CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
(THE SCENE: a river by a forest. Wolves are howling in the distance. LL SOARES and MICHAEL ARRUDA enter a clearing by the river, and stop to take a drink. Behind them, a young GIRL appears skipping along the river singing to herself.)
GIRL: Looking for my true love, my true love, my true love. Oh where shall I find my true love?—- aaahhh! (SPLASH as GIRL falls into the water)
LS: The river’s a good place to start. Try there.
MA (shaking his head): That’s really too bad that she, er— slipped.
GIRL: Help me! I’m drowning!
MA: We can’t help you. You’re on the wrong side of the river. That’s werewolf territory.
(Big phony CGI wolves appear, wearing ribbons and bows around their necks. They jump into the river.)
MA: Ready to start this week’s review of THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE?
LS: I’d rather eat broken glass.
MA: Let’s just get this over with.
(Behind them the wolves are attacking the GIRL in the river. MA and LS ignore the screams and continue talking.)
LS: Okay. ECLIPSE is the third movie in the TWILIGHT series, based on the books by Stephenie Meyer. It is basically a love triangle between three people: Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a teenage girl just about to graduate from high school; Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a vampire who Bella is in love with; and Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), a Native American boy about Bella’s age, who also happens to be a werewolf.
As we saw in the previous movies, TWILIGHT and NEW MOON, the three of them have gone through high school together. Bella’s love affair with Edward has only grown more intense as they approach graduation. She desperately wants to consummate her relationship with Edward, but, as a vampire, he’s afraid he may hurt her or even kill her in the throes of passion. So she has made a deal with him. She wants to become a vampire, too, so that they can make love without fear of danger. In return, he asks that she marry him first, because he’s “old school” and wants a commitment. She has agreed to marry him after graduation.
MA: There’s a part of me who wants to applaud Edward’s sense of honor towards Bella, that he doesn’t want to sleep with her until they’re married. But the problem I have with this, is the same problem I have with the rest of the movie, and that is, it’ s not realistically portrayed.
LS: Personally, I wish they’d just screw and get it over with.
MA: Okay, Edward’s this noble male. Great. But when do we get to see how he’s handling this? It’s clear that Bella has the hots for him, but doesn’t he have needs too? What’s he doing about them? He’s just so icy cold. Whatever happened to the classic vampires like Lugosi and Lee who had a sexual energy about them that was obviously very attractive to women?
(Vampires holding signs are picketing the area. They include Bela Lugosi in his Dracula cape, Christopher Lee, and Gary Oldman. Their signs read things like “Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle” and “I Want My Fangs Back.”)
MA: We don’t see Edward suffering from not being able to make love to Bella. The guy’s gotta be suffering, right?
LS: I think he’s a eunuch.
MA: To me, this is all a not-so-subtle message about chastity and virginity, two subjects I don’t have a problem with…
LS: I do! They make for BORING movies.
MA: …But I do have a problem when the message is delivered in a way that isn’t realistic. I’m sorry, but if you love someone the way Edward is supposed to love Bella, you’re going to be feeling certain things that if you repress, you’re going to be affected by it, and we just don’t see that. The passion is missing.
LS: “The passion is missing.” That’s the entire TWILIGHT series in a nutshell. Can I go home now?
MA: No. We owe it to our readers to explain WHY ECLIPSE is such a bad movie.
LS (sighs and continues): Everyone else in the movie thinks that Bella is moving too fast. That she wants to give up her mortal life (because in order to become a vampire, she has to die first) before she has even had a chance to experience it. Among the people who think she is making a mistake is Jacob, a pal since childhood who also loves Bella. In the last movie, NEW MOON, Bella admitted that she loved Jacob, but “not in that way.” In this movie, Jacob finally gets Bella to admit that she does love him in “that way,” but the problem is, she loves Edward more.
MA: The bigger problem is why should we care?
