Review: Eclipse -- The Twilight Saga

The word "love" is omnipresent in our language. Think of the myriad of ways you can use the word, and how readily people understand precisely what you mean. The type of love you feel for your parents is easily distinguishable from the sort of love you have for your spouse. You can love running marathons, you can love your dog, you can love your job. These each mean something different in your mind, and yet there's no translation table needed for everyone to be on the same page. It's a ubiquitous word, many different shades making up the same color. That's the foundation of The Twilight Saga, and it's the singular focus that's allowed the franchise to dig its hooks deep into our cultural consciousness. Are they perfect films? They are not. Do they connect? They do.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, to its credit, examines almost every facet of love. There's the care Charlie has for his daughter, Bella. There's the possessive and overwhelming attraction Bella has for Edward. Edward's own feelings for Bella trend towards the dangerous and self-destructive kind. And then there's the jealous and conniving Jacob, pulling out all the stops to win Bella's affection. In many ways author Stephenie Meyer has hit upon themes so elemental and interwoven in our culture that this series can't possibly miss for the fans at this point. Teenage love is teenage love. To critique a phenomenon like that is akin to going after someone's deity. It'll only end in tears.

So far, so good.

That said, Eclipse contains what is easily the worst scene of the series, and of the books, when Jacob's machinations finally pay off and we're meant to be captured in the throes of a full-blooded love triangle. Instead, the capriciousness of young love is slammed home for all to see, inducing an eye-rolling disconnection. It's for this scene I ding the story, though I know it would have caused an equally angry reaction on the other side had it been omitted.

Now let's break this story down, for all the lurkers out there.

Bella (Kristen Stewart) is nearing graduation, and vampire boyfriend Edward (Robert Pattinson) has an exasperating demand if she truly wants to be "changed" over. Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and his werewolf buddies are still mortal enemies with the Cullen coven, and though he still loves Bella, a larger threat looms in Seattle. Carnage, destruction, the body count rising -- authorities surmise that a serial killer is on the loose. The Cullen family knows better, and they start working behind the scenes to figure out where the threat is coming from, mostly using Alice Cullen's (Ashley Greene) remarkable power of premonition. It's fortunate for Bella that everyone seems to have her safety at heart; we should all be so blessed as to be surrounded by 15 supernatural beings with superior physicality and lethal tendencies. Perhaps that's what feeling loved truly is, eh?

The action in Eclipse is strong to quite strong, the wolves look great -- their transformation is potent CGI -- plus the violence is quick and brutal. Still, for all the posturing, this isn't an action film. It's a story about relationships, and as such it can only achieve as much as the Edward-Bella-Jacob power trio allows it to. The film does quite well to show the backstories of Rosalie and Jasper, providing much needed context as to why Bella's decision to leave humanity behind is such a crucial one.

Director David Slade has done some nice detail work here that fans will be pleased with. Bella's bite scars appear fleetingly on her wrist, and he's finally nailed the "sparkly" effect of Edward that caused so many giggles the first time around. Ideally, there would have been more action and less exposition, and of course certain scenes are tinged with melodrama, though Slade's artistic sensibilities are particularly effective near the outset of the film when the rain is pouring down in Seattle, blood running in the street. This is competent filmmaking, though it never rises to the level of incredible.

The benefit of making a movie about such an eternal truth, love, is that it doesn't have to be particularly well done to be effective cinema. The Rosetta Stone, when it was written, was a tax repeal notice with instructions to build a few statues. It also helped to solve the riddle of hieroglyphic writing two thousand years later, because it had the benefit of being true in three languages. So too with love: It's the same in any language, and when you see it represented on film in an authentic and genuine manner it's easy to find yourself in a forgiving mood.

Grade: C+