Movie review in the Wednesday, June 30 Oregonian....
The exposition-heavy story barely advances the relationships in Stephenie Meyer's vampire-romance saga, leaving the characters almost exactly where they were at the end of the last film, "New Moon." It's a movie that mostly seems to be about human Bella (Kristen Stewart) and vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) talking about their engagement; talking about how to break the news to Bella's concerned dad (Billy Burke) about their engagement; talking with Edward's magazine-spread vampire "family" about their engagement; and worrying that hot werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) will be upset when he hears about their engagement.
There are decently staged action bits involving an army of "Newborn" vamps making their way to Forks on a revenge mission to kill Bella, but honestly, it feels like a subplot; "Eclipse" is mostly a film in which people share their stories and talk about their feelings and discuss things happening elsewhere.
To my thinking, that's a bit of a disappointment after the previous movie's campy, globe-trotting soap-opera loopiness, which introduced all kinds of surprising new stuff -- including werewolves, Lautner's six-pack, Bella screaming and jumping off cliffs, Dakota Fanning performing crazy psychic feats and Michael Sheen playing an ancient royal vampire like he'd waltzed in off the set of "Blackadder." By contrast, "Eclipse" can barely find its way out of Forks.
But "Eclipse" did make me realize one thing with absolute clarity: I'm now completely on Team Jacob.
Admittedly, my chromosomes make me a bit of an outsider to this series. But I'll take Lautner's wisecracking hot-blooded werewolf over the airless, museum-quality Bella/Edward romance any day. As my pal Becky (jokingly) put it mid-screening, "Jacob is the perfect boyfriend," and she's right -- yeah, Jake's a little stalky, but he always apologizes in the next scene, and he's ripped and does little craft projects and cracks wise and has good-looking friends and every once in a while he turns into an adorable giant dog who doesn't talk back. The fun thing about "Eclipse" is watching Lautner emerge as the Han Solo of this series, getting all the laughs and calling Edward and Bella on their preciousness.
The film is mostly solidly directed by David Slade, who has experience with vampires ("30 Days of Night") and much-older predators trying to romance young girls ("Hard Candy"). He isn't afraid to keep the camera locked on a human face, he's quite good at the action bits and he largely retains the humor and relatable performances that director Chris Weitz injected into "New Moon" while he was saving the franchise from its barely coherent first installment. (And Slade seldom makes the more-ambitious Weitz's mistakes -- which included that Bella-sits-in-one-place-for-four-months/changing-of-the-seasons shot and that laughable dream sequence in which Bella and Edward ran through the woods like a couple of dorks in earth-tones.)
Edward, in particular, makes more sense as a character than before, and there's a pretty great scene in "Eclipse" where he and Jacob have a man-to-man talk in a tent -- although, in keeping with this series' habit of getting two things right while getting one thing sort of wildly wrong, Bella is somehow sleeping through an entire loud conversation about her that's happening inches from her face.
Unfortunately, Slade is fighting a weak story -- which, again, feels stuck in a holding pattern before things go flesh-rippingly nuts in the fourth installment, "Breaking Dawn" (which will apparently be broken into two films). It's stagnant to the degree that screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg pads out the narrative with no fewer than three narrated costume-drama flashbacks.
"Eclipse" is in particular a big step backward for Bella as a character. She was getting assertive and weird in "New Moon," and "Eclipse" shoves her right back into blank Mary Sue mode. Poor Kristen Stewart returns to spending most of her time being discussed, praised and acted upon while saddled with boring dialogue like, "Wow, that's really pretty," which I believe she says roughly four times over the course of the movie. Bella must smell really nice, because I'm still not sure why everyone in town continues to upend their lives on her behalf.
And, as I wrote in my "New Moon" review last year: "Of course, there's also the deeper fundamental problem with the "Twilight" saga -- it's selling young girls a slickly packaged primal myth about being able to 'rescue' bad boys -- but I won't get into that." But if you're interested, Drew McWeeny gets into that and much more in a blistering attack on the psychosexual underpinnings of the movie series over at HitFix.
'The Twilight Saga: New Moon' (The Oregonian, Wednesday, June 30, 2010)
- Movie review: 'Twilight: New Moon' (The Oregonian)
- My vampire-baseball set-visit for the L.A. Times
- CulturePulp comic strip: 'Vampires on the Carpet'