LS (snoring and MA nudges him): Wha-wha-what happened? I wasn’t asleep!
MA: Sure you weren’t.
LS: Should she go with Jacob, who is a werewolf, but who is also alive, and she would not have to change herself to be with him (in this series lycanthropy seems to be a genetic condition, rather than the result of a wolf bite)? Or should she give up her life to become a vampire and spend eternity with her soul mate Edward?
The whole thing is incredibly silly to me. If she’s that desperate to get laid, and will even commit what is essentially suicide to get a chance to sleep with Edward, then her priorities are really screwed up. She could at least have a fling with Jacob first and see what sex is like, before she gives up everything for Edward. But the fact that the central argument of the movie is “should Bella have sex or not” makes me also realize that there is not one adult emotion in the TWILIGHT movies. These are childish dilemmas written for an immature audience.
MA: Bella wants to have sex because she’s in love with Edward. To me, it’s obviously clear that she doesn’t love Mr. Buff Werewolf Jacob the same way she loves Edward, and so all this angst comes off to me as phony and a waste of time. It’s there for the sake of having a love triangle, which is yet another reason I didn’t like this movie, because I didn’t buy its love triangle. She loves Edward. End of story.
LS: Bella wants to have sex. Edward wants to wait until marriage. Jacob pines for Bella on the sidelines. It’s all very juvenile. Yes, I know it’s geared toward teenage girls. But what about the middle-aged women in the audience? I have to admit, their interest in this series baffles me.
MA: There were more adults in the packed theater with me than teens, and a lot of them were couples, so it wasn’t just a girl’s night out. The hubbies were there, too.
And when all the shirtless werewolf males sprinted onto the screen for the first time, the adult women behind me started “oohing,” and “aahing” and giggling. I immediately wanted to scream my favorite Charlton Heston line from PLANET OF THE APES (1968), “It’s a madhouse!!”
LS: Of course, the central romance can’t be the only storyline. There also have to be some genre trappings so that ECLIPSE can at least superficially claim it is a horror movie. So we get the plotline that Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard), the red-haired vampire from the last movie, wants revenge on Edward for killing her mate, James. So, because he took what she loved the most, she plans to take was Edward loves the most —Bella.
MA: Hey, here’s a message for Victoria- Get over it, girl!
LS: Since Victoria can’t take on the whole Cullen clan (Edward’s vampire “family”) by herself, she creates an army of vampires by “turning” as many people as she can. It turns out vampires are their strongest (and most out of control) the first three months after they become bloodsuckers, because they are slaves to their thirst for blood and have not yet acquired the knowledge and discipline to control it.
MA (opens mouth wide): YAWN!!!
LS: Victoria’s army seems almost like an afterthought. When they finally reach Forks, Washington, for the big showdown with the good guys, the movie is almost over. There is one big climactic battle—
MA: That was a battle? I thought it was a ballet.
LS: — between Victoria’s vampires and the Cullens (and the werewolves, who have joined forces with them to protect Bella) but it’s not much of a fight and this subplot adds nothing to the movie. I guess they just needed more to the story than just “Who loves Bella more?” but it doesn’t work.
MA: If you at home want to find out who loves Bella more, you should go see ECLIPSE. Isn’t that a compelling reason to see a movie?
LS: There’s also a council of the Volturi, the vampire overlords we last saw in NEW MOON, who are keeping tabs on the growing vampire army But they do nothing and are pretty much there to waste more screen time. Even Dakota Fanning, suitably spooky as the leader of the Volturi contingent, can’t make them interesting.
MA: The Volturi are even more boring than the Jedi councils we had to suffer through during the last three installments of the STAR WARS movies. Those Jedis were so horrible it’s no wonder Anakin Skywalker left them to follow the Dark Side! These folks are even worse! They really could have used some help from YODA.
(YODA suddenly appears.)
YODA: Help vampires I will, the force they should follow, dark side leave they must.
MA: English you should learn.
