The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
“Bella, they’re not even alive,” Jacob (Lautner) whimpers when he learns his improbable love interest (Stewart) has once again forsaken him and his lupine clan for the dependable lapdog of the undead (Pattinson), and to the extent that Eclipse is more tolerable than its predecessors, it’s for giving its mannequins a semblance of anger and disappointment. Or maybe this time, the actors have just been directed to look interested. Clearly, Jacob of the congenital shirtlessness and Edward of the vacant stare can’t both have their way with Bella of the eternal pout, and as they size each other up in a freezing tent—with Edward spiteful over Jacob’s ability to keep Bella warm—there’s the sense that Eclipse is good campy fun, or at least fodder for theorists and werewolf therapists.
Indeed, incoming director Slade is no stranger to the subject of castration anxiety (he did the Ellen Page–versus–the pedophile movie Hard Candy), but more importantly, he varies the pace and the rhythm a bit, knowing that when you’re stuck with two exasperatingly dull (and chaste) main characters, the best thing to do is to get away from them whenever possible. Eclipse rouses from its photo-shoot torpor during brief flashbacks to the Civil War and the 1930s; material involving the supporting cast (including an underused Howard) suggests Slade as a passing student of Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark. But Stephenie Meyer’s mythology is too thin to withstand the ponderous approach borrowed from adaptations of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and its heroine’s appeal is never even established, let alone timeless. Edward’s now de rigueur abstinence lecture is here contextualized as old-fashioned chivalry, but unconditional love doesn’t exactly make for exciting drama. The vapid Bella dithers over her choice between refinement and animal magnetism. Whichever beast wins, we lose.