J: "Can Bella come out and play?"
E: "NO! She's not allowed!"
For everyone living under a rock, Twilight is the story of Bella Swan tragically choosing to kill herself instead of facing real life. (I write about it here.) Or if you prefer, it's the story of Bella Swan being manipulated by a 100+ year old virgin vampire... I mean the story of Bella and Edward's forever wuv.
"Filmi Girl, if you hate the story so much why did you go see Eclipse, the THIRD movie in the series?" You are asking me right now.
And I will tell you: I really, really liked New Moon. A lot. In Twilight: New Moon, Bella is devastated when her vampire lover leaves her and she spends the movie picking up the pieces and learning and growing and making friends that aren't 100+ year old virgins (like Jacob, a normal 17-year old boy) and just moving on with her life in general. Directed by Chris Weitz, the movie has a mythic, timeless feel. It's very warm and intimate with lots of rich greens, browns, and blues; the soundtrack is well thought out and very present.
Basically, I thought Twilight: New Moon was a well-crafted little film with a big sucker-punch of an emotional narrative. And, let's be honest, Taylor Lautner didn't hurt, either.
Fast forward to Twilight: Eclipse. The dreamy-mythic quality of the first two films has been crushed under a mediocre action film. There were two things that I enjoyed - Taylor Lautner, who did the best he could, bless his heart, and the fact that the audience in the theater was as horrified with how awful the film was as I was and we all spent a lot of time laughing at Robert Pattinson.
Let's not even start with the fact that the soundtrack was shoved way in the back; the cinematography was bland; the acting (except for Billy Burke, Peter Faccinelli, and Taylor Lauter) was awful - the most important thing to me was the emotional narrative and it was completely missing. Bella comes across as a selfish little bitch who only cares about herself.
What shocked me the most was that most of the critics have given Twilight: Eclipse the best reviews of any of the three films. And I think I know why - this movie has a straightforward plot. Bad vampire want to kill Bella. Bad vampire attack. Good vampires fight back. And Fin. The rich internal dialogues of New Moon were gone.
I know that this is only partially the fault of the screenwriter, who is, to be sure, working with some very mediocre source material. It just seemed to me like it was the perfect storm of everything I hate about Twilight. We're treated to long minutes of multiple uncomfortable looking Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson make out sessions. We're treated to loving close-ups of every single one of Robert Pattisonson's smirks. Not to mention way too much of cheezy CGI effects that are supposed to be thrilling.
At it's heart, Twilight is about characters - not plot. So, the decision to make a plot-driven film was fundamentally a flawed one. Werewolves tearing apart vampires is fun but if that is what this audience was interested in, we would be watching Underworld on DVD instead of sitting in the theater. Bella's emotional journey is what makes the story compelling and it was completely missing from Eclipse. Where was Edward being a controlling jackass? Where was Bella wavering back and forth and leading Jacob on? Where was the playful wolf pack? The characters were not there.
Now, let's talk performances because I feel like Robert Pattinson not only slept-walked through 99% of the film, he did it with a smirk of disdain on his face. Kristen Stewart was an empty vessel. Taylor Lautner, on the other hand, shone in every scene he was in. The boy has screen presence and charisma. We saw not nearly enough of the wolf pack (including my new on-screen girlfriend Julia Jones) and way too much of the vapid Cullens - especially Japser (Jackson Rathbone) who suddenly speaks with a Southern accent.
The only other actor besides Taylor to come out of this with any sort of dignity is the fabulous Nikki Reed, who killed as Rosalie. "Forget the whiny bitch and take the blond goddess, Taylor," I wanted to yell at the screen!
So, where does that leave me for Breaking Dawn? I'll probably see it just for the LULZ, the exact way I saw the first Twilight film. And I'll still return to New Moon, which I did feel was genuinely engaging, but I'm not seeing Eclipse again. If they don't take the narrative seriously, then why should I?
(Also, Rob Pattinson is the laziest actor this side of Abhishek Bachchan. Smirking is not an emotion. Find a new facial expression.)