LS: Hey, Yoda, go jump in the river. Don’t make this review any longer than it needs to be.
YODA: Rude you men are (YODA exits with a SPLASH)
LS: As usual, the acting in this series is atrocious. Kristen Stewart as Bella continues to say her lines with a strange hesitation, as if she’s reading them as she goes along. This is especially confusing because I just saw Stewart as Joan Jett in the biopic THE RUNAWAYS (also with Dakota Fanning, strangely enough), and thought she was quite good in it. Which means Stewart can act when she wants to. She just chooses not to when she portrays Bella.
MA: I don’t mind Stewart’s acting, but I really have a problem with the character. There’s just something very annoying about Bella. I think it’s because she’s the center of all this attention and I just don’t get it. I mean everyone and their grandmother is out there trying to protect Bella. Why?
LS: I don’t get that either. What is so damned special about Bella anyway???
That must be a big reason why this series appeals to teenage girls so much. They want to be “special” and the center of all attention, just like Bella.
MA: To return to the STAR WARS analogy, not even Princess Leia had this much protection. And she was leading a rebel alliance against the evil galactic empire! What the hell is Bella doing? She’s waiting around to see who “loves her more!”
LS: You and those STAR WARS analogies. What are you, Joseph Campbell? Taylor Lautner as Jacob seems a little more confident this time around, but still has miniscule acting ability. His big thing seems to be walking around without a shirt and showing off his abs. In the audience I saw ECLIPSE with, the girls went nuts when we first see Jacob in the movie, leaning on a car with his shirt off. So it seems he doesn’t have to actually do any acting to get a favorable reaction, which is good because he is incredibly DULL.
(A horde of screaming women run by. “Where is he? Where is he?”)
MA: In the river. (The women jump in.)
LS: As for Edward, it’s hard to understand what Bella sees in him. All he ever does is either mope around or he is so overprotective of her, watching her every move, that he seems like more of her stalker than her lover.
ECLIPSE is just a snooze-fest. I looked at my watch and yawned constantly during this movie. And I was fidgeting in my uncomfortable seat a lot by the end.
MA: Just so there isn’t any misunderstanding on this point. What you just said is not an exaggeration. ECLIPSE is an excruciatingly boring movie.
LS: Last time, when NEW MOON first came out. I missed seeing it the first day it opened because all showings were immediately sold out. So this time, I got my ticket ahead of time. When I got there, I had to stand in a special line in order to be let in. I put up with all this in order to basically subject myself to a torture session for over two hours. It just doesn’t seem fair.
My main problem with the TWILIGHT movies is that, despite the presence of vampires and werewolves, these films are not HORROR MOVIES by any stretch of the imagination. They are romance movies. Everything revolves around declarations of love, not scares. There is not one moment in any of these movies that will elicit fear or outright terror.
MA: And I have to argue here that they’re not even very good romance movies. I’ve asked myself this question over and over: Is the fact that I’m not a huge fan of romance movies the reason I don’t like this franchise? My answer is no. Because if it were a good movie, I’d like it, or I’d at least recognize it as a good movie and then just say it wasn’t my cup of tea.
Last week I saw TOY STORY 3, a kid’s movie. There’s a scene near the end where Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and their toy friends face death, and while watching this scene, I told myself, it’s a Disney/Pixar movie, they’re probably not going to die, but the characters really believed they were going to die, and it was such a compelling moment, an emotional moment, that for a second, I really feared for them, and they’re toys!! It’s an example of good storytelling. There’s nothing like this in ECLIPSE, no moment where you go, “My God, what’s going to happen?” It’s dull and emotionless.
LS: I still think the CGI werewolves (which just look like giant wolves) are horrible. At one point, Jacob, in werewolf form, enters a scene and someone in the audience shouted “Awww, he’s so cute!” and the truth is, he was. He just looked like a big old puppy dog. And that is not how werewolves should be portrayed in horror films.
