There’s a decent film hiding somewhere in the concept that makes up The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. It runs about 90-95 minutes and presents a story where the actors read their lines as if they gave a damn and want you to believe the things they are saying. Instead we get the 121-minute lifeless equivalent of a filmed table reading with each actor reading their lines aloud and nonchalantly flipping through the pages, anxious for a smoke break. Toss in a few flashbacks, CG werewolves and a couple of action scenes to make it look like they tried and roll credits.
In the process of making a billion dollar franchise it would seem the furthest thing from the filmmakers’ interest with the Twilight franchise is to make a film everyone can enjoy and Eclipse is simply the latest example. A script rewrite, no matter how necessary, seems unheard of, considering it would just delay production and profit. And who can blame them? It’s worked so far why change now?
Eclipse has got all the long-winded line reading you can ask for, trumping up a melodramatic love triangle and the promise of a vampire/werewolf battle only to add zero tension or intrigue on the way to the film’s inevitable climax.
As fans and Burger King commercials debate over Team Edward and Team Jacob, so must Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart). Making for the majority of the film’s running time Bella pines for the vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), begs him to take her virginity and hides a buried love for the predominantly shirtless werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). Bella and Edward play a verbal tug-of-war, her wanting to become a vampire and him wanting her hand in marriage before that’s to happen. As for Jacob he takes a more direct approach and forces himself on Bella because he “knows” she loves him. He’s more of a man of action it would seem.
Meanwhile, the red-haired vampire villain from the first Twilight film, Victoria (now played by Bryce Dallas Howard), is back and building a vampire army. Her sights are set on killing Bella in order to get revenge on Edward for killing her beloved James. Victoria gets about five minutes of screen time, so be on the lookout for that.
You learn most of this in the first few minutes of the film, and yet it takes another 100 minutes or so to sort it out. It would seem the Twilight films despise editors and just as equally vexing is screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg’s lack of interest in spicing up the story with any level of wit or intelligence. Most of what is said in Eclipse is so half-hearted, hardly any of it registers as believable. Of course, the actors aren’t helping matters much.
I can’t say I felt an ounce of emotion from any of the film’s leads or believed a word any of them said. Stewart’s listless onscreen persona has worn me out. Her open-mouthed, empty stares put me to sleep, bringing the abundance of lengthy and bored dialogue to a screeching halt. Pattinson and Lautner don’t help either, something I chalk up more to an assumed lack of interest rather than an absolute lack of talent, though I haven’t entirely ruled out the latter.
It doesn’t stop there. The Volturi scenes were undoubtedly the best part of the previous installment, New Moon, but here they completely phone it in. Led by Dakota Fanning playing the vampire Jane, they look on for most of the film and occasionally deliver monotone impressions of what they are looking at in hopes it comes off as ominous and frightening. Instead they just add to the lifeless story that, like its characters, rarely registers a heartbeat.
Proving director David Slade (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night) wasn’t entirely working on auto pilot, a series of flashbacks aren’t all bad and the action sequences do work quite well. However, the flashbacks are relatively inconsequential in that they are used to either telegraph future plot developments or add back stories for characters that simply don’t matter. The action gave me a brief reprieve from the tedium with solid choreography, a decent score and a bit of an adrenaline rush, but it wasn’t before long everything was dialed back to dull.
The built-in fan base is sure to love Eclipse. Their favorite characters are on the big screen and the emotional core of the story already exists in their hearts, which makes the quality of what’s on screen rather inconsequential as long as it sticks close enough to the story they know. There is no problem with this as this is a film made specifically for them, but it simply leaves the rest of us out in the cold. And after three films this is something I’ve now come to accept. Hopefully with that in mind the next two films will be easier to swallow.