Monday, July 5, 2010

Twilight: Eclipse. A Review (Review #100)


And the downward march to The End Of Western Civilization continues...

On the last episode of Twilight (or perhaps a better title would be The Hills: Forks, Washington State), Bella Swoon,  I mean Swann (Kristen Stewart) had just had marriage proposed by the most perfect being in the history of creation, one EDWARD CULLEN (Robert Pattinson). Only one hitch: uber-hunky Native boy Jacob. Black. Oooh (Taylor Lautner) is also in love with our heroine. She must make the ultimate decision of which man will have the pleasure of pleasuring her. She obviously can't choose both, so she must choose one.

Side note: given that the novels were written, and I use the word loosely, by a Mormon housefrau named Stephanie Meyer, wouldn't it solve everything if they all converted to the now-disowned polygamist branch of Mormonism and allow Bella to marry both of them? Just a thought.

If that quandary isn't already difficult enough for her, she has the following circumstances to deal with: EDWARD CULLEN is a vampire, and Jacob. Black. Oooh. is a werewolf, and vampires and werewolves hate each other (which would make it difficult to invite either to the wedding I imagine). No, our extremely, extremely subdued heroine cannot have it both ways. Bummer. She must choose, even if it means breaking someone's heart...a situation I'm sure every girl who has read and reread the series (excuse me, SAGA) knows all too well.

Now we have Part III of this supernatural Romeo & Juliet rip-off (I mean story): Eclipse (excuse me, THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE). All right: I HAVE OFFICIALLY HAD IT WITH THE PRETENTIOUSNESS OF THE TITLE. From now I will refer to the film simply as Eclipse.

Giving it the title of THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE is not only disingenuous (this is as much as a saga as all four seasons of The O.C. were) but the books are not called THE TWILIGHT SAGA: TWILIGHT/NEW MOON/ECLIPSE/BREAKING DAWN. It also leads to the rather idiotic position of having to refer to the first film as THE TWILIGHT SAGA: TWILIGHT, which makes no sense. Given that the story itself makes no sense (or that it took four novels to tell it), I could see their point, but it frankly has gotten out of hand to think that this story is somehow an epic. Besides, it takes far too long to type THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE...complete with capital letters to bring its alleged grand and sweeping nature to its proper focus. The opening titles read simply Eclipse, so I still fail why I (or anyone else) should call it anything else.

Digression over.

Bella (Kristen Stewart) is still passionately in love with EDWARD CULLEN (Robert Pattinson) but seems generally dead to anything else. She keeps declining his marriage proposal unless he agrees to change her into a vampire (in other words, until he deflowers her). This romance doesn't sit well with Jacob. Black. Oooh. (Taylor Lautner), the Native American who is also passionately in love with her.

However, the Cullen family and the Quileute Nation of which Jacob is a member of have more important things to worry about than Bella's eternal moping...for once. There have been a series of killings and disappearances in nearby Seattle, and both groups suspect that the renegade vampire Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, taking over from Rachel Lefevre) has returned to take her revenge on Bella and the Cullens. In fact, she has returned, creating a Vampire Army to exterminate the Cullen Clan with the aid of her second-in-command, Riley (Xavier Samuel), the first of her conversions. This out-of-control group also attracts the attention of the Volturi, the Vampire Overlords I imagine, and they send their version of the Republican Guard to squash them, headed up by the mysterious Jane (Dakota Fanning). With a common enemy, the vampires and the werewolves agree to form a temporary alliance, though this does not make the enmity between EDWARD CULLEN and Jacob. Black. Oooh. disappear.

I have long wondered why such a badly-written series of books could have so many women in orgasmic fits of ecstasy. My theory is that it is the ultimate case of identification: every girl sees herself as Bella, someone who at first appears ordinary to the point of plain but who in reality is a great soul (apologies to The Mahatma Gandhi--he only freed a nation, but didn't have the six-pack abs or sparkly skin of our two male leads). This identification with Bella allows girls/women to believe that THEY are so worth having TWO men fight over them.

However, as I watched Eclipse, I found a new angle to the appeal of the series (excuse me, SAGA): it is The Ultimate in Egocentricity. Everything is ultimately about and around Bella. Nothing captures this sense of self-centerdness better than when EDWARD CULLEN and Jacob. Black. Oooh. have their first confrontation (which is obviously about her). Bella learns that her life may be in danger and the ONLY THING she seems to care about is why Jacob. Black. Oooh. hasn't returned her calls.

