The Twilight Saga: Eclipse — Twi-hard with a vengeance

The latest entry in the Twilight series is also the best.

If you're familiar with the Twilight phenomenon, you already know what happens in Eclipse, the latest installment in the series. (You've probably already made up your mind to see it, too.) For those still in the dark, here's the plot in a nutshell: Kristen Stewart reprises her role as Bella, a pale, whiny emo human caught in a love triangle with a vampire and a werewolf. Robert Pattinson is back as Edward the vampire, and he's still sexy, sparkly and a terrible actor. Taylor Lautner and his abs star as the wise-beyond-his-years werewolf, and they continue to awe the perfect-pecs-loving population. (He's legal now, folks!) Bella wants Edward to make her a vampire; Edward wants her to marry him first. Oh, and there's a rumble with the Cullens (Edward's adopted fang family) and a pack of werewolves squaring odd with a rabid army of newborn vampires. The cherry on top is a visit from a coven of powerful Italian vampires called the Volturi (Dakota Fanning among them). Not much else happens, unless you count a lot of teen angst and chaste make-out sessions — there's no way to dig deeper into something this shallow.

Before you start scanning the page for an e-mail address to send hate mail, hear me out. I didn't hate Eclipse. To the contrary, I liked it; maybe even loved it. But as a 20-something Twi-fan, there are a few (okay, a lot) of things that I've struggled with and eventually come to accept — like, the fact that my ability to reason and analyze good filmmaking goes out the window as soon as RPatz appears onscreen. Fortunately for director David Slade, hormone-overload seems to be the case for 90 percent of the audience, at least judging by the catcalls that overcame the theater every time Taylor Lautner took off his shirt. Seriously, the hormone level at the Eclipse preview was off the Richter scale. These gals — and a fair number of guys, too — looked like they might give up an important limb or two to be in Lautner's presence.

If you just wanna know whether the movie is worth your 10 bucks, here's my (long-ish) answer: If you like the books, see it. If you liked the first two movies in the series, see it. If you like unquantifiable hottness (yes, two t's) in the form of Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson, see it. If you can stand the cheese (cue badass rock music for Lautner's opening scene); the stock characters who never evolve in our two-plus hours with them (Edward's a tortured-but-oh-so-good undead soul, Jacob's like a lovesick overgrown puppy who just wants a chance, and Bella's dad Charlie is just the comic relief — albeit much needed); and the screaming Twi-hards (they're out in full force, people — guard your emo teenage sons!), then by all means, get thee to the box office. If you don't like a broodfest of mediocre acting and sub-par special effects, you suck. Stay the hell away before the hormones get you.

There is some good news for the average movie-goer, too: Taylor Lautner's acting skills have bulked up almost as much as his abs. Does something in those protein shakes also boost onscreen skills? Maybe it's just a relief to see someone crack a smile — God knows we're not getting it from Edward and Bella, whose lips are pressed tighter than a Cuban sandwich.

Like the book, the movie places plot on the back burner to Edward and Bella's love story. Even as a fan of the series, I didn't sense the urgency of the final battle between the werewolves and various factions of vamps. It wasn't played up, and with only a few scenes dedicated to clash, lacked the weight of a defining moment. And can someone explain to me why the dead vampires looked so, well, ridiculous? C'mon SFX folks, give us a little credit — beheaded vamps coulda looked a lot cooler than what appeared to be shards of ice protruding from the corpse of a ripped-up mannequin.

So, no, Eclipse isn't great, in that "the Academy will be wetting its pants over it" kind of way. But yes, I enjoyed it. Eclipse is about a hundred times better than New Moon, which is a thousand times better than Twilight. Based on this exponential rate of improvement, the final installment in the series might come close to being a decent film in its own right. I'm not holding my breath, though.

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