By Kim Voynar

Voynaristic Review, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Directed by David Slade

Team Edward! Team Jacob! The handsome (albeit a bit pasty), sparkling, overprotective vampire who will live forever, or the handsome (albeit a bit hairy), hot, overprotective guy who turns into a giant wolf — however is a girl to choose?

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Nikki Reed, Ashley Green, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Peter Facinelli, Elisabeth Reaser, Bryce Dallas Howard, Dakota Fanning Release date: June 30, 2010

In The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, the third installment of the Twilight series (now on its third director, David Slade, having already gone through Catherine Hardwicke for Twilight and Chris Weitz for New Moon), we continue the story of the series’ heroine, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), who’s still torn between Edward the hot-but-undead vamp (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner), her hot, shapeshifting BFF who turns into a wolf, especially when those nasty vampires are around.

In between bartering teenaged marriage for a life as an undead, but eternally sexy, vampire with Edward or a shorter, but relatively more normal life with Jacob (other options, such as being an independent chick and, say, traveling the world or just going off to explore the wider world of potential mates, are apparently not on the table), Bella is, once again, in danger of being killed. This time she’s pursued by Victoria-the-evil-vamp (Bryce Dallas Howard, replacing Rachelle Lefevre, who played Victoria in the previous installments) and her army of vicious newborn vamps, led by the studly Riley (Xavier Samuel).

This time around, we get the backgrounds of some of the other Cullens, Edward’s makeshift family of the undead headed up by good guy Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) and his wife Esme (Elisabeth Reaser).The stunningly beautiful Rosalie (Nikki Reed), we learn, was brutually raped and left for dead before Carlisle found and “saved” her, while the unpredicitable Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) was a young Confederate major during the Civil War when he was turned by Maria, a wickedly cruel temptress who wanted to create an army of newborn vamps so she could take over more vampire turf (the vamps, I guess, had their own version of civil war going on around the same time).

Jasper’s background as a trainer of newborn army vamps (brats?) is fortuitous, because the good Cullens, forced to form an alliance with their enemies, the Quileutes (that would be Jacob’s people), need to learn how to fight an army of newborns before Riley and Co. take a break from slaughtering innocents in Seattle long enough to trek up to Forks to kill Bella. Jasper is just the guy to show them the ropes.

See, time is of the essence here, because the Cullens need to take care of the badass newborn army before the Volturri (the self-appointed enforcers of the Vampire Rules) show up to take care of the problem and find out that Bella hasn’t been turned into a vampire yet. Because then the Volturri might just take Bella out themselves, which would totally mess up the Bella-Edward-Jacob love triangle. Is it any wonder Rosalie gets a bit petulant about having to protect Bella yet again? She’s the only one in the film who apparently does, but I’m kind of with her on this.

The question is, how well does Slade pull all these pieces together? The answer is: the third installment is an improvement over the first two, but unlikely to bowl over anyone not already a fan of the series. In fact, I expect that if you aren’t really into the love triangle of Bella, Edward and Jacob, you’re likely to grow very impatient with Bella’s inability to make a decision, already, and start thinking to yourself, as I did, that perhaps the trio should just skip all the drama and investigate the possibilities of polyamory.

Slade, who directed Hard Candy, knows how to pull off edgy, and he has toned down the sap factor as much as possible, given the source material, and made a darker, more mature film here. It’s been awhile since I read the Twilight books, so I can’t say with absolute certainty that this is the case, but it seemed to me that the other thing that’s been considerably toned down here is Bella’s wimp factor when it comes to Edward’s borderline-stalker overprotectiveness.

Not that Edward doesn’t have good reason to feel protective of Bella, given that she tends to hang out with guys who morph into giant wolves and is forever running afoul of various bad vampires and generally trying to get herself killed before Edward can make her undead himself. In the first two films, though, Edward’s protectiveness had more of an oppressive quality of near-psychological abuse to it, whereas here, Bella is more feisty and independent, heck, even a bit mouthy from time to time. The incessant mooning between Bella and Edward (“I love you more!” “No, I love YOU more!”) is a bit less over-the-top as well.

Edward still sparkles in sunlight, but the special effects that make that happen (and Slade could hardly be expected to just make the sparkles go away, given the plentiful sparking in the first two films) are less obtrusive here. And either the white-white makeup for all the vamps looks less obvious (Edward’s guy-liner notwithstanding) or I’ve just gotten used to it.