People are being killed all around her, the Cullens themselves may die (finally) and all her thoughts center only around A.) whether EDWARD CULLEN will finally get around to screwing her, and B.) continuously screwing with Jacob. Black. Oooh.'s emotions. In short, It's All About Her.

Given how Stewart still, after three movies, can't get around to express any kind of emotional range, it's incredible that anyone, least of all perhaps the most perfect being in all creation or the hunkiest boy in all creation would want her around, let alone want her. I'm left with one of two choices when it comes to Stewart's performance:
  • She is an artistic genius who has fully committed to one interpretation of the typical teenage girl, or
  • Three directors (Catherine Hardwicke, Chris Weitz, and now David Slade) simply cannot get a performance out of her no matter how hard they try or how talented they may be.

Stewart acts in each film as if she's trying to get the Prozac out of her system between takes. Her dazed, unemotional interpretation of an already-weakly written character like Bella Swoon (I mean Swann) just makes it all more sad, just so sad. When you ask yourself why someone has this perpetually blank stare, you wonder how they could be asked to carry a franchise like Twilight...even if the books are crap.

Pattinson doesn't quite match her in looking dead (and given that his character is the undead, that might be the right interpretation) but he does his best. I wonder if acting to R-Patts will eventually involve more than pursing his lips and being generally devoid of humor. They may be lovers in real life, but the scene where she all but begs for sex (side note: wouldn't it be akin to necrophilia if Bella and EDWARD CULLEN have sex?) was rather dull. Never was the suggestion of sex so boring. However, I suspect that to being the key to its popularity: EDWARD CULLEN'S consistent refusal to deflower Bella Swoon (I mean Swann) makes horny girls want him all the more.

Oddly in Eclipse, the film centers not on Bella or her Sullen Cullen but to Jacob. Black. Oooh. as well as EDWARD CULLEN'S fellow vampire Jasper Hale (Jackson Rathbone, no relation to actual actor Basil Rathbone). Lautner's take on Jacob. Black. Oooh. was to overcompensate Stewart and Pattinson's zombie-like acting by overacting himself. The scene between Jacob. Black. Oooh. and Bella where he is told she'll always choose EDWARD CULLEN is unintentionally hilarious. Lautner and Pattinson also have a scene together where they watch over Bella in a tent (and we get to see one of Lautner's six shirtless scenes--I actually counted) where both show such horrendous acting. It doesn't help when Melissa Rosenberg (continuing to recreate the bad prose from the source material as she did for the first two films) gives them such idiotic lines. Here are some examples:
  • "We all know I'm hotter than you" (Jacob. Black. Oooh. when telling EDWARD CULLEN why he had to get into the sleeping bag with Bella to keep her warm while waiting for Victoria and Riley to come after them). Curiously, this line caused the audience to break out into laughter and applause.
  • "If you weren't trying to steal my reason for living, I might actually like you". EDWARD CULLEN to Jacob. Black. Oooh.
  • "If you weren't planning to suck the life out of the girl I, not even then". Jacob. Black. Oooh.'s response.
  • "It's no longer gravity holding you to the Earth. It's her". Jacob. Black. Oooh. to Bella about just how strong his feelings for her are.
  • "Jake, stay". Bella to Jacob. Black. Oooh. This also caused laughter to erupt. He may be a werewolf, but did she really have to call him like you would a dog?
Turning to Rathbone, we got his backstory to explain why he and not the excessively muscular Emmett (Kellan Lutz) was doing the training to defeat Victoria's army; actually, we got two backstories, his and Renee (Sarah Clarke), both of which didn't add anything to the overall plot.

From what I remember from the audio-book of Twilight, each of the Cullens is suppose to be unbearably beautiful. Rathbone still looks like he came straight from playing Beaker in a live-action version of The Muppet Show. Moreover, once we learn he began his vampire days as a Confederate officer, he suddenly gets a Southern accent which he's never had until now. Lutz himself doesn't have that many scenes in Eclipse, but he does manage to show no acting ability in them.

