First, a refresher.
Twilight taught us all young men are monsters whose rampant sexual urges will, without exception, KILL YOU. Their desire to do so is what’s known as “love.” Keep them at arm’s length and you’ll gain a loyal attack dog sure to lay waste your enemies and cause their women to lament. Sure, your new pet monster might stalk you and creep into your room at night…or whenever you’re not at home…or just whenever the hell he feels like it…but so long as his family accepts you and your family hates him, everything will work out in the end.
New Moon reinforced these lessons while simultaneously teaching us that all teenage girls are evil, scheming, serial-users, much closer to classical vampire archetypes than the Family Cullen. Girls’ll suck you emotionally dry while you sit there, fruitlessly hoping that, one day, they’ll suck you physically dry as well. Even doing that thing they do where they catch your bottom lip in their teeth and pull back until all those little tendons holding your lip to your jaw start to hurt so good…even that would be better than nothing. Because “nothing” is about all you’re gonna get. After all, you’re a monster, right? Why in God’s name would they touch you, you muscley slab of man-beef? Besides, it’s not like they don’t already have an abusive boyfriend. And once he snaps his fingers expect them to go running back faster than a zombie with the Rage virus…no matter how badly he’s treated them in the recent past.
After a stereotypically-frustrating horror movie opening sequence – where we see an anonymous dumbass who does all the dumbass things characters do in horror movies (asking “Who’s there?” of the shadowy shape menacing him; running away from populated areas) when they’re about to be gnawed on by vampires – Eclipse begins exactly where New Moon began and left off: in a dreamy field of flowers.
There, eighteen-year-old Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) reads Robert Frost to her hundred-plus-year-old vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). She’s got an English Final coming up. He’s got a marriage proposal. He’s all like, “Mary me,” and she’s all like, “I have to be back at four.” He’s all like, “This is how things’re done.” She’s all like, “Yeah, whatever. Make me forever young.” He’s all like, “No. I’m a controlling dick who has to have everything his way without exception.” To which she responds, “Well, so am I…minus the dick…which is kind of our whole issue, in fact.” Come one, come all, to see the young “lovers” spat. It’s even more annoying on film than it is in your memory banks.
This scene establishes the template for all Edward/Bella scenes to come, as her early-twenty-first century hormones fight a war of attrition against his early-twentieth-century moral compass. Adding to this, Bella’s friend-who-happens-to-be-a-boy/werewolf, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), is all butt-hurt that she’s chosen to ride the pasty, pale pony rather than Jake’s hot and hairy one. Bella says she “wanted to fix it, he just – he wouldn’t give me a chance.” Fix what, dear? You used the poor asshole to indulge your addiction to Edward-phantoms. And then you tossed him aside like a tampon wrapper the second White Boy’s “sister” showed up. All Jake’s going to do from this point on is glom onto the least bit of interest you show him as evidence of your undying, unrequited lo-ove.
Sure enough, once Shark Boy returns from his favorite sulking space, that’s exactly what happens. Then Eclipse breaks ranks with the rest of the series by introducing a conflict before the ninety-minute mark…other than Edward, Bella and Jake’s conflict with blue balls, of course. My God, the Twilight series is trying to be an actual movie. Miracles do happen!
The conflict’s name is Victoria (now played by Bryce Dallas Howard), the grief-stricken lover of that vampire Edward killed at the end of the original film (spoiler alert). After spending the whole of New Moon fruitlessly running through the woods, Victoria nicked off to Seattle and raised a militia of vampires from the dregs of that great city’s hipster douchebag community. That anonymous fool we saw getting mauled before the credits is Riley (Xavier Samuel) and, now that Victoria’s filled his head with anti-Cullen propaganda, he’s become her field commander, ready and willing to teach Edward a lesson in grief.
Tactically out-classed, the Family Cullen and the Quileute werewolves form a temporary alliance to defend Bella because…um…yeah. Just because. I mean, look at her: making everyone in her life sacrifice themselves for her temporary happiness. It’s like she’s Joan of Fucking Arc…without the tripy visions of Jesus telling her kill the English. At least Bella remains too inarticulate to be Henry V, so Eclipse spares us any “rousing” speeches.
In their place, we get a rousing campfire tale courtesy Jacob’s dad (still, thankfully, played by Gil Birmingham, an actual actor slumming in this garbage), recounting their tribe’s first encounter with the “cold ones.” Legend has it the third wife of the Quileute’s chief Taha Aki (Mariel Belanger) sacrificed herself to save everyone from that first vampire rampage. So it seems women can play a major role in community affairs so long as they commit public suicide. Thanks for that, Twilight series. Gee, wonder if this’ll come up again near the end of this flick? Perhaps as the resolution to a climactic action sequence?
Too-convenient, retroactively-justified, flagrantly telegraphed plot resolutions aside, at least Eclipse moves a bit faster than New Moon. Partly that’s the fault of our latest director, David Slade, another music video veteran who does the best he can with what’s essentially a chamber drama that mistakes negotiation for romance. Returning series screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg is still doing her best as well…but not even Frank Lloyd Wright could build a house out of material this sub-standard.
