JUNE 30, 2010
Hey, I was (sort of) wrong! If you read my review for Bitten, you’d know that I figured that film would be the only decent vampire romance I saw this week, but Eclipse ain’t half bad. It’s not a good movie by any stretch, but it easily improves on the last film and in some ways even manages to top the first. As with that film, there were times I was genuinely enjoying the film during the action scenes and even a few of the soap-opera-y ones, and (while its fans would most certainly argue) the increased ridiculousness to the plotting kept me unintentionally entertained throughout (most of) the rest of it.
See, despite some hope after the initial installment, I am no longer under any illusion that the Twilight series will become a full blown vampire vs. werewolf series with a girl caught in the middle. I guess I could have just asked someone, but instead I went in blind to the 2nd film, and was rewarded with what seemed like even LESS action and story that got no more interesting, focusing on people who seemed fairly generic (i.e. the three the goddamn thing is about). So with expectations pretty low, I went into Eclipse (once again, the whole “The Twilight Saga” part of the title seemingly only exists on trailers and posters, apparently for the folks who may not be aware that it’s a sequel) figuring it was more of the same, and that it would only offer me a better grasp on the “story” for when I went into the 4th film, which thanks to Devin I know to be an epically stupid/hilarious conclusion to the series.
So how am I not tearing this one apart, as he and several others (who felt pretty much the same I did about the first two) did? It’s the shortest of the three, for starters, and there’s more action to boot. So it’s like, 25% action, as opposed to maybe 10 or so in the other two films. And the action’s actually pretty good - we finally see the vampires use their strength for something besides baseball, and we also see what happens when they are killed by brute force - they smash into little marble/glass type fragments, which never gets un-hilarious (my note says “Beat the sparkles out of them”). The wolves also look better, and we get to see them tussle with vamps instead of keeping their fighting off-screen like in the last film. It’s still bloodless, obviously, but there’s something sort of rewarding about seeing Jasper, who has mainly just stood around silently in the other films, pulling a dude’s arms off. My lady Alice (Ashley Greene) also gets to join in the fracas, which makes up for having less screen time this time around than in the previous film. There’s also a pretty nifty chase scene where the Cullens chase Victoria, who jumps over into wolf territory and starts getting chased by them as well. None of this stuff would make me forget about even the weakest action sequence in one of the Underworld films, but this is Twilight - I’m happy for ANYTHING that’s not magazine covers coming to (some) life over the latest track from Muse or Snow Patrol or whatever the fuck.
Plus, I always like the “two enemies team up to take on a mutual enemy” scenario, and the little moments where one of the Cullens saves a werewolf or the patriarchs of each family shake hands are quite nice. It would have been nicer if we had actually gotten to see the extent of their dislike of one another in the previous films, since only Edward and Jacob ever interact with one another (I think this is the first time we’ve even seen the “wolf pack” with ANYONE besides Bella), but it still works as intended, and I hope their bond strengthens with the next film, which seems to be a battle against the Volturi (who are represented only by Dakota Fanning and a few lackeys this time around; Michael Sheen apparently had too many political docudramas to shoot).
Sadly, the focus is still on the “love triangle” between Bella, Jacob, and Edward, which to me is the least interesting thing about the series. Not that I’m against romance or anything (I like Notting Hill!), but love triangles work best when the one in the middle doesn’t really have a clear better choice, as Bella does here (well, the REAL best choice is Mike, but that ship has clearly sailed). Because really, I don’t really see why she’d ever consider Jacob over Edward (I can’t believe I’m writing this), or even consider him at all. Maybe it’s Taylor Lautner’s performance, or maybe it’s just the way he’s written, but the guy is a fucking asshole, period. Edward may pull some shady shit every now and then, but in the end he’s a pretty good guy, and seems genuine when he tells Bella that she is free to decide between the two of them and things of that nature. Jacob, on the other hand, comes off as an abusive would-be rapist, who shouts things like “You love me, you just won’t admit it to yourself!” and constantly tries to steal her away from the guy she’s already with. Fuck you, dude! I get that he can offer her a warm body (this actually pays off in a delightfully stupid but kind of enjoyably uncomfortable scene where he has to keep her warm during a snowstorm, as Edward looks on) and won’t have to ‘turn’ her to be with her, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s the most aggressive and borderline psychotic “romantic lead” I’ve ever seen in a film. Christ, even movies where the handsome guy is SUPPOSED to be a psychotic killer (like Valentine or whatever) present them in a more flattering light than Jacob comes across as here. At least in the last movie the two of them bonded over fixing a bike and stuff like that, but I don’t think there’s a single moment in this movie where he does anything besides practically yell at her for being with someone besides him.