Ashley Greene as Alice Cullen also doesn't have many scenes, and she is more serious than before, when her generally bubbly performance was the only good thing in Twilight. The elder Cullens (Peter Facinelli and Elizabeth Reaser) don't have much to do except look serious. You can tell everyone is serious by the soft, hushed, flat, monotones they use to speak to each other.

I can't say much about Howard since I couldn't tell the difference between her and Lefevre, so maybe that's a compliment to her acting. Same goes for Samuels, except for the taking-over part. Granted, he was better than Cam Gigandet in Twilight, but given we won't see either in this franchise again, not sure it matters.

The only real performance came from Dakota Fanning, and I suspect the fact that she's an actual actress has something to do with it. She has something that used to be called "screen presence" and her Jane is actually frightening in her sternness and severity. She has only two or three scenes at the most, but she makes the most of it. Note her final scene, where she coldly orders the execution of a newly-created vampire who wanted nothing to do with the "epic" fight between Victoria's army and the joint Cullen/Quileute army.

Side note: I'm told the character's name is Bree Tanner (Jodelle Ferland) and that Meyer has tortured humanity, I mean, taken up pen again, to write a novella about her, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. However, I don't remember hearing her name in the film.

Fanning gets it: unlike the dazed and confused interpretation Stewart and Pattinson have or the whiny/hunky version of Lautner, she is a ruthless killer, she is a Voltari. This is why even though she isn't a major part of Eclipse, she actually is the best thing in it.

I wonder why Meyer decided to kill off Bree Tanner when she could have taken the character and created a whole new series, or at least tried a better story. I personally feel this is just how weak of a writer she is: not seeing the potential in the characters she comes up with, but I digress.

I won't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Allow me to say some complimentary things about Eclipse. The make-up was much better here than it was in Twilight: Facinelli at least looked like a potentially beautiful being as opposed to The Joker's bastard child. Rosenberg even managed a sign of intelligence in her script. When EDWARD CULLEN has to drop off Bella to the care of Jacob. Black. Oooh. and he appears in the first of his six shirtless scenes, EDWARD CULLEN remarks, "Doesn't he have a shirt?" Now that I think of it, this was the only sign of wit throughout the entire film.

I get derided for not liking the Twilight books and films, especially from females that I know who are absolutely passionate about them. I know I'm not the target audience. However, I've long contended that a film adaptation of a book or series (even SAGAS) should open up the story to those not in the know, not just be made to appeal to the fan base. Nothing that can be said or done or shown will ever dissuade the Twilight Twits from shifting their views.

Their devotion to the story (and the perfection that is EDWARD CULLEN or Jacob. Black. Oooh.) is akin to a missionaries devotion to Jesus Christ or worse even exceed it. However, I will quote a writer who was actually better than Mrs. Meyer (I know, hard to believe anyone could be better than her, but that Shakespeare guy wrote a few good things): to thine own self be true.

I cannot convert because the source material is already flimsy to begin with. I suppose I shouldn't be too hard on the adaptations when they merely ape the source; however, when you write in your notes, "I'M OFFICIALLY BORED" as I did (complete with capital letters) when Bella and her dad were discussing the subject of marriage, maybe, just maybe, the film isn't good.

I have always been told that looking at an eclipse is extremely dangerous to your eyes. When it comes to Eclipse, I have discovered that to be true with one addendum: it is also extremely dangerous to your brain.



  1. Dear Rick,

    VERY interesting review! I`ve never seen any of the Twilight "movies," but then again I would NEVER, EVER submit myself to such asinine, pointless DRIBBLE!!! And by the way, if you absolutely HATE these movies so MUCH, why to continue to go back and watch them and pay $8 - $9 of your hard-earned money, especially if you already know you`re going to be bored to tears?!? That`s why I absolutely REFUSE to see one of these "movies!" And so should you, Rick!

    Don`t get me wrong, Rick. I did enjoy your review! However, there was one thing about it that kept gnawing at me. Every time you would mention the name of Taylor Lautner`s character, you would ALWAYS write "Jacob.Black. Oooh." in bold letters! I`m sorry, Rick, but after a while that got to be a little distracting and quite a bet annoying in fact! Sorry, to bring it up, but I do feel I had to mention it! ; )

    1. It was meant in mockery.

      As for refusing to watch a movie, well, reviewing bad movies is part of the gig.


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