David Slade directs this latest installment of the Twilight Saga. Slade has directed some interesting films, but what probably got him this job was his helming of the vampire horror flick 30 Days of Night.
Slade's Eclipse picks up about a month from where New Moon left off. For you die-hard fans, exposition of plot is rather unnecessary, but, for those not in the know, New Moon left off with Edward Cullen, a telepathic vampire, proposing marriage to his teenage girlfriend, Bella Swan.
Considering everything that happened in the first two movies, you'd think Bella's answer would be a resounding yes. Except, it's not. Her answer is instead a resounding no, and Bella refuses his marriage proposal not because she doesn't love him and not because she's scared or has some kind of moral qualm against vampires. No! Her reason for not marrying Edward is because it wouldn't be "modern." Bella apparently has been watching a little bit too much Sex and the City 2.
Remember, Edward is a vampire who's been around for quite a while; probably more than 100 years. When he was still alive, men actually courted women. Maybe they stole a kiss every now and then, but their feelings and their commitment had to be firmly established first before going any further, and there was no such thing as premarital sex.
For Bella, living in the "modern" world, that's not the case. In the modern world, men don't court women. They expect some kind of sexting only after an hour of meeting. They expect tongues down each other's throats after two hours and premarital sex is expected as soon as one teen can get the other's house free of parents for a night. Basically, in this example, Bella is Levi Johnston and Edward is Bristol Palin.
Now, I'm working from a disadvantage because I haven't read the books on which these movies are based, but I'll take a wild guess and say that besides marriage just being a piece of paper or an archaic institution not fit for modern women like Bella, there's another reason why she opposes it. I think Bella doesn't want to marry because, at the end of the day, marriage is a "human" construct and in case you weren't paying attention in last year's New Moon, Bella doesn't want to be human anymore. Bella wants to become a vampire.
Vampires are basically dead humans with special powers that require blood in order to maintain their animated forms. In order for a vampire to be married, one has to register with the justice of the peace, fill out forms, show proof of identification like say his or her driver's license or birth certificate, something that's rendered invalid after one dies, which is exactly what will happen to Bella if she has her way and is turned into a bloodsucker.
Marriage is for the living, not for the dead. If Edward and Bella go to a justice of the peace, I don't think he or she will accept Bella's death certificate. It's not as if they can go to a church and have a priest conduct the ceremony. Aren't vampires allergic to crosses and holy water? Again, not having read the books, I'm not exactly sure of what vampires can and can't do.
In other popular vampire stories, from Anne Rice to Alan Ball, vampires have to be invited into a house. Here, vampires can come and go as they please. In other movies and TV shows, vampires can't walk around in the daylight. They'd burn in an instant. Nevertheless, in the Twilight Saga, vampires can walk around in the daylight all they want. As a matter fact, Slade opens and closes his film with the beautiful Robert Pattinson, who plays Edward, laying out in an even more beautiful and totally bright field of flowers. If it were Lestat or Bill Compton, they would have been incincerated in the first minute of this movie.
I'm not sure of the rules by which the author of the books, Stephanie Meyer, is playing, so, who knows? Maybe vampires can get married in the Twilight world. Maybe vampires can live decent lives. Maybe being a vampire isn't all that bad. Yet, the essential question, the debate that's sort of quietly raged throughout this entire film, is the question of whether to be or not to be a vampire. In fact, almost every other scene is about whether or not Bella should become a vampire or not.
And, pretty much everybody and their mother weigh in on the debate. Rosalie, played by Nikki Reed, makes probably the best argument. She insists that Bella consider what she's going to be giving up, a life of growth, change, and children. It's very heartfelt and compelling, which is of course why Bella won't listen to it.
Though, the whole thing turns out to be not really much of a debate. Almost everyone except for Bella argues that becoming a vampire is the wrong choice. Even the two boys, who both want to be with Bella but who hate each other, AGREE that becoming a vampire is the wrong choice for her.
Obviously, there needs to be no explanation of the Twilight love triangle, but, again for those not in the know, Edward is of course Bella's tortured, high school boyfriend, and presumed "love of her life," but New Moon introduced Bella's "other" boyfriend. He isn't another beautiful, glittery vampire. He's instead a very sexy and often shirtless werewolf named Jacob, played by new actor Taylor Lautner.
