In good time for the release of the latest Twilight instalment, Part 1 of Breaking Dawn (due in November) comes the... erm, long-awaited conclusion to my Twilight Saga critique, now looking at the third part in the original trilogy: Eclipse. Those of you who’ve endured my previous two reviews of Twilight and Twilight: New Moon will probably know exactly what to expect here. The first movie was vaguely enjoyable mainly through the unintentional humour it evoked in most non-Twi-hard fans – teen angst to the extreme, gazing off into the distance like the whole cast had taken their acting lessons from Horatio out of CSI: Miami, and a ludicrous script all helped no end in this respect. Following a loose Pride & Prejudice storyline, I was far from offended by Twilight, but I also thought it was pretty far from good. Then I checked out the sequel, and overlong whine-fest which took a Romeo & Juliet thread and inserted in a pointless love triangle set against the backdrop of the ongoing werewolf/vampire blood-feud. Still, it maintained the unintentional humour despite its status as a kind-of filler episode between the first movie and this, the third in the Twilight Saga (originally there was never supposed to be a story in between, which is probably why it feels like such a filler).
Here we go again. 18 year-old Bella was a new girl who moved to a small town to live with her estranged dad, the town sheriff. At school there, she met Edward, a big drama queen who happens to be a hundred-plus year-old vampire trapped in a brooding, angst-driven teenager’s body. After much gazing off into the distance, and about 5 minutes of knowing one another, the two ridiculously confessed their undying love for one another. But things, of course, can never be that simple when it comes to immature teen romance, and so we had a whole movie’s worth of will-they-won’t-they moments which first involved the difficulty in a relationship between a precocious teenage girl and an immature vampire, and then developed on to involve the awkward and unnecessary love triangle between those two and a short-tempered teen werewolf, Jacob, who doesn’t own any shirts.
After going on a stupid quest to sacrifice himself for Bella, facing off against the massively camp uber-vampires, the Volturi, Bella first hates Edward, getting closer to Jacob instead, before realising what Edward is doing and going to stop him and save his life. That she does (unfortunately) and the two, once again, go on to supposedly live happily ever after.
“I promise to love you every moment of forever. Would you do me the extraordinary honour of marrying me?”
Well, on that cliffhanger (which surely can’t have had anybody waiting on tenterhooks for what will happen next!?) we get to the third movie, Eclipse. Edward and Bella are arguing over marriage, but they eventually settle on the decision to wait until graduation, at which point they will tell Bella’s dad about their intention to get married and turn Bella into a vampire. How thoughtful. At the same time old enemy Victoria, the mate of a vampire Edward killed to save Bella, is amassing a gang of newborns to help her take her revenge.
To complicate matters further, Edward lies to Bella to save her life, and when she finds out, she reacts expectedly childishly – running into the arms of Jacob to punish Edward. She then tells Jacob of her intentions to marry Edward and he gets understandably angry, so she runs back to Edward. Repeat for two hours.
As news of Victoria’s newborn army spreads, Edward’s family, the Cullens, and Jacob’s family of wolves decide to make a temporary truce to protect Bella. This makes room for a totally unnecessary training montage where Jasper Cullen gets to put into effect his previous fight knowledge, and also gives the writers some opportunity to flesh out characters like him and Rosdee, offering up their background (just like the backgrounds of some of the other Cullens were covered in the last instalment). Of course somewhere in the midst of it there’s some nefarious plan by the evil Volturi going on, and you can just tell that they are behind it all.
It’s all heading in one direction – a big fight. But, at the end of the day, even if they all survive, who will Bella choose? She may love Edward, but she’s clearly got feelings for Jacob – how long can she mess them both around before we get to a conclusion? (don’t even try to answer that question)
“This wasn't a choice between you and Jacob. It was a choice between who I am and who I should be.”
Twilight: Eclipse boasts a bigger budget than the previous instalments, and a bigger scope, the effects – whilst still limited – are notably better, particularly when it comes to the CG wolves; and the action is more prevalent. Still, this is a Stephanie Meyers affair, so it is grounded in pretentious dialogue, emo teen angst to the extreme and painfully convoluted immature love stories. Where the previous two instalments loosely followed Pride & Prejudice and Romeo & Juliet, respectively (both with significant elements of teen soap thrown into the mix), this third part goes full Dawson’s Creek, mimicking the Dawson-Joey-Pacey love triangle and making it the backbone of this chapter.
Personally, by now, my Twilight tolerance level had reached saturation. For all the unintentional amusement that spawned from the first two movies, things were getting remarkably repetitive. It seemed that no matter how many times Bella and Edward declared their undying, eternal love for one another, there was always room for them to randomly change their minds on a whim, and go on some ludicrous emotional rollercoaster, normally involving a third party who – with marriage on the cards – really just shouldn’t have been any part of the equation. But we are talking about teenagers here. We’re talking about kids who seem to think that ‘waiting until graduation’ will somehow make a difference when informing your dad that you’re going to marry a vampire and become one of the undead. Yup, I’m sure that’ll make a big difference.
The one potentially interesting villain – Victoria (jarringly, the actress who played her in the previous two instalments has now been replaced by The Village’s Bryce Dallas Howard) – is utterly wasted by a lack of screentime, and consequently there’s just no threat to her and her ‘army’ of newborns. Besides, you never get the feeling that this is the part of the storyline that you should be paying attention to – it’s just an excuse to keep the momentum going and allow for some vampire vs. werewolf action, while the relationship stuff plays off in the background.
Twilight: Eclipse may have fared better had it been a direct sequel to the first chapter (as was originally intended), and were it not for the existence of the second movie, New Moon, which covered much of the same territory. It feels like a bigger budget revamp of the essential elements from New Moon, stripping out the preposterous globe-trotting sequences, and expanding upon both the vampire/werewolf action and also the love triangle stuff, but when watched as a third film the previously used themes feel protracted and painful. By the end of it all, we hate Edward for his perpetual gazing off into the distance, we are bored with Jacob’s childish temper-tantrum antics and distinct lack of shirts, and, worst of all, Bella has become the most painfully uptight of all of them, a dithering, whimsical, emotionally-stunted individual who you perpetually want to ‘just grow up’. And the dialogue is utterly awful, which was amusing 200 minutes ago, but well into the third film you’re rooting for Stephenie Meyers to grow up almost as much as the characters.
“If we weren't natural enemies, and you weren't trying to steal my reason for existing, I might actually like you.”
I can’t imagine ever needing to know what happens next in the never-ending Twilight saga. I’ve seen enough Dawson’s Creek to fill in the gaps, just skip to the end already. There’s nothing in Eclipse we can’t see coming a mile away, and nothing that furthers the plot significantly – the epilogue mirroring that of New Moon so closely that you wonder whether you’ve really wasted a couple of hours of your life getting this far. Twilight started off as being an amusing bit of throwaway nonsense – it was never any good but it at least had unintentional humour going for it; and rather than develop things coherently and cogently, the whole thing appears to revolve around churning out the same material again and again. The same painfully stilted dialogue, the same plethora of one-dimensional characters, the same inept (or overly camp) villains. It’s just about as far away from a decent vampire/werewolf thriller as you can get – making the Underworld films look positively amazing – and doesn’t even come into consideration in terms of its love angle, which feels perpetually set at a very low standard. I would have thought that, even for fans, it would have been a good idea for the saga to have grown up somewhat by now. But for newcomers, this third instalment is way too much. If you liked Twilight, you may make it to the end of Eclipse without too much fear of self-harm, but if all you did was laugh at Twilight – as many non-Twiglet viewers no doubt did – then even the laughs dry up by the end of this sorry threesome.