(A group of werewolves, including Lon Chaney Jr’s Larry Talbot, Paul Naschy and Benecio Del Toro are now holding picket signs that read things like “Real Werewolves Eat Human Flesh” and “Don’t Neuter Me.”)
In fact, everything about these movies is “cute.” And safe. And boring. The vampires may appear to have fangs, but the TWILIGHT series is ultimately toothless.
MA: Exactly. It’s as if these movies were produced by Disney. I half expect to see TWILIGHT dance numbers on parade at Disney World next year.
LS: Rumor had it that ECLIPSE might be the best movie of the series, but it’s not. I think it’s just slightly better than NEW MOON (2009), which was the worst. The surprising part is that this one is directed by David Slade, who gave us the superior vampire flick 30 DAYS OF NIGHT (2007). Then again, his hands are tied by the awful script by Stephenie Meyer and her constant collaborator in these films, Melissa Rosenberg. The best TWILIGHT film remains the first one (2008), partly for Catherine Hardwicke’s directing, and partly because, back then, these characters and lame storylines hadn’t been done to death yet. But even the first TWILIGHT was no prize, and was hard to sit through.
I would like to make a pact with you now, Michael that this is the last TWILIGHT film we will review for Cinema Knife Fight. I’ve done my time, and I just can’t sit through another one. These are NOT horror movies, and there is no reason for us to continue reviewing them for CKF.
MA: You don’t need to twist my arm. No more TWILIGHT.
LS (doing a happy dance): This is our last TWILIGHT review! Hurray!
So, is there anything else you want to say, Michael?
MA: Watching this movie, I felt like I was trapped in the back seat of a car for a two-hour trip, while in the front seat sat Edward, Bella and Jacob, and they started talking about their relationship. I listened, and I was fairly interested at first. I was curious. But after about 15 minutes, I was ready to move on, only the conversation never ended! Bella loves Edward, but Jacob loves Bella, and he’s not going to give up. Okay, okay. I get it. Let’s move on. But we don’t move on, and the entire car ride is spent listening to the same arguments over and over and over. That’s what watching ECLIPSE was like for me.
Believe it or not, there were a couple of things I did like about the movie. I thought the chemistry between Bella and Edward was stronger in this movie than in NEW MOON. I also liked the scenes Edward and Jacob had with each other, as they make good adversaries. Edward even gets one of the better lines in the movie when he says about Jacob, “Doesn’t he own a shirt?”
I also liked a scene in the movie when Jacob learns that Bella is going to marry Edward, he tells her he’d rather she be dead than a vampire, the implication being that he’d actually kill her to save her from Edward. Of course, he’s just talking out of anger. This movie doesn’t come close to visiting a dark interesting place like that for real.
LS: I can’t believe you found ANYTHING to like about this movie!
MA: But, ultimately, ECLIPSE is about as engrossing as a Saltine cracker. Like the previous installment in the series, it’s talky and dull, and it’s so sanitized it’s nauseating! Everything is just so clean. I have to laugh, because in the movie the vampires complain about the werewolves smelling bad, and the werewolves complain about the vampire’s stink. Stink? This movie’s so clean it smells like window cleaner.
LS: The only thing that really stinks is this movie!
MA: If you like your vampire stories sterilized, stripped of passion and blood, and your werewolf tales all cutesy and buff, and your love stories superficial and immature, you’ll love ECLIPSE! Otherwise, stay away from this one. I give it one and a half knives.
LS: I give this movie no knives. I wish I could give it an even lower score.
MA: And to think, that of all the movies we’ve seen the past two years, the biggest audience has been for this series. There’s only one thing left for us to do.
(MA & LS jump into the river with a final SPLASH.)
© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
MICHAEL ARRUDA gave THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE – ONE AND A HALF KNIVES
L.L. SOARES gave TWILIGHT: ECLIPSE – NO KNIVES