Eclipse: A Sideways Review
While midnight showings are exhilarating and inevitably filled with goobery fan moments, one of the downsides for me is not being able to remember much of the film itself due to sleep deprivation. No really, my brain pretty much shuts off after midnight. Therefore, I’m going at this review from a completely sideways angle.
Probably because I’d just read the book five days ago, I wasn’t terribly engaged with the plot. It’s also worth mentioning that the plot itself isn’t exactly engaging in the first place…cause it’s Twilight. That fact is important to remember folks. Regardless my brain was on over-analyze mode about weird minutiae (I’ll also blame copious amounts of caffeine). Instead of being able to schmooze back and enjoy glowering, six packs and heavy breathing…I was evaluating the contact lenses, the visual and musical interpretation of the first film compared to the second two, and how all the actors themselves have changed in the last two years.
Alrighty, enough rambling. Here’s a sideways review comin’ atcha.
1. Eclipse vs Everything Else (in the film franchise). On a technical level – it’s hard to compare a low budget first entry to it’s older, more mature and financially well off sister, but I’m going to. I can’t help it. Watching all three films in succession made me unable to stop comparing and contrasting. All the cultish, amusing elements of the first Twilight film which make me giggle and guffaw and generally love it’s ineptness are washed out in Eclipse. New Moon and this third film truly feel like Hollywood creations. Gone is the true depiction of the Pacific Northwest with it’s copious (real) rain and fog and grey days. I loved the bluish tint of Twilight. All this is eviscerated in New Moon and Eclipse. Boo. There were some days in this flick so bright, I was expecting our Porcelain God hero to sparkle unabashedly. The incongruity of the brightly lit films and the viewers knowledge of sun + vampire = sparkle – was distracting.
What’s been done right in the franchise? A better composer and soundtrack supervisor. Of the three soundtracks (which I own and have listened to repeatedly), Eclipse is the superior entry. Twilight was uneven, New Moon was pitch-perfect but a tad too melancholy, and Eclipse hits all the right marks. It slows and gains tempo with ease, and no track ever feels too fast to shock you out of a hazey dream-like state. It features several artists whose albums are already in my stockpile. It might just be my favorite soundtrack of all time, without really having to try. If that makes sense. It feels so neatly and effortlessly put together. Gah – I loved every second of it.
The score differs between the Twilight and New Moon/Eclipse films dramatically. Twilight features lugubrious synth guitars and heavy ominous riffs where New Moon and Eclipse aim for standard movie orchestras, so adept you hardly realize they are there until you realize what you’re missing. Part of my horror-love for the original Twilight entry is the somewhat mawk-ish score, which sounds like it was mostly put together on a Casio keyboard.
Final Thoughts on The Film Franchise Thus Far. Perhaps it’s a bit early in the game for nostalgia, but there is so much good cheese in Twilight, that New Moon and Eclipse don’t even attempt to grasp at. Twilight makes the bad look bad in a fun way. New Moon and Eclipse attempt to make the bad look good and can only achieve sub-par film-making at best. An analogy: Twilight was pretty much shit. But people went in with eyes open thinking “I’m going to see a pile of shit.” No surprises. New Moon and Eclipse are shit covered in gold. So at first all you see is gold, and then you realize upon closer inspection, it’s really just shit. Covered in gold. Right?
2. Misogyny Lite. Those in the feminist circles who love Twilight even though we know it’s bad for us will perhaps be pleased to note that the films, Eclipse in particular, have eased up on some of the nastier acts of misogyny perpetrated on the pages. Having the source material fresh in my memory, it was pleasant to avoid any on-screen images of Bella cooking for her Dad, Charlie pushing Bella towards Jacob despite her obvious disinterest, and the kidnapping of Bella by Edward and his family.
Still present was the passing her off (as Bella herself observes) like a child between two divorced parents done by Edward and Jacob to “protect her.” This kind of yack-tastical BS takes me out of any kind of romance fantasy and replaces it with cringing horror.
Kristen Stewart has spent a lot of time in Bella’s shoes, and saves her from being depicted as too needy or too much of a push-over. Novel Bella is immortalized forever in the written word as being selfless to an in-human perfection and to a disturbing extreme that leaves her compared in my mind to an abused house-wife. Instead, Stewart (and the film itself) angle away from the parallels to The Wuthering Heights and steer more towards Bella as decision-maker, coming to terms with the direction her life is going post-High School.
There was a great Jessica Stanley moment fabricated for the film in which she gives the valedictorian speech almost directly to Bella and it’s essentially urging her to make a few mistakes before she decides to throw her life away as a vampire. This reads much more pro-Bella than the book ever intended, and gives a spirited and less oppressive cast to Bella’s position in the love-triangle-to-end-all-love-triangles.
But this brand of misogyny is more of a white-wash than anything else. What’s in the material is so deeply ingrained that fans would riot if Bella really appeared too much in control. The patriarchy is firmly established in all it’s glory here, but Bella plays much less of a victim role. Maybe. Maybe I’m reading far too much into the absence of these elements, and had Eclipse been granted a three hour run-time, they would have been present in droves. But I think, likely, not.
And this may be one of the rare instances (like Kick-Ass) where Hollywood has changed the depiction of a female character for the better. Go Hollywood go.
3. Vamp Battle. This should have been way fucking cooler. There should have been more time devoted and the intensity should have been upped ten-fold. I get that it’s a romance film but throw some action at us for the love-of-all-that’s-holy cause there isn’t any damn sex. We got robbed in the book series and I left the theater feeling cheated out of seeing some awesome action. Sex action AND violence action.
It’s the perfect battle set-up: vampires vs vampires with werewolves sprinkled in like a delicious furry topping. The vampires don’t bleed! They’re made of weird marble-like material, so their deaths can be a bit gratuitous without running the risk of an R rating. More decapitations! More flying limbs! More werewolf biting and clawing! After all the set-up, the battle was over in a hot second and very few of the werewolves (aside from Jacob, in an overly contrived plot point) or vampires came away with anything but a scratch. That is par for the course in the Twilight-verse, where the stakes are always purported to be high, but no one integral or heroic ever dies and no one but Bella ever really gets a bruise to show for it.
I was pleased they didn’t go the book route and have Edward narrate the scene instead. The movie was good about mostly eliminating Meyer’s dialogue-heavy exposition scenes and adding in visual elements. But that’s the job of any film so I’m not really giving any mofos pats on the back here for using the basic tools of the medium.
4. Final Thoughts on Eclipse. Does Eclipse deserve to be the biggest box-office opener yet? Does Iron Man 2? Does Avatar? What about those films makes them anymore exceptional than Twilight? Iron Man 2 is about a play-boy coming to terms with his father/son issues. Avatar is a white boy saves the natives fantasy in space. Twilight is what many teen girls conceive of romantic love set against a horror backdrop. What about those lead lines listed above makes any of them more deserving than the other? Oh right. Nothing.
What continues to compel me about the series is it’s effect on groups of women who are bonding over the material. Who are letting their inner freak flag fly just a wee little bit more than they normally would. Thanks for putting it out there ladies, even if some of you sat behind me screaming and kicking the back of my seat. Even though I wanted to turn around and punch you in the face for nearly giving me a heart-attack and irritating me for four hours, I still love you. Mostly because you didn’t mind me bursting into gales of laughter at inappropriate moments and cat-calling at shirtless Taylor Lautner.
These Eclipse midnight-screening moments are the small and simple joys of the Twilight saga. For the boys and men who don’t get it and hate it tremendously…don’t worry. It’s not for you. But most everything else in Hollywood is. 😛