Rather than make a proper sequel, since this series is as allergic to new ideas as Superman is to Kryptonite, Eclipse squishes all the most annoying bits of New Moon and Twilight together and asks us to pretend this is all, somehow, new and interesting enough hold us for two hours. Instead of spending two-thirds of the film establishing a posturing man-child as Bella’s latest Object of Affection, Eclipse forces her (and us) to spend that time under the stifling gaze of two of them. And, because this is Twilight, each one is a grand maul dick.
Jacob’s a dick because he “doesn’t buy” Bella’s rejection, insisting, “You feel something else for me, you just won’t admit it.” Because that line always works, am I right, guys? With macho intransigence, Jacob insists Bella’s “not sure what she wants.” Oh, but you are, right? Well, let’s all prostrate ourselves at the shirtless werewolf’s feet. Between films, he’s apparently gained the power to know What Women Want…and he didn’t even need to “phase” into Mel Gibson’s shape to do it. Always a plus.
That intransigence saps my last bit of goodwill, turning Jacob into a negative image of Edward in an attempt to make Ed the Better Man, since he’s various obviously not. Many have suggested that this is a bit of revenge on Stephanie Meyer’s part, a flagrant slap in the face to the whole of Team Jacob. So Wolf Boy becomes yet-another clingy, self-centered asshole, only valuing himself in the context his non-relationship with Her Highness, Bella Swan, Queen of the Mary Sues. But while Ed only knows one song called “I love you, now go away,” Jacob’s idea of a smooth move involves forcing Bella into a kiss.
Shocked and dismayed that Jacob’s lived this long without realizing what “No means ‘No'” means, Bella punches him right in his smug, too-perfect, Shark Boy jaw. If this is the way Jake goes about wooing potential girlfriends I gotta wonder how he escaped middle school with his balls. That “face punch” is easily my favorite Bella-moment in the whole damned series. As Edward’s muscley, non-character of a “brother” Emmett Cullen (Kellan Lutz) says, “Badass!” It’s the most proactive action Bella’s taken since she dove off that fucking cliff.
She can’t do much else thanks to Edward Cullen, enthusiastic waver of the Domestic Abuse Red Flag. Since the first film, Eddy’s been a control freak of epically creepy proportions. The immanent threat of Eclipse‘s plot provides him with the perfect excuse to be an even bigger asshole than he would be otherwise. He sabotages Bella’s truck to keep her from driving to Camp Werewolf. He conceals the impending threat for twenty minutes of movie, and only owns up to it after Jacob drops the knowledge on them in Forks High’s social venue of choice (the student parking lot). And what does he tell her to console her fears that turning into a vampire will mean she’ll never get to see her family and friends ever again, ever? “In a few decades, everyone you know will be dead.”
Good one, there, Don Juan. Making your girl think about the inevitable deaths of her family and friends is a sure way to beat a path to her heart. By now, it’s become unavoidably obvious that Edward has no idea how a human relationship is supposed to work. No wonder he’s cozying up to a teenage girl.
And why exactly does Bella fear her friends and family will play no part in her post-human life? Back in the first movie, Bella was the only one in town with the wherewithal to recognize the Cullen Clan for what they are. Hell, the family patriarch got away with posing as the town doctor for (presumably) years…even if he did close up shop every time the plot required someone to organize round-the-clock Bella Guarding. What’s really stopping Bella from spending at least ten good, post-human years with her friends and folks? Vampire sparkliness? They seem to be getting less sparkly as the series progresses (someone at ILM or DLM must’ve realized how stupid a concept sparkly vampires really are). Just fly mom up from Florida and you’ll be good to go.
Besides, Bella’s dad must know at least something about all this supernatural shit going on in his town. Whenever some asshole walking down a deserted street in the middle of the night gets himself mauled by a vampire Sheriff Swan gets the call. Here, Edward even drops Bella off at the Sherriff’s station in broad daylight…and Fork’s premiere Drunken Gun Cleaner says precisely dick about it. Thus, despite these movie’s complete disregard for him, Sheriff Swan remains my favorite character. I’m still waiting for that buddy cop film centered around him and Jacob’s dad. Call it The Redneck and the Werewolf and you can easily trick all those NASCAR-loving assholes into thinking it’s not a Twilight movie. The same way you tricked me into thinking this movie might be worth my time with your slick promises of a monster fight at the end.
This forcibly injects tension into what would otherwise be a two-hour exercise in thumb-twiddling and screaming at Bella’s inherent selfish disregard for everyone, Edward’s relationship-micromanaging, and Jacob’s descent into PG-13 rape. At least we finally getting to spend some time (like, five minutes each, but still) with Rosalie (Nikki Reed) and Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) Cullen, now that their backstories can add “necessary” dimension to the “plot” (i.e., they – like Edward – mope at Bella about how much being a vampire sucks, despite all evidence). I kept expecting Sheriff Swan to get a flashback, too…but then I remembered how much hate the series holds for him in its black, syrupy heart. Oh well.
