The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (PG-13)
You don’t need to have seen the first two Twilight movies to know that the third one, Eclipse, features a love triangle. The rivalry between mopey Bella Swan’s two teen suitors—marble-cold vampire Edward Cullen and hotblooded werewolf Jacob Black—is so pervasive, a mention of it even made its way into the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
But a working knowledge of the series will help viewers navigate this insiderish movie. The film opens with the agonies of a young man on a noir Seattle waterfront, falling victim to a fly-by vampire chomp. After that bleak opening, things abruptly turn all sunshine and sparkles as the camera swoops down upon Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) basking in their love amidst a field of wildflowers. Continuing their debate from a prior film, Bella demands to be “changed”—that is, turned into a vampire herself, the better to look 18 forever, albeit with an unquenchable thirst for human blood. (Edward demurs.)
A vampire vendetta against Bella left over from the first installment drives this film’s action, throwing Edward and his adopted family of misfit blood-suckers into the reluctant arms, or rather paws, of werewolf Jacob (an admirably beefy Taylor Lautner) and his pack. To kill vampires in this world, you’ve got to tear them limb from limb or snap off their crystalline heads, and werewolves are just the men for the job.
Gorgeous, IMAX-ready panning shots of Northwestern vistas and wildly acrobatic fight scenes alternate with extreme close-ups of languid teens throughout the film. That’s somewhat jarring, but the plot moves swiftly enough, especially when you consider the smoldering and/or icy pauses that so frequently punctuate the dialogue.
Vampires and werewolves have keen senses of smell—for blood and for each other—and many of the young actors rely heavily on a sort of tormented “who farted?” look for drama. The notable exception is Dakota Fanning, who’s a welcome diversion when she pops up to reprise a small role as the emissary from a secret vampire court.
One standout adult performance comes from Billy Burke in the role of Charlie Swan, Bella’s father. Behind his dorky cop ‘stache, Charlie’s deadpan teasing hints at the inherent silliness of the story—in which a lovely but ordinary girl garners the (literally) undying affection of two supernatural swains, while supposedly immortal creatures prove surprisingly easy to kill.