A miscomprehension of love, sexuality and fantasy
By Armond White
In the self-destructive Twilight franchise—in which teenage Bella (Kristen Stewart) dithers between vampire suitor Edward (Robert Pattinson) and werewolf suitor Jacob (Taylor Lautner)—the films’ producers seem determined to make its dubious premise a metaphor for adolescent sexual panic more unpersuasive with every new installment.
Eclipse, the third adaptation of Stephenie Meyers’ best-selling book series, misses the persuasive romantic element that director Catherine Hardwicke brought to the initial film. There’s no progression in Bella’s agonizing between Edward and Jacob. The movie (Bella’s love life) is stuck in a bizarre holding pattern: The nearly two-hour movie marks time—waiting for attacks from various outsider vampire armies—as if to demonstrate Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Endlessly trading kisses or training for vampire-werewolf grudge matches, the franchise’s cynical concept suggests that the longer this love triangle vacillates, the deeper its target audience will feel vested in the superficialities of Bella’s cute vs. handsome, boy vs. man dilemma. Because the storytelling has lost the courage and vision of Hardwicke’s conviction, the saga (as it’s called) very gradually loses emotional persuasion, in essence blocking the teenagers’ inner turmoil.
Director David Slade’s TV-style filmmaking (extreme close-ups) is so listless that he never even provides an eclipse—the expected visual symbol of sexual obfuscation. Slade’s sensibility doesn’t clash with Hardwicke’s; there is no sensibility in this bland hackwork. No eroticism, no romanticism. Twilight’s audiences have been subjected to a miscomprehension of love, sexuality and fantasy. The franchise has become a crude form of nonsense storytelling where such lines as Jacob’s, “I’m going to fight for you until your heart stops beating,” bests the stupidest pop song for inanity.
But it’s Edward’s, “You believe I have a soul and I don’t,” that is the real betrayal, because the franchise doesn’t express spirituality; it avoids intimacy and sincerity with every non-development. Even Bella’s placating admission, “Dad, I’m a virgin!” though well-acted, lacks self-conscious, romantic anxiety—although Bella’s bold revelation probably explains why liberal critics hate Meyers’ odd-combination of modern/old-fashioned values. Problem is, with every successive hack director it employs, the Twilight series isn’t conservative enough: that is, it lacks the conventional workmanship of classic romantic filmmaking. Twilight audiences are deprived the intensity of Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet and the depth of a teen love story like Splendor in the Grass—movies that drove their respective generation of teens wild. Despite its horror movie premise, the Twilight series has become an ADHD sedative.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Directed by David Slade
Runtime: 124 min.