Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Sleepy Kind of Love: ECLIPSE

By far the lousiest of the Twilight movies, a series that has thus far managed to be only watchable at best, Eclipse is a film only the most passionate fans, those who already know they’ll just looove it, could enjoy. It contains the worst acting, the worst set design, and some of the worst effects. Or maybe it was made worse by the movie’s slow pace and endlessly circular dialogue that allowed me to stew in my discontent. It all seems thin and chintzy, as if any old thing could have been slapped together to please the fans as long as it contained all the moping and doe-eyed expressions they could get. A handful of scenes late in the film take place on the top of a mountain that looks so unconvincing that I got the feeling that a slight shift of the camera would reveal a stagehand shoveling fake snow. Even the gorgeous deep autumnal color palate of the second film has been replaced with thin grey tones, a warning of depressing blandness to come.

The other Twilight movies were no great cinema, but at least Catherine Hardwicke and Chris Weitz, who directed one installment each, had a good handle on what worked best about their films (Weitz much more than Hardwicke), and it sure wasn’t the source material or the horribly uncomplicated love triangle at its center. They played up the supporting cast, where the series’ best talent is kept, giving juicy scene-stealing moments to a great actor like Michael Sheen or allowing supremely talented young actresses like Anna Kendrick and Dakota Fanning to bring some class to so much hogwash. Even poor Billy Burke, in the thankless role of a clueless father, was utilized for his ability to show with a glance how he can seemingly sense the ridiculousness. Here the supporting cast is nothing but glorified extras.

Eclipse is all about Bella and Edward and Jacob and how Bella loves Edward but has feelings for Jacob too. This is also the same basic plot as the second film, but this time it’s played with considerably less energy. The returning leads – Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner – almost appear to be sleepwalking through their scenes. Stewart and Pattinson, especially, seem to have none of what little chemistry they had in the first film while Lautner has lost any spark of romance he had in the second.

Of course, they aren’t helped by the fact that most of the dialogue in the movie, when it’s not simply dull exposition, is nearly sub-literate statements of emotions and desire. “I want you.” “I have feelings for him.” “You love me.” “This is dangerous.” “You know I’m hotter than you.” All of the above are actual lines of dialogue that can be heard at different points in the film, but the last of those at least has the decency to be something of a laugh line. This is a film that cuts out all but the sappiest and dullest of moments, stripping away all the little moments of real humanity or small humor that caused its predecessors to have some modicum of life.

To his credit, director David Slade (of Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night) shoots the dialogue scenes close and quick, trying, but failing, to spark some life into the movie. After some time, the extreme close-ups of pale faces started to run together. Slade is at his best in three flashbacks that are the sole sources of excitement to be found. They’re chances to break out of the dull colors and duller conversations. My favorite of the three presents brief snippets of a story about a bride-to-be who is beaten and left for dead at the hands of her fiancĂ©. Saved from certain death by being turned into a vampire, she takes her revenge. There’s a great shot of this vampiric woman, all dressed up in a wedding gown, bursting in on her abusive ex. That’s the kind of dynamism I would have loved to see in the rest of the movie.

Instead, our simple characters are still dithering over who loves whom, and how much, in endlessly tiresome fashion. Not even a big, dumb vampires-and-werewolves-versus-evil-vampires brawl at the end could rouse me from the stupor that I entered after looking at the time, certain that the movie was almost over, and discovering that there was still an hour to go.

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