Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) have been reunited, but their forbidden relationship is threatened to be torn apart again with an evil vampire still seeking her revenge. And Bella is forced to choose between her true love for Edward or her friendship with Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) as the struggles between vampires and werewolves continues. But there is still another choice for Bella to make, mortality or immortality?

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2 Jul 2010 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 2 Jul 2010 - 12:00 AM

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Strictly for Twi-hards.

The morose musings of Fork’s sullen supernatural teenagers continues unchecked in Eclipse, the third big-screen outing for Bella Swan, the Cullen clan of vampires and Jacob the shapeshifter. The navel-gazing, brow-furrowing introspection of the lead characters that has fuelled both the rabid fans and mocking detractors of author Stephanie Meyer’s publishing phenomenon is captured all-too-well in director David Slade’s stylish but soporific film. Twi-hards, you’ll love it; if you aren’t sucked in by now, you probably haven’t read this far anyway.

Slade, who created one of the great, hard-bitten teen heroines in Hayley Stark, played by Ellen Page, in 2005’s Hard Candy, seemed a logical choice to direct this film, a crucial episode in the development of the franchise. This was to be the film in which Bella acts upon her passion for vampire love Edward (an insipid Robert Pattison) and draws together the feuding vampire and wolf-spirit factions to fight the rising army of 'newborn’ vampires, lead by Riley Biers (local-lad-made-good Xavier Samuels).

But neither Slade nor his leading lady, the surly starlet Kristen Stewart, can muster anything other than a whimper from Bella. She is, at first, a petulant teenager who seems to draw some naive, almost smug satisfaction from the friction she causes between Edward and Native American wolf-stud Jacob (the eternally-shirtless Taylor Lautner); by the end of the second act, she is reduced to being the helpless damsel-in-distress.

The meagre plot continues to play out the tensions established in episodes one and two – Bella’s romance with Edward; Jacob’s longing for Bella; and Bella’s impending shift from human to undead, to be with Edward and appease the ruling vampire body, the Volturi. Along for the ride is the vengeful Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard), determined to kill Bella and all who stand in her way to appease the death of her brother, and evil Volturi representative Jane (a pretty cool Dakota Fanning), dispatched from the group’s Italian HQ to oversee the slaughter of the Newborn army.

The Twilight series is an oddly constructed enigma. Despite drawing its inspiration from the fiery, tempestuous passion that ignites a teenager’s first love, the characters spend a great deal of their time engaged in whispered embraces, seemingly oblivious to the sexual tension that exists between them (and the key demographic, if the audience reaction to every backlit caress is anything to go by). For Bella, Jacob and Edward, every discourse plays out with the importance of a Shakespearean tragedy; the deepest emotions and most profound inner thoughts are always right on the tip of their tongues, but rarely does anyone act upon their desires. 124 minutes of listening to teenagers melodramatically espouse the depth of their convoluted passions for each other makes for a pretty dire trip to the movies.

Slade gets some things right that Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) and Chris Weitz (The Twilight Saga: New Moon) failed to do. There are a couple of well-staged action sequences and the laughably bad CGI wolves from the last film have been updated and improved. And support characters, such as Ashley Greene’s all-seeing vampire Alice and Billy Burke as Bella’s police chief father Charlie (who shares the film’s best scene with Stewart in an awkward father/daughter facts-of-life moment), breathe life into a film sorely in a need of a pulse. Flashback sequences that detail the pre-vampire lives of Cullen clan members Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) and Rosalie (Nikki Reed) are well-staged and may pay off in future episodes, but seem perfunctory.

Ultimately, in this day and age, a film that romanticises a teenage girl lead character who wants to die to be with her true love sits a little uncomfortably. Bella is a troubled teen, and the psychology of the film plays into the angst that age group struggles with daily; counting down to a graduation day when you cross over into the living dead, as the film does, exploits the dark fantasies one experiences as a teen. It’s proved profitable, but that doesn’t make it right. Nor does it make for a good movie.

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Details

In Cinemas 01 July 2010,
Wed, 12/01/2010 - 11

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