Debating The Movies: “Twilight: Eclipse”

Twilight: Eclipse

Directed by David Slade

Malcolm: I think you and I disagree about this series. I’d had essentially no exposure until a “Twilight” marathon less than a month ago, where my household watched the first two movies back-to-back, and I oddly loved them. Not because they were great movies, and admittedly my expectations were low.
But as a mythologized expression of what it’s like to be a teenager, I thought they were brilliant. After years of wondering why I’d majored in English at college, I finally realized it was so I could deconstruct the “Twilight” movies. “Pride & Prejudice” and “Wuthering Heights” have nothing on “Twilight” when it comes to heaving bosoms, smoldering stares and displaced sexuality.

Tony: I thought the first film was awful. I hadn’t read the books and it was hard for me to appreciate why they were so popular based on an awful telling of a seemingly awful story, with awful special effects to boot. Then the second film seemed to pick up the pace and actually made me look forward a little to the third.  
My beef with “Twilight: Eclipse” is that it feels like act 2.5 of a 3 act play; they should have just skipped ahead. Twilight: Eclipse” may join “Alien 3” and “Shrek the Third” as one of the worst threequels in a series. I’m concerned about the decision to split book four into two movies. It obviously makes sense from a business perspective, but these films are already hard-pushed to fill two hours.

Very little really happens, and it takes a long time to not happen. The romance hasn’t advanced. There are two guys who like Bella and she likes both of them. It’s an awkward love triangle. We get it. Bella is basically deciding between bestiality and necrophilia as her fetish of choice. The theaters and the world in general are full of Team Edward and Team Jacob references. Two more hours of romantic dialog that sounds like it was written by George Lucas, and ethereally lit flowery meadow scenes that look like a 1970’s hairspray commercial. OK – so the guys build a grudging respect for each other, but they could have done that over a two-hour game of poker rather than two more film hours trying to poke her. It’s just a long slow tease with no reward.

Malcolm: Precisely. This is a movie that’s all about sex awakening, without having any actual sex in it. Everything is a metaphor. This one could have been shorter, there were parts of the middle that dragged, and the battle at the end disappointed me a bit after the long buildup. But the plot has to stay in stasis in some ways because the only places it could move—to one of at least three types of consummation that are on the table—would bring the dramatic tension of the whole enterprise crashing down.
This is a teen girl fantasy, a world that is both dangerous and idealized. Bella is special, but in a passive, almost non-specific way – she just happens to be immune to all non-biting vampire powers. She’s the center of attention, specifically of two handsome, very different young men who pledge their undying though as-yet nearly platonic love for her. Given what many actual teenage boys (and men in general) are like – that is, sex-crazed and unreliable – Bella’s self-indulgent indecision is the fantasy, as she lazily chooses between two attractive, adoring options.  

For film whose major characters are immortal and/or endowed with super powers (or scheduled to become that way), it did have one ongoing nod to human frailty. It was filled with close-ups, and when any face is six stories high (we saw it at the Esquire IMAX downtown, where it generally looked great), you’re reminded that even young, pretty people have stained teeth and pockmarked skin.

Of course, when you’re actually close enough to someone to see these kinds of imperfections, you generally don’t care – something which seemed entirely bizarre and yucky to most of us until the hormones kicked in. Speaking of, I loved the bit about the army of “newborn” vampires who are blood-crazed for the first few months until they calm down a little. It’s the best metaphor of puberty I’ve heard since…well, ever.

Tony: On the upside, there’s one neat scene of father-daughter awkwardness that feels more genuine than most of the movie. We still have werewolves that spontaneously transform in mid-leap, without all the clichéd knuckle cracking and jaw stretching. I think part of my mixed feelings about the series in general has to do with it being one of my favorite depictions of werewolves and my least favorite depictions of vampires. I guess that puts me in the Team Jacob section of the bleachers, rather than the skin bleachers end (and could somebody PLEASE do a better job with that white-face makeup!?).

Malcolm: I agree that the second film is better than the other two. Though I actually liked some of the bad special effects and makeup. There’s a sort of big budget B-movie feel to them.

I also like how the different clans of werewolves and vampires are stand-ins for teen cliques. Members of each coven share a fashion style, and await every new confrontation by posing like a band on a CD cover. As adults, many of us get sentimental for the simplicity of a time when being part of a group seemed like the most important thing in the world.

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