The Twilight saga III: A total ‘eclipse’ of the vampire

It was a fight even to buy my ticket to The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010). I had to swim through oceans of soulful teenaged girls, whose apprehensive male companions had clearly been made to accompany them.

I watched the film with a very mixed group, some young girls just dying for their fix of Twilight, a couple of cynical boys, who really would rather have watched a “real” film and a pair of newly-weds who were just along for the ride.

Based on the third book by American author, Stephenie Meyer, Eclipse continues to chart the adventures of Bella Swan (played by Kristen Stewart) and the love of her life Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).  The path of true love never did run smooth however and the couple must deal with the fact that Edward is a 104 year-old vampire, frozen forever at the age of eighteen.

Nor is he the only supernatural being in poor Bella’s life.  Her best friend Jacob (played by Taylor Lautner) who also happens to be in love with her, is a werewolf.  Both in love with the same girl and with the added natural enmity of the wolf and the vampire, the fires of hate burn fiercely between these two characters as Bella is forced to choose between them.  In addition she is pursued by Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard), who with her ghastly army of newly made vampires, wants to wreak vengeance on Edward for the murder of her lover, James.

In the U.S., the movie has grossed US$265 million after only three weeks and each of the three main stars are expected to pocket US$25 million between their salaries and shares of the film’s income.  Despite being a run away success at the box office, critical reviews have been mixed, particularly as far as the actors are concerned.

It is certainly true that Kristen Stewart is as expressionless as she is in the previous films, Robert Pattinson actively appears to regret signing up for the film at all and Taylor Lautner appears to rely on semi-nudity rather than acting to get him through.  These frankly underwhelming performances contrast starkly with the efforts of new-comer Bryce Dallas Howard who manages to make her character vicious yet graceful in a way that is somehow totally believable.  Howard is best known for her haunting performances in films like The Village (2004), Lady in the Water (2006), and Terminator Salvation (2009).

Apparently the writers didn’t want to take themselves–or the film–too seriously, and this has imbued the whole film with a slight air of self-deprecation.  This contrasts sharply with the sometimes overwhelming teenaged angst of unconsummated emotion.  Bella and Edward even get to smile occasionally.  There is also a much better balance between action and romance in this film than was evident into the two earlier films. The next book, Breaking Dawn, is expected to be divided into two 3D films, with part one hitting the screens in November 2011.

In short, The Twilight franchise was built for adolescent girls.  The handsome (albeit monstrous) young men fighting over the love of the virtuous heroine, the sparkling vampires, the not-very-subtle moral message, and the mood of teenaged angst all combine to make the movies a perfect draw for girls of a certain age.  Twilight: Eclipse is no different.  You may not like the movies yourself but you have to admit that nobody does it better.

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