The bad vamps — both Victoria’s newborn army and the Volturri — are menacing (I wouldn’t want to run into Dakota Fanning’s Jane in a dark alley) and Slade keeps the tone and tension cranked up for most of the film. The two-hour running time pretty much sped by for me here, whereas with the previous two films my interest was starting to wane by about the 2/3 mark. Some of the physics are maybe questionable (Vampires shatter? And instantly catch on fire like a grill full of Kingsford when you toss a lighter on them?), but hey, this is a fantasy film, so I guess they’re allowed a little free license with stuff like that.

There are some less fantasy-infused moments that made me go “huh?” though — for instance, when Bella is freezing and shivering in a tent in a snowstorm one night, but the next morning is crunching around in the snow with Edward and Jacob without a coat or hat on. And Bella’s mom (and her dad, for that matter) not pushing their daughter harder about the obsessive nature of Bella and Edward’s relationship. But hey, maybe they just doesn’t want to be a hover-parents.

One of the more interesting characters this time around is Bree (Jodelle Ferland, quite good in a role with minimal lines), one of the newborn vamps who is the subject of Twilight author Stephenie Meyer’s new novella, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. Young Bree is a reluctant, scared recruit to Victoria’s newborn army, and Slade focuses on her just enough to make us curious about her without giving us quite enough of her story. In all fairness, though, her story wasn’t really a part of Eclipse, from which this film is adapted, so perhaps he was limited rights-wise with how much he could do with her.

Kristen Stewart is once again quite good as Bella; there’s an earnestness about her as an actress that makes us believe in the character, even when we might think she’s making stupid choices. Robert Pattinson seems to be in a better groove here as Edward, delivering Edward’s sometimes goofy dialogue less awkwardly than in the earlier films, and Taylor Lautner (shirtless and muscle-bound the entire time, which should thrill Team Jacob fans) has actually grown quite a lot as an actor through the three films. He’s quite good here, and I’m curious to see what he does with his post-Twilight career.

The rest of the Cullens are generally fine as well; Nikki Reed gets more to do and gives us a glimpse of what made her shine in Hardwicke’s Thirteen, and Jackson Rathbone, finally given a chance to speak and not just stand around glowering a lot, is at least more interesting, though he still feels very awkward to me on screen, and the Southern drawl he effects in the second act seems to come out of nowhere. Sure, he’s from the South, but that was about 150 years ago, right? I lost most of my Oklahoma accent within a year of moving north.

Ashley Greene as Alice and Kellan Lutz as Emmett are fine, though they aren’t given a great deal to do here outside the fight scenes.

Billy Burke is wry and funny, when he is on-screen, as Bella’s Edward-hating dad Charlie, and Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick gamely plays along as Jessica, Bella’s perky friend (although, for the most part, Slade — and Bella — seem to be ignoring her school chums, which is kind of odd given that Bella’s deliberately waiting until post-graduation to go vamp so as to have time to say goodbye to her old friends and her old life before heading off into the eternal sunset with her vampire love.

The cinematography here is less doomy-gloomy than in the previous two installments — interesting in that the color scheme was rather important in setting the mood in those films (especially the first), whereas Slade is trying to rely more on story and character to do that job.

Generally speaking, Slade does a decent enough job of blending the fantasy, action and romance of his source material here, although all the characters are hindered by a great deal of clumsy, contrived, even silly dialogue (much of it, I believe, was culled directly from the book, though, so it’s hard to fault scripter Melissa Rosenberg for anything but staying too close to the source, which she was probably ordered to do; she’s written much better dialogue for Dexter).

Overall, it’s hard to imagine that Eclipse will turn anyone who wasn’t already a fan of the series into an unabashed Twihard, but those who still love the books and the characters after the first two films should find it a mostly satisfying third chapter that will leave them salivating for the grand finale of Breaking Dawn (slated to be an epic two-part conclusion, ala the final Harry Potter films … all the better to double the take at the box office, my dears).

I can’t help but think, though, that Slade would have been a fine choice to close out the series with the Breaking Dawn films as well; Breaking Dawn is a dark, disturbing book that could use the sense and sensibility Slade brought to Hard Candy, and I’m not sure that Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Gods and Monsters) will have quite the same touch.

Time will tell on that one, though; for now, Twilight fans should find plenty to tide them over with Eclipse.

– by Kim Voynar

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon