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The third chapter in the phenomenally successful series about a girl and her vampire, (-and werewolf) the bad news is that Eclipse is not as good as its  2009 predecessor, New Moon, the good news is itís still miles better than 2008ís original emo-mushfest, Twilight.

The story of average Washington state teen, Bella Swan trapped between two supernatural worlds and two supernaturally gorgeous suitors has progressed in fits and starts.  Time is of the essence in this story:  In our last episode, the powerful Volturi vampire coven demanded either the troublesome Bellaís conversion to the undead or her destruction.  Bellaís main bloodsicle pop Edward, is counting the minutes and the proposals until Bella agrees to marry him.  Such an honourable lad, he wonít violate Bellaís chastity before she becomes Mrs. Cullen.  Yes, itís still 2010, folks.  While Bella continually refuses the love of her life for no apparent reason except maybe leverage; she wheedles an agreement out of her beau to finally change her into a vamp as she so dearly desires in exchange for a marriage vow.  Who is the audience supposed to believe is getting the better end of this deal, anyway?  On the dark side of the moon, Jacob is still howling out his unrequited love for Bella with his werewolf pack as they alternate running around the forest in either full fur and fang or jammy shorts and not a lot else.  The news of Bellaís upcoming nuptials and ensuing undeath doesnít please Jacob at all, so he amps up his pursuit of the overly-coveted Miss Swan in the hopes of wooing her away from the sparkly clutches of his older, colder rival.  All this push and pull is happening at the same time as a baby vampire uprising threatens to expose all the supes to the public eye.  A rash of newborn bloodsuckers -- heedless in their early hunger -- wantonly slays any unfortunate mortal in their path.  No coincidence this, and as are all things in this series, the root of that little disturbance is once again firmly in Bellaís narrow lap as there is yet another person who wants her all to themselves.

The pacing of last yearís New Moon was one of the things that made it such an improvement over its predecessor.  More action-packed and less saccharine than the original film, New Moon was tighter and far better scripted.  Weíve got six of one and a half-dozen of the other with Eclipse.  Thereís a lot more Edward this time; having existed primarily as a goofy, Jiminy Cricket-like conscience for Bella throughout most of New Moon.  However, the advent of more Edward equals a lot more talking, as soon as the golden couple start going on and on about their feelings and how in love they are, I feel my eyes glaze over and my blood sugar rising.  There still has been nothing in these past three films to make me like or even care what happens to Bella.  Here she has no shame in using Edwardís honour against him to get what she wants, i.e. vampness.  She plays both her suitors against each other; passive-aggressively pursuing Jacob by putting herself needlessly into close, sensitive situations with him, while holding him off by whingeing about her great lurve for Edward.  Never mind that ten seconds later, sheís wearing Jacobís wolf charm on her wrist in full view of the clearly jealous Edward and dismissing his reasonable misgivings with accusations of mistrust.  Iíd say well played, player, if it were anyone except this shining, righteous princess that everyone is supposed to love and constantly risk their lives to protect.  Even people who donít like her only feel that way because theyíre jealous of Mary Sue, I mean Bella.  Three films in and she is still one of the most unlikable supposed heroines Iíve ever seen.  Thank goodness the supporting characters are eons more enjoyable than she.  The wise focus on Jacob after the critical success of New Moon is testament to young Taylor Lautnerís ferocity, biting into the role after he faced losing it to an older actor.  While his chops arenít quite as sharp(- Ending werewolf puns now) or as effortless as they were in New Moon, Lautner is still lots of fun here with a disgusted sneer permanently molded onto his baby face at the sight of the vamp with his would-be girl.  He delivers some of the choicest lines in the film, as well; ďLets face it, I am hotter than you,Ē a fourth wall-stretching wink at the Twihardís eternal Team Edward vs. Team Jacob conundrum.  Overall, the most of the dialog thatís not leaded in sugared mush is a hoot.  Besides Lautnerís scoffing gems at the expense of the vampires, Bellaís dad, played excellently once again by Billy Burke, seriously needs his own spinoff.  Easily the most engaging presence onscreen, Burke manages to keep the audience in stitches while trying not to betray himself as the justifiably worried dad he is.  The Cullen clan gets a lot more face time in this go round with background stories for disapproving sister Rosalie and the arch, flawlessly coiffed brother Jasper.  Jasper is intriguing because I was absolutely positive he was gay.  This is not only not so, but clearly thereís an Ďincest is bestí credo in the Cullen home.  Living as a family doesnít mean you canít play smoochy-face with Alice, your charming adopted sister in this vamp household.  Both Rosalieís and Jasperís stories are infinitely more engaging than anything that has happened to Bella up until this point and I was sorry to see those vignettes end.

On the downside, those great supporting turns only make the main characterís travails more trivial.  All Edward seems to do is make regretful cowís eyes at Bella and tell her how much he loves her all the time.  There truly doesnít seem to be anything more to him than that.  Robert Pattinson does the best with what heís got, which isnít much with this character and I canít help but wonder if Edward will grow an actual personality before the series is over.  Edward is a vacuum for all Bellaís expectations; he doesnít exist except to be in love with her, yet for the life of me I canít see why.  The same sympathies go to Kristen Stewart, whose Bella is a self-absorbed little manipulator, yet the actress has to make this person likable.  Tough going and she nearly succeeds, though the contrived, Claire Danes copyrighted/My So Called Life hair-tuck-behind-the-ear bashful gesture is bone-tired (As is the beat-looking wig with the wandering part some hateful stylist plopped on Stewartís head).  Stewart is wise enough to know to let Lautner shine in his scenes and her reserve elsewhere has avoided the painful histrionics that we suffered through in the first film.  Thereís also a new actress playing an old part:  Bryce Dallas Howard is oddly injected into the proceedings, taking over the role of vengeful vampire Victoria from Rachelle LeFevre, who I thought nailed the lusty bloodsucker in mourning for her man, killed by Edward.  The thinner, more ethereal Howard simply isnít as scary as the earthier, more sensual LeFevre, who had a feral quality that was almost wolfish in its scene chewing.  I missed LeFevre here and I think the filmmakers made a mistake; she might not have been the main focus but she made Victoria hers over the past two films.  The rehash in Eclipse of the amazing chase from New Moon is far less without her and looks like incompetent CGI.  Similarly, the scenes of Bella standing with the fully-changed werewolves have a Chronicles of Narnia-esque green screen quality to them that takes you out of the moment in a way that didnít occur with New Moon.  Some of the Volturi are back, including Dakota Fanning in the role she was born to play; that creepy ode to Anne Riceís Claudia, child vamp Jane, working some treacherous Volturi politics on US shores.  Once again, thereís not nearly enough of them.

With terrifically erratic pacing, Eclipse suffers from saying too much while having very little to say at least between the two main characters.  The deadly trite dialog between our supposed leads grinds the film to a halt and the action meant to wake us up is lesser in quality, if not quantity.  Still, itís not terrible and thanks to its can-do supporting cast and moments of backhanded wit, often entertaining.  Will this one win over the dubious like New Moon might have been able to?  Nope, but itís a nice place holder until the last and hopefully best of the lot comes along.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

Jul. 2nd, 2010

 

Click here for our review of 2008's Twilight

Click here for our review of 2009's New Moon

 

 

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