I thought I’d learned my lesson the first time. The hordes of face-painted screaming teenagers, the throngs of strangely obsessed middle-aged mothers, and the unmistakable male spouses unwillingly coerced into this midnight opening session of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. It’s only been seven months since I’d gone against my better judgement and accepted a last-minute offer to a midnight screening of The Twilight Saga: New Moon, and despite my adverse reaction to it, curiosity and boredom once again got the better of me to venture out into the freezing cold night and brave the Twihard masses all over again for Eclipse.
Despite my critical and somewhat harsh review of New Moon, I did think the future of the franchise looked brighter than ever. Director Chris Weitz picked up the reigns from the abysmal first film and turned in a sequel that was radically superior to its predecessor despite all of its obvious downfalls. Signing up-and-coming director David Slade (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night) and upgrading its cast with higher profile talent piqued my interest enough to think that maybe, just maybe, The Twilight Saga would exponentially grow in quality again with Eclipse to finally be worthy of its outrageous numbers at the box office.
Unfortunately though, The Twilight Saga has regressed in all the worst ways possible with Eclipse. Rather than follow in the improved blueprint laid down by New Moon, Eclipse heads in the opposite direction, showing little regard for the story’s adaptation to the silver screen. See not much actually seems to be happening in Eclipse. Bella is still agonizing over which of her supernatural lovers to choose, vampire Edward and werewolf Jacob continue their hissy fits over one another’s involvement with Bella, and old foe Victoria returns with a newborn vampire army that is snuffed out surprisingly quickly in the most anticlimactic of scenarios. In first-person narrated source material, you can get away with trading forward momentum for narrated insight into characters and situations, but on celluloid the glaring gaps in plot reek of a rushed and shoddily executed adaptation.
Where Weitz lifted his game in New Moon to bring a more interesting directorial style to the slow and dull first film, Slade instead seems content not pushing any boundaries with the directorial style of Eclipse. Slade’s shot selections, pacing and aversion to action result in a dull experience that makes it blatantly obvious that he had no real affinity or vision for the third instalment in the Twilight series.
His work in the horror and thriller genres, in particular the vampire flick 30 Days of Night, looked to make him a perfect fit for Eclipse, which has been sold as the most action-heavy of the books. But the brutal, blood-soaked vampires of 30 Days of Night are a far cry from the romanticised ‘vegetarian’ vampires in Twilight, leaving Slade’s horror talents defanged for most of the film. A few sequences in the film, most notably the opening scene, do capitalize on Slade’s talent in the horror genre and it’s at these points that Eclipse feels like the movie it wants to be. There’s a genuine sense of tension and horror with the scenes based in Seattle that the rest of the film desperately lacks as it struggles toward its anticlimactic final showdown.
But even in its dialogue, which has always been Twilight’s Achilles heel, Eclipse pushes acceptable levels of cheesiness and absurdity even further. Lines from Jacob such a, ‘I’m going to fight for you until your heart stops beating’ come off more ‘serial killer’ than ‘unrequited lover’, while Edward doesn’t fare much better with his own fair share of obsessive stalker moments. Aside from these unintentionally laughable ‘serious’ moments, Eclipse manages to also scrape the bottom of the barrel in the comic relief department. The cheap laughs roll around routinely, most of them laughable in delivery and un-believability than for content. The worst offender once again is Jacob, telling Edward ‘Everyone knows I’m hotter than you’ during an argument over who should warm Bella during a snowstorm. Face, meet palm.
The upswing of such distracting dialogue and nonexistent plot? It almost helped me forget how much I hate the characters in the Twilight franchise.
Kirsten Stewart is a terrific actress, but when she gets in front of the camera as Bella Swan, her talent is immediately put to waste. Bella is a detestable character whose only purpose in Eclipse is to be as bland and generic as possible so that the core female audience that fuels the Twilight juggernaut can easily see themselves in her. She has zero personality, cares only for herself and loves to constantly confirm that she’s the centre of everyone’s universe in Eclipse by manufacturing drama and problems out of thin air. How one is meant to believe that her two supernatural suitors are so desperately in love with her is quite frankly baffling. It’s got little to do with Stewart’s performance or Slade’s direction and more to do with the source material and its sloppy adaptation to the screen, a hindrance that has plagued all three films so far.
Luckily vampire Edward and werewolf Jacob are far more interesting in Eclipse than they’ve proven to be in either of the previous instalments, filling the personality vacuum that follows Bella throughout the film. Taylor Lautner continues to impress as werewolf Jacob despite his shocking delivery of some terrible dialogue, while Robert Pattinson has surprisingly also shown up to the party this time, no longer coming across as the senior citizen stalker he played in the first two films. While both character’s obsession with Bella is hard to believe, their disdain for one another and the one-upmanship it brings out in them as they vie for Bella’s affection is the only recognizable human emotion in the film, proving to be a source of irony considering neither character is actually human.
Don’t get me wrong, Eclipse is entertaining, just for all the wrong reasons. You’ll laugh at the poorly crafted ‘serious’ moments, roll your eyes each time an attempt at insightful dialogue comes out contrived, watch the back of your eyelids during the anticlimactic final sequence and sigh with envy for those outside of the multiplex after the fifth logical conclusion passes without a credits roll. Despite the hype and talk of the franchise being re-invigorated, Eclipse is nothing more than another chapter of padding between the beginning and end of The Twilight Saga that holds no real merit as a standalone film, feeling more like a bad episode on TV than the big budget blockbuster it wants to be.
Maybe next time I’ll skip on the hype rather than on sleep.