Main cast: Kristen Stewart (Isabella “Bella” Swan), Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen), Billy Burke (Charlie Swan), Taylor Lautner (Jacob Black), Xavier Samuel (Riley Biers), Ashley Greene (Alice Cullen), Jackson Rathbone (Jasper Hale), Nikki Reed (Rosalie Cullen), Bryce Dallas Howard (Victoria), Dakota Fanning (Jane), Kellan Lutz (Emmett Cullen), Elizabeth Reaser (Esme Cullen), Julia Jones (Leah Clearwater), and Peter Facinelli (Dr Carlisle Cullen)
Director: David Slade
No, don’t look at me like that. I’m sure you have read my reviews of Stephenie Meyer’s The Twilight Saga books and the movies that were based on those books and believe me, I walked into the theater fully expecting to feel at best indifference and at worst sheer loathing when it comes to The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. The last thing I expected was to like this movie.
When we last saw these fools in The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Bella wanted to become a vampire so that she could be beautiful and amazing forever and, oh yes, also because she loved Edward, but Edward refused because he couldn’t bear to see innocent Bella’s soul being corrupted. Jacob wanted Bella and walked around shirtless. This same rigmarole is present in the this movie, but then again, we don’t read books by Stephenie Meyer for deep plots and amazing story line developments.
This time around, Victoria is still smarting from the fact that the Cullens ripped apart her boyfriend and used those pieces as accessories in an impromptu party (see Twilight). She decides to, uh, turn invisible and turn some David Boreanaz lookalike, Riley Biers, into her vampire toyboy by biting his hand. Seriously, I don’t know what is going in that hilariously inept opening scene. Fortunately, the rest of the movie is far better than that opening scene. Riley, in turn, finds what seem like the most idiotic people ever to turn into vampires. Victoria’s plan is to use Riley and his vampire army to march into Forks and rip apart Bella. Meanwhile, the Volturi sends Jane to clean up the mess, but because Jane falls into the “Women Who Are Jealous of Stephenie’s, oops, Bella’s Awesomeness” camp, she spends her time pouting and showing off her red contact lens instead. Maybe Dakota Fanning’s contract forbids her from putting in more than two days worth of work into this movie for fear of ruining her career forever.
The story is pretty bad, but screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg is saddled with the thankless task of turning Ms Meyer’s puerile and insipid prose into something watchable. She is lucky in that director David Slade manages to work in tandem to remove the worst excesses of the book to come up with a surprisingly coherent, well-paced, and watchable flick.
Bella is still a shallow, useless, and unlikable twit here, and Kristen Stewart really looks like she doesn’t want to be in the movie anymore. The years of being called Bella is taking its toll on her. Robert Pattinson still behaves as if he’s stifling laughter when he mouths his lines. Despite the fact that he clearly believes that he is too cool for this franchise, he does show some charm when he actually speaks in his natural voice and he actually has some chemistry with Taylor Lautner.
But it is Taylor Lautner’s earnest portrayal of Jacob Black that makes this movie watchable, and I am not saying this because he spends nearly all the time walking around in nothing but low-riding jeans. One reason why those books capture the imagination of an adoring audience is because of the unabashed melodrama in the depiction of love and romance. In this movie, Mr Lautner’s earnest and sincere embrace of his admittedly corny and ridiculous lines works like magic. He turns Jacob Black from the creepy date-rapist in the making in the book into a tragic romantic figure who will fight tooth and nail for the woman he loves and, if she wills it, dies for her without hesitation or regret. I love Jacob’s bedside scene and his heartfelt admission of his willingness to keep loving Bella even after she has become a vampire, the creature he is raised to despise, and the fact that he says this after nearly losing his life in defending the Cullens from Victoria’s inept vampire army. It’s so ridiculous, that scene, and yet, I’m touched by it nonetheless.
The secondary cast, especially Jackson Rathbone and the always reliable Ashley Greene, turn in some pretty good performances to make up for the sleepwalking routines of Ms Stewart and Mr Pattinson. I can’t say the same for some characters though. Charlie is still the worst father and sheriff in the world, but poor Billy Burke is reduced to staring ahead blankly like a village idiot in all his scenes in this movie. Xavier Samuel doesn’t just look like David Boreanaz’s uglier brother in this movie, he acts like the less talented sibling too.
At any rate, cynics may scoff at the mawkish melodrama of this movie, but by doing so, they completely miss the point of this movie. It celebrates a melodramatic and idealized portrayal of love, and to enjoy and appreciate this movie, one has to embrace those sentiments, revel in it, and find vicarious entertainment in such flights of fancy. This time around, the script, the more capable direction, and Taylor Lautner’s confident and earnest portrayal of his character all come together to make The Twilight Saga: Eclipse one of the most obvious guilty pleasures of this year.