The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Dangerous decision: Vampire or werewolf? Rivals for Bella dominate ‘Twilight Saga: Eclipse’
‘The Twilight Saga: Eclipse’’ continues to perpetrate the longest, oddest courtship in the history of the movies. She wants him. He wants to wait. This is the third movie in the series, and it mitigates its parable for sex, abstinence, and moral choices with hot vampires and overheated werewolves. You have to commend the peddlers of this particular installment. They’ve squared the metaphors and parallels almost evenly — bloodsuckers vs. their lupine adversaries, lust vs. chastity, talking vs. action.
“Eclipse,’’ which is based on Stephenie Meyer’s books (there are four), favors discourse over derringdo, and since the filmmaking is logy and rhythmless, there’s also a lot of derringdon’t. But in a season of lobotomized action spectacles, watching three teenagers — one of whom happens to be as old as the hills — prattle for two long hours about their feelings is noble. If the first two movies were “get a room,’’ part three is “get a therapist.’’
Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) remains unsure about whether she loves her vampire suitor, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), more than Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), her frequently topless werewolf protector. At some point, Bella finds herself in danger (again, or it is “still’’?) and needs to be hidden away in a tent with Edward and Jacob. I honestly can’t explain why. Meyer blends role-playing fantasy with “dear diary’’ wishfulness, so the plot is necessary even though it’s baffling — Bryce Dallas Howard joins the cast as a vengeful vampire, and Dakota Fanning reprises her small role as some kind of hooded vampire goth with a nasty case of red-eye.
Anyway: Bella. As she sleeps in that tent during a storm, Edward and Jacob proceed to have a civilized conversation about what she wants, needs, and feels. They’re bitter rivals, overperforming their attraction to her for the benefit of annoying each other (talk about get a room). I think Bonobo monkeys do the same thing. But for one chilly evening, as Jacob warms his sullen beauty in a sleeping bag and Edward looks on flexing his glittering pallor into a silent-movie scowl, the two men declare détente to talk with the seriousness and urgency of heads of state. (What else is Bella, at this point, if not territory in dispute.) We’ll have to wait until chapter four (parts one and two) to find out which adorable monster gets to plant his flag. It’s “Real World Camp David.’’
In the meantime, Bella’s horniness seems distressingly neutralized by her pending wedding to Edward. He valiantly withholds his mind-blowing vampire sex until they’re married. (The allegory is compelling, but, morally speaking, remains comically cruel.) Bella just wants to set a date, nonetheless, despite her feelings for the other guy. As Plan B, Lautner has come from behind as more than watchable. Yes, he has the body of bachelorette-party entertainment and a face Chester Gould might have drawn. But he’s the one person here who seems to mean it when he says his heart aches. Stewart still wears an expectant snarl that says, “I wanna know what love is,’’ but increasingly she and Bella feel marginal to the proceedings. Her own speech about who she is and what she wants isn’t convincing. Hasn’t Bella always known this? Hasn’t Jennifer Love Hewitt given the same talk in her Neutrogena ads?
These movies are more about the experience of hearing girls and women who should know better holler at the screen. They could just as well be at a concert. Sometimes they scream for Jacob. Others, they hoot for Edward. Though, oddly, rarely for Billy Burke who plays Bella’s age-appropriate father. (Ladies, he’s single and kind of funny; the mustache alone should win him a second date.) The degree to which “Twilight’’ is an adolescent girl’s fantasy gives it cultural value. But as fun, only the first film, which Catherine Hardwicke directed, felt attuned to the crucial discovery and denial of sex with a dream boy. The other installments — David Slade directed this one — repeat that discovery without truly deepening it, not that quality or depth matter under the circumstances. The movies are interesting without ever being good.