Twilight’s contentious “Edward vs. Jacob” debate was finally settled at the close of 2009‘s New Moon, the second episode of Stephenie Meyers’ supernatural teen harlequin saga, when plaintive emo hottie Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) definitively rejected the advances of Taylor Lautner’s musclebound man-wolf in favor of Robert Pattinson’s brooding vampire.
Or so we thought. Twilight’s fateful love triangle is revived in earnest by Eclipse, part three of the series, and this time the implications are serious — relatively speaking, of course. Taking over the helm from New Moon director Chris Weitz is David Slade (30 Days of Night, Hard Candy), who adds a hefty dose of action to Twilight’s trademark mix of soaring romance and manic melodrama, making Eclipse the first film in the saga in which — get this — something actually happens.
Indeed, action is a primary theme of Eclipse. Like most high school seniors, Bella wants some; her pasty paramour Edward Cullen, however, remains stubbornly chaste, and not just because the briefest exposure to his unbridled vampire lust would almost certainly kill his all-too-human sweetheart. You see, chivalrous Edward hails “from a different era,” one in which the institution of marriage meant everything and a man took care to mount a proper courtship before marrying a girl nearly a century his junior. (He’s 109 years old.) He asks her to marry him; she agrees, but only if he’ll turn her into a vampire first; he hesitates, pondering the unalterable consequences; the matter is tabled and heavy petting resumes. (This exchange is repeated, ad nauseam, throughout the remainder of the film.)
The constant fawning and unwavering devotion from impossibly beautiful Edward aren’t enough to sate Bella’s thirst — she needs validation like a vampire needs blood — and so she uses the flimsiest of pretexts to re-insert herself into the life of Jacob Black, the sensitive werewolf she previously shunned, who dutifully plies her with his own declarations of undying love. (Jacob, to his credit, has developed enough game since we last saw him to qualify as a serious contender for Bella’s affections, and is no longer the devoted doormat we saw in New Moon. He’s still a tool, though.) Game on.
But Edward and Jacob aren’t the only ones with designs on Bella. (Seriously, are there no other hot emo chicks in the greater Pacific Northwest?) A ginger-haired menace (Bryce Dallas Howard) has emerged, one that will require Edward’s vampire clan and Jacob’s wolfpack tribe, longtime enemies forever on the verge of a climactic battle (in which Bella will serve as the jeans-and-hoodie-clad Helen of Troy, no doubt) to put aside their differences and unite against a common enemy. In order to ensure Bella’s safety, Edward and Jacob must form an uneasy tag-team (no, not that kind of tag team, much as it would likely better serve to resolve matters) to keep Bella safe from harm.
With its amped-up action, sharpened wit, and darker, horror flick-inspired atmospherics, Eclipse boasts the broadest appeal of all the Twilight films thus far. But that doesn’t mean it’s good. Director Slade’s grasp of plot development borders on amateurish in this film; Eclipse often feels less like a movie than a weighty discourse on the pros and cons of vampiredom, laid out in lengthy, exhaustingly repetitive chunks of exposition and awkward, campy flashbacks, as just about every character in the film, including Edward, attempts to dissuade Bella from joining the ranks of the bloodsuckers.
But alas, no force, no matter how utterly rational its arguments, will keep Bella from her destiny. Which, obviously, is Edward. Or is it? Eclipse goes to great pains to invent ways to perpetuate the film’s romantic rivalry, inserting scenes like the one in which Bella, on the verge of freezing to death in a tent high up in the mountains, is saved when Jacob arrives to heroically spoon her body temperature back to its proper level. (Eclipse is being hyped as the first “guy-friendly” Twilight flick, but no film which includes a climactic spooning scene can rightly claim such a distinction.) Edward, meanwhile, with his poor vampire circulation, is powerless to help.
Who will win in the end? Will it be abs over eyes? Obviously, it will take two more movies (at least!) to solve this kind of wrenching dilemma.