Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (B)

By ANDY MORGAN

Making fun of Twilight fans and bemoaning Stephanie Meyer’s novels and the subsequent movies is almost as easy as drumming up sarcastic jabs about Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton or Miley Cyrus. There’s no effort required. It’s easy. And it’s also out of control. It’s almost as popular to dump on the vampire-werewolf franchise as it is all the rage to scoop up Team Jacob or Team Edward paraphernalia at Hot Topic. Every time I see a teen with a mouthful of braces squeal her affection for the furry-browed Edward, or some 40 year-old lady, with the mileage of a bad marriage and five kids written on her countenance, gush at Jacob’s sculpted abs, I am simply befuddled beyond belief. How can such a ridiculous story cause such frenzy amongst its fanbase, most of whom are women?

And then I think of Star Wars nerds.

And Lord of the Rings geeks.

And the worshipers of comic books.

And I realize they are absolutely no different from the so-called Twihards.

Wearing a Team Edward shirt is no different than wearing a shirt with Darth Vader, the Eye of Sauron, Batman, Harry Potter, or Optimus Prime. Fans are fans, and like it or not, Twilight is a phenomenon with a tremendous following. As such, it brings out the haters. And that’s fine, but the naysayers ought to think twice about skipping The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, because director David Slade (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night) finally assembles all the wayward pieces of the last two films and leaves the audience with a fast-paced, action-filled soap opera that has both feet planted firmly in the realm of entertainment and less in the land of eye-rolling cheese.

Fans of the Twilight books and movies will undoubtedly know step-by-step what is happening from the first frame of the film to the minute the end credits start to scroll, but newbies to Meyer’s world of humans, vampires and lycans might be a little lost. Don’t fret, though. That’s why I’m here.

Here’s what I know: When Eclipse begins, Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) are doing what they do best – staring longingly into each other’s eyes and whispering sweet nothings of becoming undead against the backdrop of a bountiful Forks, Washington mountain meadow. Of course, the peace and quiet is only superficial, beyond the pastel flowers and sunshine is a world full of tough choices and hard realities, especially for a young girl who is only a high school senior. Should she marry Edward, or does she acknowledge her hidden feelings for hunky werewolf, Jacob (Taylor Lautner)? Should she and Edward do the horizontal mambo? Should she become a vampire? Anyone who has ever been in love and worried about making the right choice can understand the trepidation Bella feels. And while this has seemed dorky, almost comical, in the first two films, Stewart is able to channel a little more believability into Bella in Eclipse and her angst feels more palpable than before.

And then there’s the question of Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard), the menacing redheaded vampire fixated on killing Bella to avenge her lover James, whom Edward killed in the first movie. Cunning and calculated, Victoria, with the help of a Forks runaway whom she turned, Riley Biers (Xavier Samuel), is creating an army of “newborns,” knowing she’ll need to defeat the entire Cullen clan to have her shot at Edward and Bella. According to Jasper Hale (Jackson Rathbone), newborns are recently turned vampires and are particularly nasty, blood-thirsty and wild, so much so that even Jacob and The Wolf Pack decide to form a temporary alliance with the Cullens so the families can battle the horde effectively and win. This all comes together nicely in the movie’s finale, and I have to admit I was surprised the CG werewolves didn’t look as silly as I had anticipated, in fact, the choreography of the battle and the meshing of CGI is one of the movie’s high points.

To me, being a movie critic is a simple job. If you enjoyed a film, it deserves good marks. I can’t in good conscience join the throng of Twilight haters and give Eclipse a bad grade. I was entertained and I have David Slade to thank. The film isn’t frenetically paced, but Slade keeps things moving and at the same time gives us better acting and more depth to the seemingly one-dimensional characters. I actually cared about the players this time out and that’s not something I can say for Twilight or New Moon.

Bottom line: Fans are going to love Eclipse, but the average moviegoer will be pleasantly surprised. Easily the best movie of the series and that’s a good thing, because Twihards won’t see Edward and Bella on the big screen until November 18, 2011, when Part One of Breaking Dawn (directed by Bill Condon) is released.

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