Anti climax – The Twilight Saga: Eclipse review

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse – Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner. Directed by David Slade. Rated M. By Simon Miraudo.

To quote Detective Roger Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon, “I’m getting too old for this ****.” In just eighteen months, the Twilight saga has subjected us to one atrocious film, one (barely) passable film, and a film which makes ‘passable’ seem like a dream objective. Eclipse, the third instalment of the series, is the latter. It takes us from the “meh” of New Moon, to complete “ugh”. Whereas the previous entry seemed to have learnt some lessons from the unwatchable first film of the series (namely: having character arcs, embracing the rampant angst of undersexed teens), Eclipse is content to fall back on the saga’s bad habits. It wastes the time of all the talent involved, not to mention that of the audience. It is a sequel that not only picks up exactly where the previous movie finished, but concludes there as well. It is a film so ideologically devoted to abstinence that it denies its viewer any kind of satisfaction. I kind of feel like Bella, begging her vampire beau Edward for some nookie. “Will you please just give me something already?!”

Actually, if you’re looking for a plot synopsis, the above sentence kind of covers it. Bella (Kristen Stewart) is our protagonist, a delightfully-devoid-of-personality teenage girl who has but two thoughts running through her head at any one time. The first: I want to have sex with my undead boyfriend Edward (Robert Pattinson). The second: I want to spend the rest of my life with Edward, but I can’t bear to break the news to my lycanthropic neighbour Jacob (Taylor Lautner). The extent of Edward and Jacob’s characteristics and actions – beside their individual supernatural burdens – are limited to dealing exclusively with Bella’s almost hilariously uninteresting conundrums. Edward won’t sleep with her until Bella marries him; Bella won’t marry him unless he turns her into a vampire; Jacob will be very sad if either of these things happen. Meanwhile, evil vamp Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) is gathering up an army of bloodsuckers to wage war against Bella, Edward, Jacob and their families, for reasons I do not care nearly enough about to recount here.

I thought that director David Slade may have been the perfect fit for the Twilight films. At the very least, he was an interesting choice of helmer following the totally bland Catherine Hardwicke and Paul Weitz. His debut film – Hard Candy – was a deliciously confronting film about the power relationship between a paedophile (Patrick Wilson) and his deceptively smart teenage target (Ellen Page). His second film – 30 Days of Night – was a disappointing, but visually sumptuous vampire flick with plenty of blood. He must have been so bored working on Eclipse. Why would you hire a director with genuine credentials in depicting weird sexual relationships and crazed vampire armies, and then simply force them to acquiesce to the screenplay’s sub-interesting clichés? Excuse the pun, but Slade has been defanged.

I mostly feel bad for the film’s talented actresses. Kristen Stewart is doomed to embody one of cinema history’s least empowered heroines. Howard’s villain is given so little screen time, most audience members won’t even realise that she has replaced Rachelle LeFevre, the actress who played Victoria in the first film. Meanwhile, Nikki Reed and Anna Kendrick (who gave an Oscar-worthy performance in Up in the Air) must be cursing their agents, who have tied them to teensy roles that are, yes, eclipsed, by their immense talent. Combine all this with the shame of having to share scenes with Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson as they “act”, and I can offer them nothing but my pity.

Everything about the film is so inoffensive, which in itself offends me greatly. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with making a film about vampires and werewolves accessible to young teens. We don’t need to see a 30 Days of Night-style bloodbath every time. What bothers me is that this film is disturbing on such a fundamental level; its understanding of sexual relationships borders on the hateful. Edward refuses to sleep with Bella until they are married. As with the other films, Bella is chastised for wanting to break this sacred bond (women who want to sleep with vampires are yelled at, whereas women who want to sleep with werewolves have their face clawed off – the women accept blame in every situation). All other depictions of pre-marital relations are used as evil manipulation or (no joke) leads directly to gang rape. Yeah, this isn’t instilling any weird perception of sexuality in its audience. All this rubbish about family groups complaining about young minds being corrupted by the violence of (the satirical) Kick Ass. Meanwhile, Eclipse makes Antichrist look like a relationship ‘How To’ guide.

But the film’s ideology is not its only bad trait. The film’s construction is generally terrible. There are no stakes here. The great army that Victoria builds up – the same army that Edward’s weird family spend the entire film preparing for battle with – turns out to be comprised of 8-10 vampires, tops. None of the main characters lives are ever in any kind of danger. So, if the action cannot be relied on to entertain us, all we’re left with is the romantic triangle between Bella, Edward and Jacob. Of course, this triangle was raised and dealt with (I thought!) in New Moon. Eclipse is essentially Bella coming to terms with decisions that she made an entire film ago; decisions which are never even remotely implied that she will change her mind on.

