Friday 9 July 2010

Eclipse review

Eclipse (12A, 124 mins)
Director: David Slade
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Given that it’s been about 15 minutes since the last film in the Twilight series, New Moon, was released, you could be forgiven for not being feverish with anticipation for this third instalment in the vampire romance saga.

But the mammoth popularity of both Stephenie Meyer’s novels and the movie adaptations means we’re going round once again, something entirely understandable to the underserved target audience and baffling to non-believers, given the ponderous and singularly humourless nature of the films to this point.

Here’s the story so far: late-teen Bella (Kristen Stewart) has moved to the Pacific Northwest to live with her small town-sheriff father. It’s there she meets Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a vampire, and much overwrought brooding later, the pair are in love.

New Moon added Bella’s growing feelings for her friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) who turns out to be a wolf in teen clothing, at least on the rare occasion he does actually get round to putting a shirt on. Bella worries about growing old and dying while Edward never ages, and she wants Edward to turn her into a vampire like him.

This made for movies that were interesting enough but held back by their stiflingly po-faced tone and anodyne leads. The main concern is that we’ve so far spent seven hours being fed what is surely just a one-film story padded out beyond endurance by Olympic-standard levels of moping.

But this seems finally to be paying off in the Bella/Edward/Jacob triangle, which though not immune to several bouts of petulance, at least provides a certain spark this time around. There’s also the preparations for the war that is brewing thanks to bad vampire Victoria, who has been creating an army of newborn vampires and is coming for Bella.

That allows Eclipse to lay off the sullenness for a while and concentrate on the uneasy truce between the vampires and the wolves, who have put aside their mutual distrust in order to protect Bella. This makes for a much needed deepening of the mythology and enables some of the other Cullens to exhibit a bit of personality.

It also heralds the welcome injection of small doses of humour that go a long way towards making this a good deal more tolerable than the first pair, although thematically it never really explores in any meaningful way the consequences, the loss of humanity, in Bella’s desire to become un-dead like Edward.

Variable special effects come into play for the big fight, which manages to be genuinely impressive and exciting in places. But what should have been a rousing action climax is unfortunately no such thing, and instead Eclipse dribbles on for another couple of reels, revisiting already well-trodden ground and leaving us in pretty much the same place we were at the end of the second film.

And so the Twi-hards will count the days until Breaking Dawn (Part 1 no less), leaving the rest of us to wonder, with three down and one and a half to go, is there a point in sight?

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