I thought Eclipse was the best of the three movies so far, though not by as large a margin over New Moon as New Moon was over Twilight. New director David Slade retained the same look established by the first installment and continued, for better or worse (in my opinion worse) by the second. The only points of non-continuity were Victoria being played by Bryce Dallas Howard instead of Rachel LeFevre, and it showed—not that BDH did a bad job, just that she’s both obviously not the same actress and she just looked too…sweet—and Jasper’s wig service going from delightfully wild fro-let to coarse 19th-century bowl chop. All the wigs and dye jobs were as ridiculous as the Cullen’s make-up, and while the wolves looked better than they did last time, they’re still obviously CG renderings.
The acting was just as delightful—and by delightful I mean laughable—as it has always been, although at least Slade gave Kristin Stewart some voice coaching so she didn’t sound like she thought Bella had a speech impediment anymore. Robert Pattinson didn’t look quite as bored as he did last time around, and Taylor Lautner just seemed happy to be there at all. Billy Burke was probably the best I’ve seen him this time around, and the girl who played Leah was surprisingly interesting so I’m looking forward to seeing more of her next time if the actress comes back. The high school kids barely had any face time at all, though they were all back, but there was more from all the Cullens, which was nice. Jasper’s “Texas” accent slipped in an out and was uniformly bad—I should know, I’m a Texas girl—but he’s my favorite so I forgave it. But the “tender” scenes between Bella and Edward just played flat. Their negotiations about marriage came out of nowhere and were a bit too PG13 to convey the importance of the moment. And that ring…holy crap. What part of simple, old-fashioned elegance didn’t they understand? That gaudy thing looked like it came out of the discount bin at Claire’s. Bella should have turned him down just for trying to fob something that ugly off as an engagement ring!
The script wasn’t the greatest; there were lines that got thrown in that seemed more like they had to put them in because they come back later than because they necessarily made sense or were properly explained in this movie. One glaring example is Jacob off-handedly saying he didn’t want to be the Alpha, with no explanation given as to why he would have been in the first place. There wasn’t much in the way of explanation given for why the newborns existed, either, or what Victoria’s grand scheme was, so if you were new to the franchise (as my companion was), that might have been hard to follow. They rearranged certain scenes to try and amp up the competition between Edward and Jacob that really just made things nonsensical—like when Bella cuts school to spend the day with Jake, she leaves Edward in the parking lot to do it, and there’s not any discussion between her and Jacob at all. She just says “why haven’t you called me back?” “I had nothing to say” and then she gets on his bike. Uh, what?
Also, there was way too much kissing. It wasn’t particularly exciting kissing, and the abundance of it really only devalued what there was even more. Like, in the opening scene, Edward and Bella are in their meadow and they start to kiss, and the entire theater started snickering. Not really how you want to open a movie, you know? And there was more sexual tension between Edward and Jacob in the tent than there was between Bella and either of them the entire time. None of the kisses felt particularly hot or nice to watch; they all sort of looked the same, even when they were between different characters. Slade should definitely stick to action and avoid rom-coms in his future features.
But on the other hand, the action was pretty good. The opening sequence showing Riley being turned was actually pretty tense and kind of scary. The filming was as good as it was in New Moon, with a few cool or mildly unusual angles to keep the visuals interesting. The PG13 rating was a shame, because there could have been some ace ripping apart of vampires or smashing up their ice-stone-sculpture bodies with an R rating. There was bit of that creativity in violence, but the camera always pulled away just before the image got too graphic. The overall design look of detached vampire flesh was pretty neat, though.
One personal highlight was Jasper actually getting to tell his story (and they used flashbacks), simply because I like his story. The ridiculous setting of where he was “riding back to Galveston” made me laugh, because that was nowhere near Galveston. They used flashbacks for both Rosalie and the Quileute legends, as well.
Overall the movie was still not objectively good, and for die-hard fans of the books I think it lacked the intensity and portent of the book. But it was for the most part faithful to the story, with a few scenes of the newborns in Seattle and on the move thrown in to incorporate their activities from the new novella into the events of the novel. And it could have been a lot worse, so, overall, it’s a thumbs up. If you’re already into this series of movies, it shouldn’t surprise or dismay you; it fits right in with the others, and ends exactly where the book does this time around to leave everything in stasis for the big finale.
Elena Nola is the imperial movie critic and the colder half of the Ladies of Ice and Fire.