A review of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Just because.

Thursday November 17th 2011

I wasn’t at the glitzy London premiere for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part One last night because, ever since I suffered through the 2hr+ assault on all things enjoyable that was New Moon (a.k.a. Green Screen Car Journeys: The Movie), I vowed never to let Bella, Edward and Jacob back into my life. Oh, and I wasn’t invited. But mainly that first reason.

Sadly though, you can only hold back the tide for so long before you have to suck up your pride, get with the program, and load up Lovefilm’s slightly crappy online streaming service to do a Twilight catch-up. Which is exactly what I did yesterday afternoon.

Eclipse, the third entry in the self-styled ‘saga’ is — as far as I can tell — the most Twilight-y, i.e. it’s the one where Bella finally chooses between smart casual vampire Edward and mostly shirtless werewolf Jacob. I won’t ruin it by telling you who she picks, but this promotional image for Breaking Dawn leaves little to the imagination:

Right off the bat, it’s clear that Hard Candy director David Slade is far better equipped to deal with the franchise than previous contender Chris Weitz. Whether he’s orchestrating the film’s tense, action-packed cold open or peaking in at one of Bella and Edward’s many romantic trips to the meadow from the Bright Star poster, Slade has a technical and emotional confidence that Weitz (and, to an even greater extent, Catherine Hardwicke) sadly lacked.

Of course, this may be Slade’s film, but it’s Summit Entertainment’s franchise, so any individuality he might wish to imbue in Eclipse comes a distant second to the needs of the series at large, and of course the fans. Unsurprisingly then, little concern is given to the casual viewer. Ten minutes in and I’m lost as to who or what the ‘Volturi’ are, and I can’t remember whether or not Bella’s dad knows about the whole vampire situation. I’d even forgotten that Edward could read minds until he suddenly did his big Concentration Face™ and then knew something important.

Such an ability is an unfortunate one for somebody like Edward, who already seems like a manipulative, possessive bastard without the additional skill of knowing precisely where Bella is and what she’s doing at any given moment. He’s characterised in Eclipse as some kind of insane 1950s husband, telling Bella to know her place and ‘stay in the car’ when trouble’s afoot. This attitude, as well as his outright refusal to engage in sex before marriage, kind of make sense when you consider that he was born in the early part of the 20th Century, but there’s no comment on the incongruity of these notions in the modern world — in the mind of the film, we were much better off when women were women, men were men, and pre-marital sex was irrefutably evil.

It’s hardly surprising then, that when Bella does seek solace in the arms of someone who isn’t MASSIVELY into the whole abstinence deal it’s Jacob, the de facto rapist of the story. Stephenie Meyer, the straight-laced Mormon who wrote the Twilight books, has crafted a world in which all pre-marital sex is essentially rape, so Jacob — by far the more sexually liberated of Bella’s two suitors — spends much of his time forcing himself upon an evidently disinterested Bella, all while saying eminently creepy things like, “I can sense how I make you feel.” Another character, Nikki Reed’s mysterious, bitter Rosalie, later reveals that her own vampire conversion took place shortly after a gang rape, in which her apparently charming boyfriend thought nothing of offering her up to his brutish friends after a couple too many brewskies. In short, ladies: Mormonism Vampirism is the only surefire way to avoid sexual abuse.

Of course, there are a few good moments sandwiched between all the insane evangelical bullshit. Altogether too few contemporary teen films have Civil War flashbacks, and a scene in which Jacob spoons Bella ‘for warmth’ while Edward sits nearby is a sight to behold. “Can you at least attempt to control your thoughts?” indeed. But for the most part, the film’s a frustratingly wordy (and offensively repressive) watch, that in no way sustains its lengthy runtime.

Still, I’ll be queuing up for Breaking Dawn tomorrow morning with everybody else, desperate to see that much-hyped honeymoon scene. And if Eclipse is anything to go by, Bella better get ready for some serious On Chesil Beach shit.