The Twilight fans assured me that this was the film to be excited for. My hatred for the first film, (although not encouraged) was said to be somewhat understandable. “You’ll change your mind when Eclipse rolls around. That is the book where everything happens.” Supposedly, the third book in Stephanie Meyer’s vampire saga has all the meaty conflict. If that is true, then wow. Stephanie Meyer should watch an episode of Breaking Bad sometime. I suspect it might make her head explode. But perhaps the fault shouldn’t lie with her. I’ve not read the books (and based on these films, I never shall), so maybe it was screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg who should shoulder the blame.

There is no doubt in my mind that any tension and potential violence and drama have been excised to ensure the film’s classification is low enough for all those tweenage girls to be allowed into the cinema. Eclipse is afraid to even show a hint of something terrifying, or even remotely erotic, despite the inherent terrifying eroticism of its supernatural subjects. If the producers of Twilight were given permission to remake Casper the Friendly Ghost, they’d probably have his ghostly apparition dress in some three-quarter jean-shorts, just to keep his modesty intact. Somebody has to think of the children, right?


Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

7 Responses to “Anti climax – The Twilight Saga: Eclipse review”

  1. i say the first weekends takings begs to differ…..

  2. …and in unrelated news, McDonalds is awarded 3 Michelin Stars, and the title of best restaurant on the planet.

  3. Criticising the Twilight Saga (so aptly named) for it's artistic merits is like having a go at the Adult Movie industry for it's quality of acting …

  4. so why did you give it 1.5? No zero allowed?

  5. I find it amusing that you say "Kristen Stewart is doomed to embody one of cinema history’s least empowered heroines."How many human females do you think could ensnare the hearts of a vampire and a werewolf?How many human females could walk into a house full of vampires and be more worried about offending them than being eaten by them?How many human females could have an audience with the Volturi and live to tell the tale?Furthermore, if you'd actually read the books, you'd know that Bella goes on to become an amazingly powerful and gifted vampire. In fact her gift has already partially manifested itself even while she's still human. That's why Edward can't hear her thoughts, and why Aro's and Jane's abilities don't work on her when she meets the Volturi in New Moon.If you're going to give the movie a bad review, do it for the right reason, i.e., the fact that it doesn't even come close to doing the book justice. But then, what movie does?

    • Yeah, the 21st-Century girls kinda wish Bella would redevelop her own identity (having declined ballet and sports, apparently). But totally agree with Tim re Bella’s courage: First visit to Cullen Family home; meeting James in order to save her mother; risking returning to her dad’s house to say good-bye vs. disappearing and totally wrecking him; traipsing into the Volturi castle (and not losing it when the tourist children started screaming). It also takes guts to tell one suitor face-to-face that you will always choose his rival, then take an actual stand between their pawing in the dirt. Not to mention the big-biggie: Requesting to become a vampire.
      Re artistic merit: For me, a fair exchange for the glorious photography (Northwest shooting locations) and production design.
      Simon the Critic seems to deplore the lack of sensational gore, whereas some of us have evolved beyond zombie movies, and the tasteful handling of the violence is a plus on the artistic side of my critique. (It takes some very skillful directing to portray Edward as both lethal/scary and majorly magnetic).
      I accidentally viewed the first of the series, but I plan to enjoy them all.

  6. I wasn't going to bother commenting as I agree with you 100%. However, TIM'S comment made me change my mind. :)Tim-Being 'so attractive that she can attract the hearts of four men in the first film, three men in the second film and then two in the third' (let's overlook the slight contradiction that she was apparently plain looking) does not 'empower' her. Not having enough common sense to be wary of a houseful of predators (however vegetarian they claim to be) does not give her power. (In fact, Edward both saved her and injured at one particularly amusing papercut scene.)Managing to wriggle out of being killed by another set of predators, again, does not empower her. (Bella was again saved and had no brains available to save herself.)Becoming the 'most powerful and strong vampire in the Cullens family' (aside from her daughter, but that's another rant right there) doesn't mean much either. Google the term 'Mary Sue'. She's written so that a female reader can pretend THEY are Bella so naturally she'd have become super powerful in the end. And remember, she was a newborn in the last book. Give her a hundred years and see how super powerful her gift is then.So Tim-It was a bad film and the reviewer was very kind to the book, in that he didn't blame the book directly. Be glad he hasn't read the books. The reviewer would have so much more to say. He was reviewing the film and the film was terrible.I almost feel like watching New Moon again… (If the Reviewer would like to be very very thoughtlessly amused and educated on the Twilight book, but with minimal reading and through the eyes of an intelligent reader, feel free to read the chapter summaries here- )The only thing I can give credit to this film is that the only empathy I felt was for a minor character- Bree. Poor newborn vampire chick who the Cullans were too spineless to protect. She never wanted to sparkle. It was a mercy killing. ❤

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