At least Javier Aguirresarobe’s cinematography ensures a perceptible difference between human and vampire skin tone (for the most part) without resort to the gold filtration that made New Moon look like it’d been cooked in a chemical bath. The special effects, on the other hand, look like shit. Wire-fu and obvious greenscreen backgrounds just can’t overcome this series’ compulsively PG-13 attitude toward violence. Eclipse spends over ninety minutes setting up the vampire army as some grave, existential threat…and then they all go down like ten-pins in under three minutes of entirely-bloodless action. It’s like a Roger Corman closer: a lot of build-up for a paltry, “eh, it’s a’ight” pay-off. And since this is Twilight, that payoff gets drenched in obviously digital wolves and vampires that get knocked out of a fight as easily as Jim Jones’ cultists.
To get to that part, you have to slog through another film’s worth of interminable Bella/Edward conversations. But whereas Twilight‘s interminable conversations concerned the Nature of Vampirism and New Moon earned a lot of points (okay, maybe not “a lot,” but still) by omitting them (almost) completely, Eclipse dives head first into a putrescent pit of Designated Romance and Abstinence Porn that is the starchy center of the Twilight series.
Past the novelty of watching two Designated Hot Boys fight over an audience identification character, the Saga is an Anti-Romance, dedicated to perverting and annihilating everything about its concept that might actually be romantic. After all, the central question of most Romantic Literature (“will they or won’t they?”) is literally a dead issue. Of course they “will.” They both want to…it’s the only non-plot related thing they ever frikkin’ talk about! The only question is “when?”
Every Bella/Edward scene (most of which take place in beds, our protagonists discreetly and fully clothed, thank you, movie) centers around the fact Bella wants to jump Ed’s bones now, damnit, and whenever she doesn’t get her way she pouts. Ed’s down with that in theory, but (as we’ve established) premarital sex will FUCKING KILL YOU. So this bloodless bastard bargains, making marriage his precondition for a chance to ride the marble member. Because whenever he doesn’t get his way Edward makes yet another unilateral decree about their relationship. For her own good, of course. Isn’t that what they always say? “I’m just trying to protect you, Bella. Now stop struggling. I won’t bite you, but the ropes might if you don’t calm the fuck down.”
Frankly, I don’t care how desperate Bella is for the chance to warm her dead love’s flesh. This is not romance. This is Designated Love decaying into a business transaction right before our eyes, reflecting a morality that medieval power players and oppressive patriarchies throughout time would recognize and gladly endorse. No surprise this is the only topic Bella and Edward discuss. Outside of a desire to bump uglies they have nothing – absolutely nothing – in common.
Here the Saga sheds its last mask, revealing its central characters to be a pair of evil, soulless automatons created by a demiurge for the explicit purpose of regurgitating stupid platitudes stolen from the kind of Abstinence Only pamphlets that miss-educated parents and “professional educators” hand to teenage boys…in place of, say, a pack of Trojans…or anything else that might actually be useful. Most of Edward’s recurring proposal speech (especially the bits about preserving Bella’s “virtue” and leaving “one rule unbroken”) is straight out of shit I thought I’d left behind in a Midwestern U.S. middle schools.
Hate to break it to you, Twilight…but when real couples want to make it, they bloody well make it, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, know-what-I-mean? Hell, it’s as if Bella and Edward never heard of Cowgirl. Or Reverse Cowgirl. How about a modified Catherine Tramell Special, replacing the silk cords with steel chains and the ice pick with…actually, keep the ice pick. Since asking these characters to behave like real people is like asking Michael Bay to make a good film I might as well ask for the moon, right? New or old, I don’t give a shit.
But do you know the final insult on top of all the psychic injury this series causes by its very existence? The whole of Eclipse – from Jacob’s descent into dickishness to the completely ineffectual vampire army – is yet another two hour piece of filler, connecting the marriage proposal that ended New Moon to the insane, misogynist nightmare that is Breaking Dawn. Bella could’ve said “yes” at the end of the last film and it wouldn’t have made any fucking difference since we end here the same way New Moon did: Jake The Rake goes off to sulk, Our Loves writhe around in bed giggling over their impending nuptials, and I nick off to puke in some uncarpeted corner of my Batcave.
When you can completely skip the third entry without serious narrative consequences, your sparkly-vampire Designated Romance is obviously running on fumes. It’s not even bad enough to be a Bad Movie in the sense that requires capital letters. None of these fucking films are. They’re nothing but regressive, nineteenth century propaganda, packaged and sold to the desperate children of our time. God help anyone who considers this “romantic,” and God help Stephanie Meyer. At this point, only divine intervention can save her from becoming the Akiva Goldsman of supernatural, YA-fiction.