The third film has David Slade of 30 Days of Night for a director and a new vampire villainess, Bryce Dallas Howard taking over the role of Victoria, the arch-enemy of the benevolent Cullen clan. The rest of the cast remains the same, while the famous triangle of Bella Swan, Edward Cullen and Jacob Black grows more sharp-edged. The young men and their respective clans, Edward's vampires and Jacob's shapeshifters, must quiet their rivalry to defend Bella from attack by an army of newborn bloodsuckers raised by the vengeful Victoria. Newborns, we learn, are actually more powerful (by virtue of retained human blood) than more experienced vampires, and must be handled with extreme care if you're to kill them. Hovering over the entire scene are the imperious Volturii, who offer Victoria no aid but would be happy to see her exterminate the annoying Cullens before they renege on their promise to turn the promising Bella, as Miss Swan herself desires but Edward would rather not do.
Anita Blake, there'd be no issue whatsoever; she'd take both hunks to bed, maybe at the same time. At that point I realized that, instead of occupying an opposite extreme from traditional monster cinema, Twilight actually sits uneasily (in the eyes of many) in a middle ground between tradition and transgression. In the old days, one presumes, this sort of triangle would have been resolved by Edward and Jacob destroying each other so Bella could go on to live a proper life. The Anita Blake option, the complete embrace of transgression in all its polymorphous perversity, is the opposite extreme.
Wendigo reminds me of the common reading in which Edward embodies an old (though not to him) ideal of chastity. In past comments he's compared Twilight to fairy tales in which marriage is the gateway to happily ever after, while Anita Blake comes out of a different kind of romantic tradition in which sex itself is the consummation. Edward's embodiment of traditional values is what makes him difficult for monster-movie fans to comprehend or perhaps even like. He's a vampire, but not a monster. Wendigo has read the Anita Blake books and assures me that her boy-toys are monsters through and through, though some are reasonably noble. The idea of a monster doesn't preclude the idea of a noble monster; many such creatures are beloved by horror fans. But monsters by definition have an aura of danger, threat, even tragedy that simply doesn't exist for Edward Cullen, for all he talks about how dangerous his love might be. Monsters can struggle for self-control and win our sympathies by failing in their struggle and regretting their failure. By that standard, Edward isn't just something other than a monster, but someone too good to be "true" for many horror fans.
In the Twilight saga evil is a matter of choice rather than identity. In Eclipse, the noble Cullens (above) face off against the feral newborns (below).
Twilight's werewolves can also choose their enemies. In Eclipse, they warily side with the Cullens (above) against the newborns (below) for Bella's sake.
While reading the novels, Wendigo leaned toward "Team Jacob" because even he got tired of Edward's self-pity in print. But after reading Breaking Dawn he switched to "Team Edward" for reasons he can't divulge without spoiling the films yet to come. He still likes Jacob better as a character, but felt that, in the end, Edward was the "right" one for Bella. Wendigo still likes to insist, however, that he belongs to "Team Bella," since Twilight is her story, and he'll stand by the character's ultimate preference.
So much for setting the stage. I agree with Wendigo that Eclipse is a big improvement on New Moon. The direction and the acting is more relaxed; all three lead actors are more casual and personable than last time, and Pattinson is the best he's been in the series so far. Slade makes more of the spectacular locations and the story seems better paced. Where New Moon seemed impersonal, perhaps because it was rushed into production, Eclipse, though just as rushed, has more style and personality. Slade has advanced as a director from 30 Days of Night, but he has more material to work with and plays more to his original material's strengths here than he did when adapting the graphic novel. One flashback scene (the film has three) is imported from another novel, and some of the mechanics of supernatural combat are altered (in the novels, you can only dismember a vampire with your teeth), but the movie is reasonably faithful to the book.
Flashback-a-rama: From the top, the "Cold Woman" battles ancient Indians; Rosalie Cullen remembers a fatal wedding; Civil-War Jasper is beguiled by a vampiress.
Bree Tanner, who became the heroine of her own novella last year, is a somewhat more prominent figure in the film than in the book, but that's no cause for complaint. Victoria's new boy-toy Riley, her puppet-leader of the newborn army, is built up more here than in the novel, but that's only to the story's benefit. The battle scenes with Cullens, werewolves and newborns are violent without being gory, thus keeping the movie safely PG-13, since under Meyer's rules vampires break rather than bleed.
There's one book and two films to go as Summit Entertainment goes the cynical Harry Potter route to maximize revenue from its tentpole series. Breaking Dawn Part I comes out next November, followed by the conclusion a year later, with Bill Condon directing both installments. Wendigo wonders whether the final novel can be split in a way that doesn't leave the first film empty or the second film nothing but a big fight scene. He also doubts whether Summit will sacrifice the all-important PG-13 to do justice to the novel's more explicit sexuality, violence and childbirth. To date, the film series, in Wendigo's opinion, has been more good than bad, stumbling in the second round like the Potter series did but back on solid ground by the third episode. He'll have to be more patient than most folks waiting for the final films, but for now he's still looking forward to them.