By this point in what is grandiosely termed The Twilight Saga, pretty much everyone knows where they stand on it: Either you are swept up in the romance between mopey vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) and even mopier human teenager Bella (Kristen Stewart), or you find the whole thing silly and tiresome. The third movie in the series, Eclipse, isn’t going to change anyone’s opinion, but it does work better as a film than the first two installments, and provides a wider scope for the story beyond the endless back-and-forths among Bella, Edward and Jacob (Taylor Lautner), Edward’s werewolf rival for Bella’s affections.
That repetitive romantic tangle is still the main selling point, though, and it’s still pretty much worthless. Bella remains a whiny cipher, and her choice is between two passive-aggressive jerks, who actually have a conversation about which one gets to keep her as she sleeps obliviously beside them. Lautner’s acting has improved to just about bearable, but his main draw remains his killer abs (“Doesn’t he own a shirt?” asks Edward in one of the movie’s feeble stabs at humor).
Unlike second installment New Moon, Eclipse at least tells a full story on its own, and it climaxes with an effective action sequence that carries real suspense. Vengeful vampire Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, replacing Rachelle Lefevre) is out for Bella’s blood, and Edward’s vampire “family” must form a truce with its ancient werewolf enemies to protect the helpless teen. Director David Slade was behind the genuinely menacing vampire movie 30 Days of Night, and although he’s mostly defanged here, he does make the showdown between Victoria’s army of blood-crazed “newborn” vamps and Bella’s protectors into something worthy of blockbuster entertainment and not teen TV soap opera.
But it takes more than 90 minutes to get to the suspense and action, which are clearly secondary to Bella’s old-fashioned romantic dilemma, once again used to forward the retrograde pro-abstinence message of Stephenie Meyer’s source novels. As long as these movies remain about three petulant whiners staring at each other to little effect, no rousing action sequences are going to save them from their torpor.