The Monster Squad
Proclaiming Eclipse the best of the Twilight line-up would bring greater joy to the movie's marketing department than to yours truly. The series is a ship that's been sinking since its inception, and it needs more than changes in cast and crew to patch up the leaks. But at least someone at Summit Entertainment had a little reason stashed away and graced this flick's presence with some honest-to-God effort. Eclipse boasts its vapidity like a badge of honor, but the addition of an actual threat to the story gives viewers something of a rise, if only for a few fleeting moments.
As you might expect, Eclipse carries on the adventures of the emotionally-stunted wonder teen herself, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart). Nothing has changed since we last saw her in New Moon, for Bella remains sandwiched in a monstrous menage-a-trois. On one side is Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), kindhearted vampire/one-man pout factory, and on the other is Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), lycanthropic rival for Bella's affection. But the two sworn enemies are forced to put their bickering on the backburner when a menace comes gunning for the gal they love. Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) is still seething after losing her own vampiric beau two Twilights ago, and with an army of bloodsuckers in her thrall, Bella will need all the help she can get just to reach graduation alive.
I like to think of Eclipse less as part of a "cultural phenomenon" and more as a Zen riddle. I cannot deny its fan fervor, and at the packed midnight show I attended, viewers walked away pleased as punch. Eclipse certainly gives its audience something, but what that is sure beats the hell out of me. Why do so many people turn out for a film with so little to offer? It can't be for the romance, which, if you haven't bought into it by now, you won't anytime soon. The only difference involves Jacob being even more insistent that Bella loves him, which doesn't hold any water. After two movies of Bella fawning over the pale kid, the poor sap still can't tell when he's being just friended? It shouldn't surprise me when Eclipse resorts to forcing its conflict, since that's what its big brothers did; we learn the hard way that two teens locked in a staring contest doesn't make for compelling cinema.
Although I wouldn't say Eclipse has a point, the film gets to whatever it does have with greater urgency than the previous Twilight features. As basic as Victoria's thirst for vengeance is, it tears characters away from their awkward silences long enough to actually entertain the paying public. To the relief of countless boyfriends, there's more emphasis on action, and while the climactic vamp-on-werewolf throwdown could've been extended, that it exists at all is a huge step up for the franchise. However, just when you catch yourself about to have fun, Eclipse usually does something to remind you how inexplicable its popularity is. The CG effects are improved but kinda dicey, dialogue is wooden as usual, and the cast members again split one actor's worth of common sense among them (Edward gets bonus points for telling Bella that, yeah, being a vampire really blows).
I'd get more worked up over Eclipse had it not stranded me for so long in abject boredom. It's so abysmally and unabashedly average, all fevered gripes would infer that the film had any true passion to its name. Eclipse exists because the fanbase exists, and neither party lets the other down this time around.
MY RATING: ** (out of ****)
(Released by Summit Entertainment and rated "PG-13" for intense sequences of action and violence, and some sensuality.)