The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is an underwhelming entry in an already underwhelming series. The first two installments ranged from pure mediocrity to downright tediousness. This installment is no different. It follows the same storytelling tropes of the first two films: meanders endlessly, involves dialog that affects a viewer like scratching on chalkboards, and features empty characters stripped of personality. Even with David Slade there isn’t much change of pace.

This time around the conflict is more or less the same. It’s still the love triangle from the previous installment except sprinkled with a few higher stakes: Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) are further on the verge of tying the knot. This of course doesn’t make Jacob (Taylor Lautner) too happy considering he’s still madly in love with Bella while she’s in love with what he hates most: vampires. The film mostly becomes a pissing contest between the two trying to win her over– all very repetitive. It’s practically A Days of Our Lives episode stretched out to two hours. The funny thing is, at first the film seems to acknowledge this. It pokes fun at itself here and there with self-referential lines such as Edward pointing out that Jacob seems to never wear a shirt. It keeps its tongue in its cheek early on, but then becomes exactly what it was making fun of. It becomes self-parody where you cant help but chuckle at the melodramatic cheesiness of it all.

Things become even more problematic for the youngsters when Victoria (now played by Bryce Dalls Howard) is out for revenge looking to make things even by killing Bella. For those of you not in the know, the Cullen clan ripped her boyfriend in pieces in the first installment for trying to feast on Bella. Needless to say, she’s angry. Victoria is now raising an army of newborn vampires to defeat the Cullens so she can get her hands on Bella. The Volturi is no where to be found during all of this. They basically sit this one out and watch, resulting in a lot of ominous staring while attempting to look menacing. It also doesn’t help that the Vulturi are lead by Dakota Fanning of all people. To Fanning’s credit, she’s a very talented actress, but is woefully miscast here. There’s nothing menacing about her and when she shows her strength/powers, you just can’t help but to chuckle. Chuckling is the true key to enjoying Eclipse– if you can find a laugh out of the ridiculousness, then you’ll surely enjoy the cheese on display here.

The main issues with the story as a whole: it’s nearly impossible to care for Bella Swan. She has no personality, isn’t likable, and most importantly, isn’t very interesting. Her only character trait is whether or not she’s currently in love with Edward or not. She’s practically helpless without him or Jacob. New Moon had some very unintentional misogynistic undertones- it’s still unintentional- but it’s taken even further this time around. People constantly point out how there aren’t strong female characters nowadays and Bella Sawn is another example for that argument. She’s a blank slate that isn’t capable of doing anything without the help of a man. Even the male title characters are treated as sex objects. It’s no different than how Michael Bay frames Megan Fox. Pattinson and more so Lautner are treated the same way. They practically have to pose like a model in every single shot.

As for Bella’s dullness, lets just compare her the more impressive Harry Potter for a second. Potter is someone full of personality and is constantly getting things done on his own. He’s not defined by whether or not he’s going steady at the moment. Kristen Stewart is a talented actress, but is short changed by what’s on the page. Every actor involved has to deliver cringe-inducing dialog and Stewart has to deliver one of the most pandering narrations in years. It feels as if it’s there to simply spell everything out for you. It treats the viewer as nothing more than a child.

Many have lamented this as the most technically impressive, but only slightly so. There’s a few nicely composed shots here and there, but it’s mostly very paint-by-numbers. Whenever there’s a conversation Slade sticks the camera in as closely as possibly. The awkward camerawork feels consistently boxed-in. Sometimes it leans over to the distracting side where its impossible to concentrate.

As for the action scenes, they’re per-functionary and, at times, incomprehensible. There are cuts nearly every two seconds and when there isn’t, Slade doesn’t let the action breathe. It’s forgettable like the rest of the film. It’s all just a build up to the big battle, but when you get there, you just shrug. It’s utterly anti-climatic. Slade is a competent director who made an excellent debut with Hard Candy and even showed chops in the enjoyable 30 Days of Night, but here he doesn’t live up the promise he’s previously shown.

Whether or not it’s a faithful adaptation is neither here nor there. That doesn’t matter. All that matters is whether or not it works purely on its own terms: as a movie. But it doesn’t. You shouldn’t have to have read the books to enjoy this or to get the so-called “mythology.” Everyone should be able to go in fresh. If only fans can enjoy this because they’ve read the books then that makes this an even greater failure. If this fairly represents the source material then that just means Melissa Rosenberg did a questionable job of adapting the source material.

There is nothing original here and when it treads familiar territory it does nothing to establish itself as anything different. It’s two hours of bloat. There’s barely a story here and the one that we are given isn’t very compelling. Hopefully the more-than-talented Bill Condon makes the tides turn the next time around. In the end, it may be too late.

Grade: D+

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