Whoever said "mediocrity sells" is right, as The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is gearing up for its second week of release $200 million richer. It's amazing what cheesy dialogue and pouty characters can do for a movie. Bella, Edward and Jacob return for the third movie in the four-and-a-half-part series, and thankfully it's no New Moon: it actually has a plot, climax and purpose for existing.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse starts off where the last one left off, with Bella (Kristen Stewart) head over heels for her vampire boy-toy Edward (Robert Pattison) but frustrated by the lack of Jacob (Taylor Lautner) in her life. Jacob finally does show up, but only to profess his undying love for Bella - oh, and that Victoria has returned to kill her. Victoria has retreated but is building a vampire army in Seattle to take down the Cullen family (and their werewolf neighbors) and get her revenge. The Volturi is also lurking nearby, threatening to take action on their own, but Bella has bigger concerns on her mind: Team Edward or Team Jacob. In one corner, you have a sparkly, cold-blooded, pale dead guy who likes to eat raw meat, and in the other, a tan, warm-blooded guy who can transform into a wolf. The choice seems logical to me, but blame Stephenie Meyer for giving Bella the ability to make all the wrong decisions all the time.
Eclipse succeeds primarily because New Moon was so dreadfully bad; with Twilight, all things are relative. If you were to compare it to any normal blockbuster, say, Harry Potter, you'd be forced to say that it pales in comparison: the writing is shoddy, the plot basic, the characters pathetic, the special effects out-of-date, the action uninspiring and the entire production is weak. But this is the Twilight franchise we're talking about.
To be fair, Eclipse is a decent movie: it is more than good enough to satisfy fans and adequate for everyone else. As one of the few men to read the entire series, Eclipse is by far and away the best of the novels and it is the best Twilight movie. Unlike the dreadful fourth novel, which is as bad and anticlimactic as stories come, Eclipse has a natural climax and conclusion. The movie ends with a fairly effective (albeit too short) battle sequence and a showdown between Edward and Victoria, and there are a few other action scenes thrown in for good measure. Director David Slade does a good job during these action scenes and, overall, of making Eclipse look respectable.
Unfortunately, as soon as the movie reaches one of its many long stretches where nothing happens but Bella and Edward swooning over one another or Bella and Jacob debating whether to make out, Eclipse falls apart at the seams. It's hard to tell who to blame. It's easy to point at Taylor Lautner, easily the weakest actor in the production, but he, like the others, seems like a victim of the film itself. Pattinson isn't impressive, but he isn't terrible. Despite what some people say, Stewart is a talented actress who suffers from having to play one of the worst protagonists ever created; she shows her skills when paired against her on-screen father Charlie (Billy Burke) but slips into pathetic sappiness when sharing screen time with her other co-stars.
The movie is truly laughable during some of the exchanges between the three leads, especially those involving Lautner. It doesn't help that Slade parades the jailbait around with his shirt off for most of the movie, often to dramatic effect; the audience burst out laughing during these scenes. Though Stephenie Meyer is ultimately to blame for creating such shallow, stilted characters, screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg once again delivers a script full of shoddy, trashy dialogue that is hard to sit through.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is an enigma. At its core, it is a poorly written, lame attempt at an action-drama, and yet it is a mildly entertaining, adequately exciting third entry in the franchise. It still won't appeal to most non-Twilight fans, but it works well enough.
Oh, and I'll be skipping the fourth and fifth movies, as Breaking Dawn will inevitably terrible.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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