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.
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).
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.