|In Short:||Twilighters cannot possibly be disappointed.|
|Recommended:||Hell, yes! (For the aforementioned Twilighters.)|
|EDWARD:||Doesn't he own a shirt?|
So, here’s what happened. I went and saw Eclipse. And then I left the theater, bought a ticket to the very next showing, and watched it again. And then I went home and re-read the book, which I then followed up with a re-read of the next in the series, Breaking Dawn. Then I opened up iTunes and downloaded the soundtrack. Then I went online and participated in various spirited discussions on the merits (or -- yes, I concede -- occasional lack thereof) of this movie.
And the next day, I went and saw Eclipse again. Twice.
Now, you may think that there is something wrong with this. With me. And I don’t disagree. The last time I was this crazy about a movie, it was the first X-Men, which I saw at the theater eleven times in three days. It’s not healthy. Obsession never is. And that is what I am about this film, this series, this whole Twilighty world.
Oh, shit, I’m just like Bella.
I can therefore not expect anyone not obsessed, and not just like Bella (Kristen Stewart), to understand the depths of my devotion. Much as the inarticulate Miss Swan’s endless appeal to both Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is somewhat inexplicable, so too is this movie’s now irresistible appeal to me. Look, it probably could have been better, I’ll admit that, but to be honest, I pretty much would have liked it even if it was thoroughly awful, ‘cause, hey, it’s Edward and Bella and Jacob and Jasper (hi, Jasper!), and Alice and Carlisle and Emmett, and, hell, even Rosalie, and I love those people and this story and this whole crazy damn thing.
But is it awful? No. And “not awful” is about as high as my expectations were, so I was in no way disappointed. And in many, many ways was I pleased.
First of all, Eclipse is funny. Sometimes that’s intentional, often it is not. Sometimes you’re laughing, and you don’t quite get why, except that it’s all so ridiculous, and yet you like it. At one point, Bella is leaning against the giant furred creature out of nightmare that is the enwolfed Jacob, and the theater breaks out into titters, because it’s just so absurd. When vampire heads are torn off and left to pave on the ground, crumbled and pale like the marble they’ve so often been described, we all laugh because, hey, headless dead things with no blood coming out of them are somehow funny.
The intentional funny is the stuff with Bella’s Dad Charlie (Billy Burke) going all protective and hating Edward silly. Culminating in the classic moment when Edward and Jacob are facing off in jealous rage over Bella, these two supernatural creatures, unimaginably strong, immortal and mythical… and then Chief Swan steps in and makes everyone remember who’s really in charge in that scenario. They might be creatures out of myth and legend, but he’s her Dad. So settle down, you all-powerful natural enemies, you. Settle the hell down.
And y’know something else about that scene? Jacob is convincing. By which I mean Taylor Lautner is way more than just a great torso. He… I actually think he acts in here, and there are a few moments of real truth in his performance. Particularly when he offers up his Pack to fight the coming newborn vampire army, and he quells Bella’s protests with a wry sarcasm that is almost Spike-worthy.
Also acting is Nikki Reed as the beauteous malcontent Rosalie, and while I still hate her character a whole crazy lot, Reed’s deft portrayal of her reluctant vampire’s profound ennui and tearful recounting of a distasteful backstory is very well done indeed.
And in other notable acting news, Jackson Rathbone gives his Jasper a new accent, and this is a development I have spent some considerable time pondering. Y’see, Jasper has been pretty much accent neutral in the past two outings, but in this third installment we learn his backstory, we discover that he was born in Texas before the Civil War, and rose to the rank of Major in the Confederate Army. Now, at first I was somewhat befuddled by his suddenly coming over all Texan drawl-ish, but upon reflection, I think I’m okay with it. For a start, Jasper really hasn't had all that much to say in the previous movies, and therefore his accent could easily have been missed before now. Alternatively, perhaps the rise of the newborn army -- oh, yeah, I didn’t mention the newborns yet -- brought back memories of his past and he slipped back into old speech patterns as as result. He certainly sounded the most Texan when he was drilling the vampires in battle techniques (which I have to say was the best sequence in the film), and therefore it makes some sense for his old accent to return as he goes back into soldier mode. (No, I haven't spent WAY too much time thinking about this.)
So, I should mention the newborns now.
Bryce Dallas Howard, a woman with three men’s names (or three surnames?), has the face of a Pre-Raphaelite goddess, or a lithe Botticelli; the books tell us how unbearably beautiful these vampires are -- all the better to eat you, my dear -- and Howard really delivers on that promise. She plays Victoria here, replacing the frazzled Rochelle Lefevre from the previous two movies, and she has raised a powerful army of newborn vampires in nearby Seattle (they’re insanely strong when they first turn, you see) in an attempt to bring those Cullens down. In fact, she doesn’t even really want to kill the Cullens, she just wants to destroy Bella, ‘cause Edward killed her mate James and she wants him to know the same torment.
Jeez, Victoria, get over it already.
Anyway, she ensorcels a young Forks boy in the big city, Riley (Xavier Samuel), and he recruits unto her a legion of troubled teens (including poor, ill-fated Bree Tanner [Jodelle Ferland], whom we now know well from her self-titled so-called novella) which she gifts with eternal life, all the while planning that they not survive long enough to enjoy it. Watching the rise of the vampire army are agents of the vampire Neighborhood Watch, the Volturi, spearheaded by the calculating and cruel Jane (Dakota Fanning). The Volturi should put a stop to Victoria’s shenanigans, but they don’t want to because a) they want the bring the special gifts of Edward (telepathy) and Alice (clairvoyance) into their demonic fold and b) because otherwise there’d be no climactic fight scene in which the werewolves and Cullens band together to destroy Victoria’s blood-maddened interlopers.
And no one wants that.
So battle is joined, Victoria and Riley corner Edward and Bella, Bella actually helps in his struggle instead of standing around listlessly as she did in the book (not the only facet in which this movie makes significant improvements on its source material), we soon have another marble head on the ground, then Jacob is horribly injured and Bella is conflicted and…
Did I mention she kisses Jacob? Before the battle? And Edward knows? And he’s okay with it?
Oh, my. So much happened in this movie, and a lot of what does it better than they way it happened in the book. And while a few things are sadly missed (my favorite Meyer quote, “You’re weirdly moral for a vampire” is tragically absent), Eclipse is, by and large, a faithful and enjoyable adaptation of this well-loved and exciting tale. Sure, it’s not perfect. The Voluturi stuff was underplayed and ill-explained; Bella’s pals Mike (Michael Welch), Jessica (Anna Kendrick), Angela (Christian Serratos) and Eric (Justin Chon) were mere afterthoughts; I’m still unclear on how Victoria managed to “avoid making a decision” and therefore elude Alice’s prognostications, little things like that.
But they got the battle training scene, when Jasper is taking the Cullens through the rudiments of newborn tactics, utterly and completely right. It was as good as the first Twilight movie’s vampire baseball scene. And I can forgive this movie a lot just for the sake of that.
And now I kind of want to go and watch it again. Oh, dear. Could it be that my X-Men 11-sessions-in-3-days record is about to tumble? How embarrassing if it should fall to Eclipse!
Perhaps I’d better stop at 10.
-- Rachel Hyland
The Twilight Saga Movies: Team Awesome