Vampire saga getting better

Posted: Thursday, July 08, 2010

"The Twilight Saga: Eclipse"

Ap Photo/Matt Sayles
Ap Photo/Matt Sayles
From left, Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner arrive at the premiere of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" on June 24 in Los Angeles.

Summit Entertainment

2 hours, 4 minutes

The makers of "Twilight" must be in a race with "Harry Potter" to try and cram in all the teeny-bopper fantasy they can before the world comes to an end in 2012. This week, "Eclipse," the third film in the series, came out and nearly tripped over the previous, "New Moon," on its way to the video shelves. Don't we normally get a year or two break between sequels?

Well, I guess it'll be good -- for Hollywood, at least. "Eclipse," as expected, broke all kinds of box office records and ensured that the executives at Summit Entertainment will get to keep their jobs -- something that can't be said for a lot of studios after the mess that this summer's been. And, much to my surprise, "Eclipse" wasn't an interminable, frustrating, unwatchable waste of two hours. It's not good, mind you, but as the oh-so-succinct reviewers over at put it, "'ECLIPSE' is the first TWILIGHT movie that doesn't completely suck!"

For the uninitiated, the whole ridiculous saga can be summed up thusly: Bella Swan is a mopey teen who has fallen in love with a mopey teen vampire named Edward. Jacob is a somewhat less mopey werewolf who has fallen in love with Bella. This has led to all manner of trouble, most of which manifests in long, soulful looks and protestations of "He can't love you like I can!"

Naturally werewolves and vampires can't stand each other, which means that Jacob and Edward spend most of their onscreen time together glaring and complaining about the other's odor. There's other stuff with undead families and werewolf clans and ancient feuds and Italian vampire royalty, but mostly it's all about Bella staring longingly at Edward and Jacob, who are too busy staring angrily at each other to notice.

"Eclipse" brings us to Bella's senior year of high school, and our heroine is anticipating a very special graduation present from Edward. No, not that, although let's be honest -- all this vampire stuff is just an allegory for sex anyway.

After much cajoling, Edward has reluctantly agreed to turn Bella into a vampire after she graduates. This, naturally, bothers poor Jacob who isn't particularly jazzed about the prospect of his one true love becoming his mortal enemy. Someone should tell him that it's very common after high school to lose touch with old friends.

While we wait for commencement, however, there are bigger fish to fry. Victoria, a vampire character who literally spent the entire last movie leaping from tree to tree, has decided to create a vampire army to come and kill Bella, Edward, and his family. She's bitter about some stuff that happened in the first movie, but if you missed "Twilight," I'm not sure why you'd even bother with "Eclipse," so I'm not going to spend a lot of time recapping.

Anyway, as you might imagine, this vampire army will give the good vampires and the crabby werewolves an opportunity to work together and work out all their differences. Just don't expect any buddy bonding from Jacob and Edward, who have one scene of dialogue which results in the conclusion that they'd probably hate each other whether Bella were in the middle or not.

"Eclipse" kind of works as a movie because, finally, the romance is at least on par with an actual story you might be interested in. It's still pretty dumb, but I found myself caught up in the action to some extent, and the movie doesn't try to be too broad in its scope. One major improvement is that someone seems to have woken up star Kristen Stewart, who, in the last movie, threatened to slip into a coma she was so morose. I can see director David Slade, new to the series, snapping his fingers under her nose and saying, "Hey! Hey! Over here! Time to do a little acting!" She's still no Olivier, but at least you could watch her this time around.

The effects, as well, were better in "Eclipse," giving us werewolves that look less like big goofy cartoons, and spending less time on the speedy vampire running sequences, which just look stupid.

On the other hand, the acting, though better, isn't good, and the dialogue is still pretty bad. I found myself consistently amused at the description of the recently created vampire army as "newborns." Apparently newborns are pretty tough customers, and I could just see hordes of cuddly little soldiers, crawling out of the forest to demand love and attention from our embattled heroes. They even go so far as to tell us that the worst thing you can let a newborn do is get their arms around you and squeeze. Awwww.

The bread and butter of this series, and the reason mothers and daughters line up at three o'clock in the morning to sell out shows, is the love, and much as I was glad they curtailed it to some extent, it's always there, lurking in the background. Of the many conflicts you might imagine a vampire/mortal affair would have, the one the vexes Bella and Edward the most is that of marriage. Edward wants it, Bella doesn't. Apparently, she can commit to everlasting life as a soulless bloodsucker, but marriage ... I don't know ...

Complicating this issue is that Bella wants to have sex (real sex this time, not the vampire allegory sex) but Edward is old-fashioned and wants to wait for a wedding. Death and the conversion to a nightmare existence is acceptable between two people in love, but hanky panky is out of the question. Will they? Won't they? The anticipation is too much to bear.

Well, fear not -- with the way they're going, I'm sure there'll be another "Twilight" in time for the next full moon.

Grade: C. "Eclipse" is rated PG-13 for oddly bloodless violence and grumbling vampire/werewolf angst.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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