise would provide a decent reason as to why these fools put so
much on the line for a girl who can barely wait to get out of her boyfriend’s
line of sight before cuddling with his rival. The delicate dance of romantic
one-upmanship is given Crayola shadings by Slade, who turns the romantic trio
into a Bermuda Triangle of relationship absurdity.
Hitting up Eclipse for Howard
and her interpretation of the wicked Victoria? I’m sorry to report that the
character’s been reduced to 10-minute-long cameo, with Eclipse spending more
time with Riley and the growing vampire army. What a waste of a perfectly
ridiculous red fright wig (heck, everyone seems to be ornately bewigged in the
film). An appearance from Dakota Fanning and her mincing Volturi gang is also
blessedly short. Without Michael Sheen to anchor the majesty of the fanged star
chamber, the group is nothing more than a cruddy Cosplay effort, with Fanning
about as intimidating as a Wet Seal cashier. Another new character is Bree, a
tween newborn Edward’s family takes pity on. Jodelle Ferland brings little to
the role besides an unconvincing reading of fear, with the character’s very
introduction a mystery Slade isn’t aware he needs to solve.
A few more helpings of Twilight
remain (the final book,
Breaking Dawn, is being divided up into two pictures),
leaving the rather anticlimactic ambiance of Eclipse puzzling. The climax is a
deafening clash of vampires and werewolves, with severed diamond limbs and vampiric gymnastics soaring around the frame, but a genuine build up to a
prolonged grand finale arriving in 2011? Not on Slade’s mind. It’s for the best,
really, as any sense of hope appears to hurt the Twilight saga more than it
- Brian Orndorf