Jacob and Edward not only hate each other because they're both in love with the same girl but because whether Anne Rice is writing the story or Alan Ball is, werewolves and vampires naturally hate each other. Without revealing too much of the plot, which becomes rather insignificant, the werewolves and vampires end up working together to protect Bella from outside forces that threaten to kill her. Jacob and Edward essentially share the responsibility of being Bella's bodyguard.
Now, I haven't been impressed at all with the writing of these Twilight movies. Everything from the action to the lines of dialogue seemed so badly written as to be unintentionably laughable. Yet, as other critics have pointed out, the filmmakers here take more control of the humor and work it so that the audience isn't laughing at this movie but instead with it. It's almost as if screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg finally took a page out of the Joss Whedon handbook.
And, it all sort of culminates in a conversation between Edward and Jacob inside a very cold, camping tent, and please no Brokeback jokes. The conversation is about the love triangle and whether it's good or bad for Bella to be a vampire, but this conversation between Edward and Jacob in that tent was probably the best conversation that I think any character in any of the two previous movies has ever had. It was a long scene, but it was by far the best written and certainly the best acted scene out of the whole franchise up to this point, and it works because it basically lays out everything and lets the main male characters say what people in the audience are already thinking.
Along with the clever use of humor, there are also some genuine monologues that I enjoyed like Jacob's explanation of imprinting being an obvious metaphor for how it feels when someone falls in love. There was also a nice graduation speech from Jessica, played by Oscar-nominee Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), that was short yet sweet.
All in all, this was a very much improved script. Director David Slade keeps this well-executed movie moving along at a good pace. There were never any really slow or frustrating moments as in the previous films and Slade directs some immensely better action sequences. Nearly every Twilight film ends with Edward fighting some vampire. While the fight scene that ended the last film was supremely lame, this one was ice-shatteringly well cut together. It also gave Bella an opportunity to use being a helpless victim to her advantage.
In the end, I really have only three complaints. The first is Bella herself, played by Kristen Stewart, whom I think is a gifted actress who has the potential to be even great. It's just that I don't think I get her character here at times. Maybe it's better explained in the books, but I honestly think her love for Edward isn't really based on anything. Yes, he saved her life, but to make the jump to want to be a vampire herself doesn't make sense to me. Yes, she's supposedly acting out of true and blinding love, but her actions seem sometimes completely irrational.
I think Pattinson does an amazing job in this movie of getting the audience to fall in love with him with almost every scene he's in. By the end, he had me swooning and drooling over him, but I just didn't get a lot of his charm from the first movies, so it baffles me why Bella would be so dedicated to him now, which leads me to my second complaint. There is an odd number of flashbacks in this movie that explain how the werewolves fought off the first vampires who invaded their land as well as flashbacks that showed how certain vampires came to be vampires. While some of those flashbacks were necessary, others were not.
For example, the flashback that explained Jasper's origins was not needed at all. Maybe it was a nice aside in the book, but in the movie it becomes a waste of time. It's especially a waste when the real flashback one would want to see is that of Edward's. How did Edward become a vampire? What was his life like prior to Bella? Did I miss that or what? Where was Edward's flashback?
My third complaint is that the film becomes trapped within the confines of Bella's existential crisis as well as some in-fighting between vampires that we perhaps lose sight of a bigger picture. This is my same complaint about the Harry Potter movies. The Harry Potter films felt like too much of the action took place inside of Hogwarts and not out in the real world. Here, there are a ton of missing people and murders in Seattle. All of which are due to vampires, and besides a shot of a newspaper for one second, none of it is really addressed.
It gets to the point that these vampires can do whatever they want, kill whomever they want and there are no real-world consequences. It almost makes the danger feel less dangerous because it's like they exist inside a bubble, or more precisely inside a forest deep in rural Washington.
Yes, there are quite a few awkward and cheesy moments: Lautner constantly walking around naked being one. But I confess I enjoyed this episode of the movie series very much and would actually venture to see it again. Like Jacob to Bella, I think I've imprinted on this film.
Four Stars out of Five
Rated PG-13 for action, violence and some sensuality
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 4 mins.