Film review – The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Rob Pattinson)

Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson)

In the third instalment of the Twilight film series, the love triangle from the previous two films is still being negotiated. The human teenage girl Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is still torn between her vampiric boyfriend and potential fiancé Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and her werewolf friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). Once again Bella’s life in under threat by the vengeful vampire Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, taking over the role from Rachelle Lefevre), and in order to protect Bella, an uneasy alliance is formed between the rival vampires and werewolves

The core problems with the Twilight films are still very much present in this new instalment including the plodding pace, the trite dialogue and the very regressive subtext. Bella, and a good section of the audience, are supposed to find Edward and Jacob romantic but both male characters present a very depressing depiction of what constitutes romantic behaviour. Edward is an emotionally manipulative, over protective, jealous stalker while Jacob is obsessive, forceful and volatile.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson)

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson)

Caught in the middle with little agency of her own, Bella spends most of the film listening to Edward’s and Jacob’s demands and declarations. In one scene the guys even have a go at nutting out Bella’s future while she sleeps. The only time Bella actively makes a significant decision for herself is when she decides to have sex with Edward but in return gets a lecture from him on virtue and abstinence until marriage. If Eclipse had any degree of edginess or kinkiness then this sadomasochistic scenario may have some transgressive appeal but its representation of this confused morality as romantic just makes it a bit creepy.

Probably the best thing to be said about Eclipse is it is better than the previous film New Moon. Among the dross there are a some good lines of dialogue suggesting that the characters do have a sense of humour and British director David Slade delivers a few genuinely exciting scenes, including an exhilarating chase through the forest and a tense climatic battle sequence. Using one of the historical flashback sequences to depict vampires as European colonialists preying on the Native American werewolves also suggests the hopeful possibility that some of the issues of race and class raised by the previous films, through the depiction of the ultra-white wealthy vampires and the working-class Native American werewolves, will be explored in the series’ final chapter (which will be released as two films).

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart)

Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart)

Given that Slade’s previous film was the much more violent 30 Days of Night, featuring a more traditionally monstrous depiction of vampires from the sparkle-in-the-sunlight ones in Twilight, it is not surprising that his instalment introduces a degree of actual horror. The scenes depicting new vampire baddie Riley Biers (Xavier Samuel) and his bloody recruitment spree throughout Seattle actually delivers a few moments of genuine menace. On the other hand, Slade also uses a lot of unnecessary shaky handheld camera effects and the Michael Bay-style rapid editing is also disorientating. The decision to depict the vampires being shattered like glass when injured is also a bit bewilderingly.

Regardless of what any critics think of Eclipse it will still delight audiences who have come this far with the series. Many fans won’t care about its repressive conservatism and many will even find it appealing. Despite Slade’s directorial presence, Eclipse is still clearly the product of original novelist Stephenie Meyer and she has clearly tapped into something that appeals to many, many people who are content to once again look on at Edward while he furrows his brow, Bella while she pouts and Jacob while he clenches his jaw.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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8 Responses to Film review – The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)

  1. Benicio says:

    The only time Bella actively makes a significant decision for herself is when she decides to have sex with Edward but in return gets a lecture from him on virtue and abstinence until marriage.

    Classic.

  2. diane says:

    I think the Twilight movies are mostly a treat for the people who read the books. If not, i understand the story can look a little thin.

    This movie is not for men. It is for females. I think the books (and the movies to some extent) can be seen as an accurate and profound analysis of teen romantic psychology, seen exclusively from the girl’s point of view.

    Speaking for myself, Edward would have been the PERFECT boyfriend when i was teenage girl. Not only because he is hunky and devoted.
    Here is why:

    He loves bella so much, he doesn’t want to have sex with her right away. But he still makes her feel sexy and pretty, so she doesn’t have to go elsewhere for validation. If she has doubts, she has Jacob who’d sleep with her in a heartbeat.

    At that age, i found the guys were really immature. Edward is 100 years old! So he is very mature, BUT has a honky 17 y old body.

    He sneaks in at night to sleep with her.
    At that age, girls have many problems and need lots of affection and often feel very lonely.
    Edward gives bella real affection without sex. Girls are often sexually active at that age hoping to get affection, and instead get really awful sex.

    Everybody devote their lives to protect bella. As a teenage girl, you can feel life is too much for you. And the worst part is nobody cares. Edward (and Jacob, so double whammy in this department) is devoted to PROTECT her and make her feel safe.

    Both guys are romantic. They say deep stuff and they MEAN it. Not like real life, when the boyfriend says anything to get the girl in bed and then dumps her.

    I could go on and on. These books and movie has all the elements of a perfect romance for a girl. Unfortunate it is unrealistic, so the guys had to be from another world. Bella couldn’t find such a perfect guy in real life, but in a 100 year old vampire… Maybe?!
    And she’s got a warewolf backup just in case!

    The vampire aspect is secondary to the importance of the romance.

    I REALLY dont think men could get the profoundness of this movie or even the books.
    This movie is some kind of romantic candy for girls. A place where all the romantic things you imagine come to life on the screen.

    I am sorry if this post is so long, but i just had to say it.
    This movie cannot be rated like other movies. It is more profound than it looks, and it is some sort of kryptonite for men. Men should stick to movies like Transformers with their own fantasy of the Vaselined girl rolling half naked on a car hood.

    Thank you for letting me express myself!

    have a great day everyone.

  3. Hi Diane

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the Twilight films. You seem to be arguing that these films are offering an appealing ideal of romance to young women and that’s why men don’t like them. That’s not the case with me.

