Like many males, I’m an outsider on the Stephanie Meyer phenomenon. I haven’t read her books, and I laugh derisively at the cardboard Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner chilling outside the local record store (though maybe I’m just jealous no one will pay $29.99 for a life sized stand-up of me). Regardless, last November I decided to give the series a chance to win me over. It did not.
However, the improvements this third installment wields over its predecessor are immediately apparent. For starters, Chris Weiz, who directed “New Moon,” along with the equally contemptible adaptation of Philip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass,” abdicated the director’s chair to David Slade, helmer of “Hard Candy” and “30 Days of Night.” Slade seems an unusual choice, and one, I can only assume, was made with the intention of casting the “Twilight” net clear across the gender gap, coaxing more teenage menfolk into the seats by way of grittier, more competent action. Also, more of it.
Still, “Eclipse” is anything but action-packed, and most of the time it feels as if the script is working against that goal. Slade can class up the werewolf on vampire (on vampire) scuffles till the bats come home, but nothing can change the fact that his film is founded on one of the most unnecessarily redundant screenplays in cinematic history. In fact, so little happens in either of the latter two “Twilight” films that most of “New Moon” could be stricken from the series, and would be better for it.
But instead, we’ve got star-crossed lovers Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Pattinson) picking up precisely where they left off, or maybe even earlier. To summarize: Bella wants to be a vampire; Edwards wants to be married—You’d think they’d reach common ground at the ‘eternity’ part. But while their apparently passionate relationship is at loggerheads, Jacob T. Wolf (Lautner) is determined to thwart the union and win over Bella, who seems more uncertain than ever which monster man she’s more interested in.
And that’s the big problem with Bella Swan. She’s portrayed as supremely desirable—Despite her conspicuous lack of personality. She’s billed as a hero, but is largely incapable of enacting change on her surroundings. She is disingenuous with both of her would-be supernatural suitors, and is childish, arrogant, and hypocritical. Edward, Jacob, listen carefully... YOU’RE BOTH TOO GOOD FOR HER.
But in the escalating farce of their one-upsmanship for her love (with feats that range everywhere from charming to psychopathic), Jacob literally carries her into one of the worst romantic plot devices of all time:
You see, there are these other vampires. Bad ones, like the kind from every other vampire book. They want to kill Bella for something or something, so she must be spirited away to the safety of a mountain cliff (????). The vampires can, I guess, smell other vampires but not werewolves, but they can also smell Bella. So she can’t go to the top of the mountain alone, which again, is the most logical place to hide (????), and Edward is powerless to help… Obviously, the only viable option is for her to be carried there—By none other than an extremely shirtless Jacob. Let me tell ya, Washington state's never been so hot!
Plus, once there, Bella, Jake, and Eddie all spend the night in a tent together (even though we’re led to believe she only needs to be hidden for the duration of a battle that won’t occur until the following morning). Despite the fact that everyone knew they would be camping on the peak of a snow-covered mountain, Bella is under-insulated and freezing in the middle the night. What can Edward, with his cold vampire’s blood, possibly do except allow the hot-blooded Jacob to cuddle his fiancé back to warmth?
The transparency of every motive is proof that no matter how far the filmmaking in the franchise comes, the quality of the stories remains along a single horizontal plane with a whole lot of headroom. Slade brings the series another step closer to credibility, but based solely on the adaptations (which I know some of the novels’ fans have shunned), “Twilight” is adolescent drivel, a projected paperback romance lost at a costume party—And this brainless two hour third attempt is too much mash, not enough monster.
Never mind the mathematics. The numbers are in, and any way you spin them, “Eclipse” is an improvement—Pity it’s still a net loss.