The Cullens must be one of the most understanding families in all of cinema. Not only do they like their son Edward’s girlfriend Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), but they also accept her mortality and dedicate their entire effort as a family unit to protecting her against other vampires who want nothing but to make lunch of her, to the point where they even make a pact with their enemies eternal, the werewolves, in order to help fiend these baddies off of poor Bella. At a certain point, when the family risks danger and disownment by betraying some sort of unspoken vampire code in order to fend for this girl, didn’t one of the elder Cullens ever think, hey, maybe our son could do better?
The werewolves, of course, also have reason to band together with the vampires because, well A) they don’t like vampires and the chance to kill some without breaking their ancient treaty is mighty appealing, but also because B) one of them, Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is kind of in love with Bella as well, in which case, in order for this story to work, Bella Swan would just about need to be the best thing since sliced bread. And sure enough, logic dictates that Bella, if worthy of these male pursuits, could, among other things, slice a loaf of bread or two, couldn’t she?
But the thing is, Bella’s nothing really that special. She’s a pale, skinny kid in blue jeans and a hoodie. I’m sure she’s a nice girl, but certainly not the type that would take your breath away after 100s of years of meeting cute high school girls. In fact, what comes out in David Slade’s Twilight: Eclipse, the third in the series, is that she’s kind of selfish and stupid.
There’s a scene where she goes to visit her mother in Florida early in the film because, after graduation, she intends to become a vampire, marry Edward (Robert Pattinson) and never be heard from again. For a graduation gift mom gives Bella a quilt stitched together from all the T-shirts she got from their travels, to which she also chimes in that hopefully they can ad many more in the future. You realize here exactly what Bella wants to give up and have to wonder, why?
She basically wants to give up the rest of her life for what symbolically comes down to sex. Unless of course Edward Cullen is the greatest thing since...
It’s at this point that one realizes that the Twilight films have been missing everything that, as far as fad franchises go, has made the Harry Potter books/films so special for so many years. Part of the joy of Harry Potter was in kids exploring a world unknown to them and discovering things about themselves, abilities and powers, but also exploring how they related to the everyday woes of growing up. Harry may have fought giant snakes in the basement but that didn’t make the stress of asking a girl to the Yule Ball any easier.
There’s nothing like that in the Twilight series that grounds it in some sort of plausible reality and provides an entry point as a way to care about these characters or anything that happens to them. Bella broods, Edward mopes, Jacob snarls and both men try to convince the emotionally confused Bella that their love is the best for her. And then Bella contemplates this, and changes her mind, and then changes it back, and then is mad at Edward, but then still likes him more, as the story, over the course of three books/films, still pretends to build to some important event that always feels just over the horizon but never manages to happen.
The only difference between Eclipse and it’s predecessors Twilight and New Moon is that in this one, for fifteen minutes or so towards the end, something actually happens.
Did Stephenie Meyer really expand all this confusion, moping, assessing and reassessing over the entire span of three books? Has Hollywood really dedicated six hours to introducing these characters while they shuffle around in self pity while absolutely nothing even close to resembling drama comes close to happening? If Meyer wasn’t as incompetent a writer as she is, she would surely know that each work, although belonging to a singular network that propels the same story forward, needs to be self-sufficient as a complete whole insomuch as that, when it ends, the audience feels content in knowing that this chuck of the story is over and has passed through something even so slightly as resembling a beginning, middle and end.
Instead Meyer and painfully faithful screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg are trickless magicians; always pulling air out of empty top hats. When the credits role over the close of Eclipse you get to thinking: oh great, now I have to wait for the next film for the action to actually start rolling.
You can’t blame any of this on the film’s players. They are, after all, working with source material about as awful as any there has ever been. Director David Slade (30 Days of Night) throws away the autumn hue of Chris Weitz’s New Moon in order for a darker, more murky look without returning to the ugly blue tint of Catherine Hardwick’s original Twilight film and also provides a climatic battle which is only the second most incomprehensible action sequence this summer.
Stewart and Pattinson are about as good as they have been any other time, filling the roles while making you realize they probably deserve much better. Dakota Fanning, still in cameo mode, shows up to assert why she probably isn’t the best choice to play villains and Lautner is still giving the kind of self-important performance that only a truly terrible actor can give when they fail to realize how bad they are playing.
And that’s it. The story will continue in 2011 when Bill Condon, the series’ most prestigious director takes a stab at the fourth and final chapter, in which maybe something will actually happen, although, considering the film will be cut into two parts, it’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing any life (no pun intended) from this franchise until 2012. Although, at this point, I think Edward and Jacob should cut their loses, find one of their own kind and let Bella realize that having a boyfriend when you’re in high school shouldn’t really be this much work.