    I’ve got no problem with the idea of a film offering young women good quality escapist entertainment in the form of a love story. In fact, I’d much prefer to see that over films like the Transformers films, which I find tedious and completely vacuous. What I do have a problem with is that the so-called romance in the Twilight films is really horrible. As I say in my review:

    Edward is an emotionally manipulative, over protective, jealous stalker while Jacob is obsessive, forceful and volatile.

    These guys aren’t offering Bella affection, they are trying to control her. It isn’t romantic, it is creepy. It reenforces some very regressive attitudes about men and women. This ugly conservatism that attempts to moralise about sex and yet romanticises emotional manipulation is what I don’t like about Twilight.

    Cheers
    Thomas

    PS This video sets out the issue very nicely:

  4. Louise says:

    You gave it two stars? That seems a generous allocation. Of course, I haven’t seen the film and don’t intend to see the film, but I will judge it nevertheless with no basis of knowledge or experience.

    My review: It’s the following film to what now? I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  5. diane says:

    Hi Thomas and Louise!
    Where did Louise get the little cartoon in her video, it’s hilarious!

    I agree with what you guys are saying about Edward and Jacob being controlling.

    I think it was a bit different in the books. In the books, it seemed like it was Bella who was playing around with both guys and sort of used them because she couldn’t make up her mind. In this girl fantasy world, both guys decide to fight for her in their own way hoping to be the chosen one. (in real life, they both would have walked away, and bella would end up going to the prom with her cousin!)

    In the movie, they need to cut to the chase, and yes both guys appears to be very manipulative and controlling. But i think for the fans who read the books, they may not see it as harshly because you know a bit more about what is going on in the characters’ head.

    I am not a dye hard fan of The Twilight Saga, but i must say i enjoyed the books and it is fun to see bits of the story played out on screen.

    I just find it funny when grown men give bad reviews to a movie made for teenage girls. It’s like a 50 year old man seriously making a point that the Powerpuff girls are boring.

    Have a great day!
    Diane

  6. Hi again Diane

    I am a film critic critiquing a film – not a novel – and if that film can’t stand up on its own accord then it is a heavily flawed film. As I said in one of my comments in response to my New Moon review:

    The craft of creating a novel and a film is different and therefore the criteria for critiquing literature and cinema are different. Plus, there are many, many films that are novel adaptations and it is completely unreasonable to expect that audiences should always have to read the novel first in order to appreciate the film.

    Also, you don’t have to be the target marketing to critique a film. A film (especially an immensely popular one) is out in the public domain for scrutiny by all. You can dismiss a critic for bad writing, flawed arguments, lack of perspective or general ignorance but not for their age, race, sexuality or gender. So you can either simply dismiss my review as one that you don’t think is relevant or you can continue to debate it with me.

  7. Yeah, I was a bit disappointed with the film. In the book, it had such an exciting ending – when Jacob receives a wedding invitation in the mail, and he gets so upset, he transforms into a werewolf and keeps on running, and doesn’t stop. Everyone is looking for him, and Charlie puts up ‘missing’ signs. But in the film, the ending is a bit flat.

    I want to say, everyone must read Breaking Dawn! It’s almost like Stephenie Meyer just lets the plot plod along in the first three books and saves the real action for the last book! I honestly can’t wait for the film adaptations for this last book. It will be tremendously exciting, as the story is incredibly visual.

    Also, the pairing of Edward and Bella is probably one of the most romantic couples of all time – like Heathcliff and Cathy in Wuthering Heights.

    Actually, there are numerous and obvious references to Wuthering Heights in the Eclipse book, all of which were left out of the film adaptation. Maybe it had something to do with copyright? At one stage in the book, Edward literally throws Bella’s copy of Wuthering Heights across the room – which is like a metaphor for the whole book, really!

    There are elements of Wuthering Heights thrown around Eclipse! Especially the love triangle, and of course, there’s the famous line about Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, that he could be a monster, a vampire. Also, Bella and Edward (like Cathy and Heathcliff) are united, in immortality.

    I think the film was the most effective in portraying the ‘flashback’ scenes of the history of Rosalie, etc, and the metaphors of the vampires for the European colonisers and the shapeshifting werewolves for the Native Americans.

    There is also a subtext about ‘forbidden interracial romance,’ particularly in the context of American history. The Twilight series reflects the breaking down of barriers between previously segregated races in America, using vampires and werewolves as the racial ‘other.’ (Actually Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights was also of a mysterious ethnic origin, too, representing ‘the other.’)

    I also agree with Diane that the humour in the narrative is that the character of an ‘old-fashioned romantic man’ is only believable in modern times if that ‘man’ is in fact a fictional monster, who is from the past! Haha…It’s like an ‘in-joke’ for the girls!

    But I suppose, overall, the incredible supernatural Romantic imagination of stories such as Wuthering Heights and the Twilight series is really hard to capture on film!

  8. anton says:

    yep, edward is a stalker and jacob is aggressive and volatile.

    but what everyone overlooks is that bella is a loner, an outcast, she is clumsy and hurts herself all the time, she just doesn’t fit in. she has this weird psychic thing going on as well.

    then along comes edward and all of a sudden she fits in.

    i’m afraid i can’t agree with most of what you’ve written about the film as from my point of view it stands up on it’s own without the book. (apart from perhaps the ending … which is kind of lame).

    the stigma attached to these films / books puzzles me greatly. i’m a sci fi fan from way back and this is just good honest entertainment albeit a little weird (and we won’t get into how much ms myer actually stole from buffy and angel). the stigma appears to be attached to the three main actors in real life rather than the characters in the films because if you question people about it most of them haven’t actually watched any of the twilight films.

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