Monday, July 5, 2010
MORE OF THE SAME: ECLIPSE REVIEW
TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE (C+)
For the second straight Twilight film I have attended the midnight screening of the movie. I am not a Twilight fan or a reader of the books, so my knowledge on the subject is quite minimal. I do however, enjoy the midnight showings because it helps me gauge the audience's (experts obviously) reaction to the rushed movies this franchise pushes out. Eclipse marks the third movie in three years, and a rushed feeling can be sensed from the low overall quality these movies seem to reek of. While the cinematic versions are not near the caliber of the books I have heard (a very good thing by my account), this movie was the best of the three. Even with that considered, it still is not good quality cinema.
I do not find it necessary to jump into plot details because either you want to see this movie and already know what is going on, or you don't care and just want someone to tell you Eclipse is just another chapter to the sappy love story. For the most part, the narrative is again dominated by the love triangle. Either way, talking about the plot is a miss here. You are going to see it, or you aren't.
Eclipse was a difficult film for me to judge. I don't have a team (though I am sure if I had to choose, it would be Team Jacob), I do not adore any of these characters, and I have no strong sense of what is going on in the series from my lack of book knowledge. My perception is completely movie based, and that does not give me a real good chance to offer insight into a series I do not fully understand. The trio of movies have been rushed to capitalize and maximize profit from the three pretty faces (Pattinson, Lautner, Stewart) with the short attention span that is the American public. Think we would forget this series if Summit Entertainment spent some quality time developing this story and script to really work? I guarantee that answer is no. Most aren't that dumb.
I, of course am a huge Harry Potter fan and have read each book multiple times. The Potter movies, while always a slight disappointment to me because of my devotion to the books, actually stand alone from the literature as some pretty damn good movies. Some are better than others, but all have been crafted with more than a sense of "let's get these movies finished!" I grieve for fans of the Twilight series because the filmmakers want nothing more than to please the studio heads and quickly complete one project after another.
The first thing presented in Eclipse is a look into the world of the evil side of vampires. The dark scene features a young man being attacked at such a high speed we cannot catch a glimpse of the attacker. This scene is so poorly defined, especially for someone without Twilight knowledge, I thought, "Who is that guy, and what is going on here?" I wasn't scared or sympathetic towards this man being assaulted because I don't know who he is, or what is lurking in the darkness.
The opening scene is dialogue free, and devoid of purpose until much later we are presented with "people are disappearing all over the area." The threat again comes from a menacing vampire Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) who wants to kill Bella. The danger for Bella is presented, but never stressed or really felt by myself. The mission of destruction from Victoria is never reiterated or made pertinent in the story except with that misplaced opening scene, and others like it. Her presence is shown later in the story, but she is mostly behind the scenes throughout the movie. Her threat is looming, but it is often forgotten when the love portions dig in (pretty much the whole movie).
The acting in Eclipse was once again horrible by most respects, but not as bad as the previous two films (not saying much). The only actor I have really thought nailed his role in the series was Peter Facinelli who plays Dr. Carlisle Cullen, a very small (but important) role. Did you all know he plays the jock Mike in Can't Hardly Wait? It has been awhile since those days in 1998. The best actor in Eclipse, Anna Kendrick, was unfortunately shown for less than two minutes the whole film.
Even the performance from Dakota Fanning was laughable as she played Jane, a member of the threatening vampire hierarchy Volturi. Much worse than that was the tool standing next to her, Cameron Bright (Ultraviolet, X-Men 3), flatly delivering lines and destroying any credibility or fear created by these vampire elites. The Twilight casting director had to of seen the two movies I just mentioned above that Bright is absolutely a joke in. He is definitely one of the worst child actors I have ever seen, and here he is, failing more.
On top the rant above, the acting from the big three (not the Celtics trio) was just as bad as usual. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson have officially type cast themselves for the rest of their careers as the characters Bella and Edward. Neither has any real acting chops anyway, but they will never be able to break out of the molds this series has given them. For the third straight movie, the connection or even chemistry between Bella and Edward is just not there. I don't feel the infatuation, the lust, or the desire between this couple. I can hear the sappy dialogue and can see these two try to act it out, but the feeling is just not there. If anything, I can feel more connection between Stewart and Taylor Lautner. (I still think Bella will chose Jacob in the end...fingers crossed!)
For the second consecutive movie, Lautner takes the cake for worst acting performance in the movie, and possibly the year. (Wait, have you seen The Last Airbender? The boy who plays Aang, now that kid is terrible!) It is hard for me to buy into a character driven story like Eclipse when I don't feel the characters meshing or sense the narrative is carried by the actors portraying these characters. Ok, I lied; the narrative is being driven by these three main actors, but think the old lady barely looking over the steering wheel traveling fifteen miles under the speed limit sort of drive.
Overall, this movie, like New Moon, had so much potential to be a success but suffers from the necessity of the studio to push these films out so quickly. I really enjoy many of the ideas from the story. The vampires, the werewolves, the Volturi, the setting, and the love triangle are all such magnetic concepts for audience to buy into. That is why the books have had so much success. I think the greatest asset to this franchise is the love a werewolf and a vampire share for a human, and their fight to win her heart. This asset is constantly presented, but still has not found its way into my emotions. The poor and speedy execution of these ideas by the filmmakers is what makes these movies mediocre.
The actors are given a chance to act, but the audience is made to guess what characters are thinking when shown unsatisfying close ups of forced expressions from the mostly talentless cast. Essentially, this movie is dragged down by the speed at which it was produced coupled with the lack of skill flowing from the production team (did I mention the bad acting?). Just like New Moon, the best part of Eclipse was the soundtrack (not good). I would say this was my favorite movie from the series, but is not much better than New Moon. These movies never deliver like I am sure the books do. Sadly, I have to say that this movie is actually better than The Last Airbender. (WTF!?) Even if you aren't a Twi-nerd, I could see a movie fan enjoying Eclipse.
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