With Kristin Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Xavier Samuel, Dakota Fanning. Directed by David Slade. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some sensuality. 124 minutes.
Fair is fair. Middle-aged guys like me are not the target audience for THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE, and other than a handful of critics at the sneak preview, you’re not all that likely to be seeing a lot of us in the theaters where this is showing. For the pubescent girls (and women who remember what that was like) this will be one of the more satisfying movies of the summer. For one thing, if you haven’t already the books, you’ll find out Bella’s (Kristin Stewart) answer to the question Edward (Robert Pattinson) the sparkly vampire asked her at the end of “New Moon.”
But is it any good? No, not really, and those who argue that it’s “better than the first two” are simply admitting how awful those movies were. It says something when the best parts of the movie are in flashback scenes in which none of the three principle characters appear. The vampire and werewolf mythology developed for the “Twilight” books and movies is much more interesting here but, alas, it’s not what “Eclipse” is about.
No, this is the story of how Bella and Edward are still chastely in love. She’s ready for sex but he holds back, afraid that his vampiric powers might cause him to lose control and kill her. However he is willing to marry her, since he comes from a courtlier age when sex came after marriage. Bella might agree, but only if Edward will turn her into a vampire too, so she won’t have to age while he remains eternally youthful.
See, Bella and Edward are passionately in love, but they face all sorts of obstacles, including an army of newly-born vampires led by Riley (Xavier Samuel) who want to kill Bella, Bella’s father who wishes she would hang out with Jacob (Taylor Lautner) instead, and vampire overseers (led by Dakota Fanning) who just like making trouble. To make Bella’s anguish greater, she loves Jacob too, even though he turns into a werewolf, mortal enemy of the vampires. She just loves Edward more, even though Jacob isn’t giving up.
As if all this adolescent whining and angst isn’t enough – if only the late John Hughes could have adapted this – the characters are as pretty and bland as possible. The vampires flash their smiles and oddly colored contact lenses. Jacob and the other werewolf guys run around without their shirts. And Kristin Stewart, so talented elsewhere, seems to be sleepwalking through her life as Bella. For all the talk about passion and vampires, these are cold and bloodless movies.
Still, Edward is so dreamy and Jacob is so buff and they all act so cool that of course the fans are going to eat this up. As this summer’s live action summer franchises go, it’s not much more interesting than “Sex And The City 2” and has a lot less action than “Iron Man 2,” yet “Eclipse” is the one most likely to please its fans. So really – who cares what some old movie critics say? Despite most of us being old, wise and allergic to the sun, just don’t sparkle.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.