Sunday, August 15, 2010

“Eclipse” – Is there really anything left to say?

Reviewing sequels is always a little different than reviewing other films. For one thing, it’s impossible to go into one without preconceived notions. You already know most of the characters, if they haven’t added anyone new, and if the production staff is the same, the feel and look of the film isn’t going to be any different. Throw in the fact that the movie is based on a book and you’re really only left wondering why, as an adult male, you are watching this film. Ok, maybe that’s what I am left wondering, though I do know the answer – I’m married.

The one thing that is different for me this time around is that I managed to read “Twilight” before seeing “Eclipse.” I know this doesn’t sound relevant, but it gives me a better perspective on how the characters and story were originally written. For the first two movies I had to rely on my wife telling me if things had been drastically changed or were staying true to the book. Even though I haven’t read “Eclipse,” I can now say, with no doubt whatsoever, that Kristen Stewart is not a very good actor.

To be fair, she’s actually managed to improve upon her previous two performances. I think someone finally told her to stop huffing and sighing during every line. This irritated me to no end and I’m glad she stopped doing it. Unfortunately, she is still biting her lip too much, but we can only expect so much out of her. I recently had a conversation in which I was told that this was exactly as Bella was written in the books, but I disagree. I got that she was awkward and uncoordinated, the latter of which is completely missing from Bella in the film, but nothing about huffing or biting. It could just be that was how Bella was interpreted some people, which is perfectly legitimate. Obviously, I am not one of those people as I prefer my actors to refrain from consuming their own faces.

“Eclipse” picks up with Bella and Edward lying in a field, relishing their narrow escape from the Volturi. Their escape was allowed to occur as long as Edward transforms Bella into a vampire. Since we know he doesn’t really want to do this and Bella really does want to do it, we can rest assured that we will be browbeaten with the same argument/conversation throughout the film. Luckily for us, this movie gets to the main plot much quicker than “New Moon” did, so we don’t have to worry about falling into a coma and sliding into the sticky mix of popcorn and soda pop on the floor.

Our old friend Victoria (now played by Bryce Dallas Howard) has created a new vampire, Riley, and set him on a course to help her get revenge against Bella and the Cullens. Her plan involves Riley running around creating new vampires in order to build a small army to attack the Cullens. Because we only get snippets of this for the first half of the movie, we’re intrigued by what the purpose of these little snippets are, but annoyed that we have to endure more of the insipid love triangle between Edward, Bella, and Jacob (more on this in a moment). Just when we began to sneak glances at our watches, Dakota Fanning and two other Volturi show up to observe the unruly new vampires killing loads of humans, peaking our interest. They are supposed to be preventing this kind of behavior from happening, but it is quickly revealed that they are hoping to see Bella and the Cullens all killed. Even after the movie ends, we still don’t know what their real problem is with Bella, other than her immunity to extra vampire abilities, but we’re forced to accept this as the motivation for the plot. It’s pretty weak, but at least it’s more interesting than wondering how many times Jacob will appear without a shirt.

Getting back to the triangle, am I the only one who is completely over the absurd “Team Edward – Team Jacob” thing? This is easily the stupidest marketing campaign since the weird little Quizno’s carpincho sock puppets ads. Based on everything we know from the first two films, there is no chance that Bella is going to dump Edward for Jacob. The story completely revolves around Bella and Edward’s love and perpetuating the Jacob absurdity is just insulting. What’s more insulting is having to swallow Jacob’s insistence that Bella loves him and her actually admitting to it. I can take a lot of bullshit, but that just sucks. Still worse, we have to endure Jacob and Bella making out on a mountain top while Edward is forced to watch. I am as confused by this as you are and the explanation does not help. The Cullens have made a temporary pact with the werewolves to fight the vampire army and because Jacob is a petulant brat who can’t take a hint, he threatens to abandon them to their fight unless Bella admits her love for him, which leads to the tongue dancing. Ungh, I think I just vomited a little in my mouth.

Mercifully, Victoria and her puppet break up the nausea for the final battle scene. Since you already know there is a fourth book in the series, I don’t need to tell you how that ends. When all is said and done, we’re back in the field with Edward and Bella as they have the same discussion of making her a vampire. If you’re following along, this whole movie did nothing to move the overall plot forward and we are still left wondering if there will be a battle royale between the Volturi and the Cullens due to some unexplained issue between them. I can’t help but feel that a lot of important context was cut from the movie, but I guess I’ll just have to catch up on my reading. My only real hope for the final chapter is that Edward bites Bella and Jacob gets neutered. Well…I guess there WAS still something left to say.

Rating: Much more entertaining than “New Moon” so ask for just four dollars back. You’ll need it for the final chapter, which is being split into two films (seriously).

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