Plus, once again, neither Stephenie Meyer nor screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg could be bothered to provide us with even the slightest understanding of why anyone wants Bella in the first place, let alone would go to such lengths for her. She’s hot, yes, but that seems to be about it, which means folks that don’t find Kristen Stewart attractive won’t even have that much of a reason. In over six hours of film I have yet to see her display a single emotion other than mopey, and she has no discernible talents or even interests. All I know about her is that she has a red truck and a hat. Yet not one but TWO dudes will put themselves and their entire families/clans in danger just to keep her in their company? Christ, at least Jess (Anna Kendrick, whose role is even further diminished - you folks at Summit DO know she’s the only one in this entire series that has or ever WILL have an Oscar nomination, right? Maybe use her a bit?) is the valedictorian, which tells us SOMETHING about her (she’s smart). Bella doesn’t even seem to go to school anymore.
Again, it’s the supporting characters that keep my slight interest from completely evaporating. I’m happy to report that Charlie (Billy Burke) has more to do this time, including a hilarious little bit where he “breaks up” a would-be fight between Edward and Jacob, and a scene where he tries to explain the birds and bees with Bella is probably the only moment where Kristen Stewart seems to be actively trying to be engaging. The Cullens also get a little more of a personality this time (except for the mom, who I think has one line in the entire movie despite always being around with the rest of them), including some all-too-brief flashbacks for Rosalie and Jasper (come on, where’s Alice’s backstory?). I could probably watch an entire movie showing how each of them got turned, as again, they seem to have more interesting lives than our trio of main characters, none of whom seem to have existed at all prior to meeting one another. Even when Edward talks about his past, he does so in a generic way, saying that “in his day men courted women and asked for their father’s permission”, not that HE specifically did those things. Likewise, Bella’s mom provides her with a quilt made out of T-shirts that they got on trips together, and I spent the rest of the scene trying to imagine Bella actually going out and doing something fun, or hell, doing ANYTHING besides look forlornly at someone in a forest. They don’t even bother to make her a klutz anymore.
If you read the books (or the aforelinked article), you know that the next film should feature Jacob falling in love with Bella’s baby (!) after Edward tears it out of her with his teeth (!!!), so its pretty likely that it will be the GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE. And thus I look at this film as just sort of whetting the appetite for people like me, who don’t buy into any of this romance crap and look at the movies as a borderline comedy (I laughed my ass off several times in this one, particularly when two giant CGI wolves join two vampires “guarding” Bella outside her home, barely 10 feet from the street). And Pattinson seems to agree that this shit is goofy as hell, as he more or less laughs his way through a “serious” scene where he and Jacob discuss their forced partnership (and again, Jacob comes off as a complete asshole; Edward’s like “You’re not so bad” - TO A HALF-NAKED GUY SPOONING HIS GIRLFRIEND - and Jacob basically replies “I’m so much better than you”), and joins the rest of the world when he inquires whether or not the guy even owns a shirt. So if you go in with a similar state of mind, AND you’ve suffered through the lack of action in the other two films, then you will probably more or less enjoy this one as an improved form of time-waster, especially compared to the bulk of garbage this summer has offered us (I defy anyone to try to convince me that Killers or Jonah Hex is better than this). However, if you hate the series with a passion, nothing here will change your mind - like I said, it’s the same as the others, just shorter and more exciting per minute. And it’s the only summer movie in IMAX that hasn’t been shot in (or worse, converted to) 3D, so I applaud Summit and the film’s producers on their restraint.
Now, bring on Edward fucking Bella into paralysis! You can do that one in 3D, actually.
What say you?