Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner

 

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse continues the fantasy of many a teenage girl of being loved by two rather hunky men (or in this case, a brooding vampire and an impetuous werewolf).  “Bella” (Kristen Stewart) is ready to graduate high school, and as a promise to the Volturi, she has agreed to become immortal with “Edward’s” (Robert Pattinson) assistance.  “Edward” is still reluctant to turn his fair maiden (an obvious reference to the loss of virginity), as he realizes once she becomes a vampire, she’ll never be the same! 

           

Back in I don’t have “Bella” but I’m her best friend land, “Jacob” (Taylor Lautner) is still pissed that he plays second fiddle to a bloodsucker, and if you rocked a six pack body and didn’t really need a shirt, wouldn’t you be a little verklempt??  “Edward” looks like he spends days listening to The Cure and The Smiths in a little dark corner of the world, while “Jacob” is probably at Gold’s Gym over in Venice pumping iron.  Shame on “Bella” for digging James Dean knockoff beanpoles!!

           

“Bella’s” dude situation must wait, however, as “Victoria” (Bryce Dallas Howard replacing Rachelle Lefevre) wants our sullen teenager dead, and she’s raising a new army of vampires to aid this bloody quest.  The Cullen family and Jacob’s wolfpack form an uneasy alliance to combat theses evildoers, and their inevitable battle occurs in the film’s third act.  The Cullens are wondering if the Volturi (led by Dakota Fanning who basically gets several minutes of screen time) are behind “Victoria’s” vengeful plan or if they even know about the impending war.  But with “Jacob” and “Edward” now trying to get along and watching over her in the process, “Bella” must really figure out if she wants to be imprinted by a werewolf or spend eternity yearning for blood.  Director David Slade, who helmed the first rate drama Hard Candy and the visually arresting Days of Night (and by visually arresting we don’t mean Josh Hartnett), gives Twilight’s  core audience exactly what they need (or would that be deserve?): a consistently shirtless Lautner, who gets to spoon with Stewart in the film, a dreamy eyed Pattinson lovingly gazing at our ingénue, and Stewart’s overwhelmed reaction (aka the same reaction she’s held since the first movie) that it’s pretty much raining men!

           

 

That’s not to say Eclipse throws in a few pleasant surprises.  Jackson Rathbone, a relative nonentity in the first two films save for his attempted attack on “Bella” in New Moon, woke this reviewer from near somnolence with his spirited performance as “Jasper Hale.”  “Jasper” was a newborn vampire himself, and his compelling origin story which follows his journey as a Confederate soldier brings a bit more depth to the proceedings.  Once haunted by his past thanks to the vampire that turned him, “Jasper” is now a happy cat with “Alice Cullen” (Ashley Greene), and he gives the werewolves a little fighting insight on how to property take down the newborns. 

           

Seeing Greene, Peter Facinelli, Billy Burke, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nikki Reed, and Xavier Samuel (as the newborn “Riley) give solid performances in Eclipse makes this reviewer wish Slade spent a bit more time with the supporting cast.  Love triangles should be fun, but Stewart’s “Bella” is a bit too whiny and morose for her own good, and Pattinson’s intense stares are getting just a tad tired.  Lautner, however, is a potential star in the making, as his confidence and moxie (gaining all that muscle to keep his part in New Moon was commendable) should put him on the right showbiz path once his Twilight days are over.

           

The battle, although not on the level of a John Woo film or say, the upcoming project Inception, is passable ; watching a group of werewolves crunch and munch their way through the newborns is far from boring.  Bryce Dallas Howard’s fated conflict with “Edward” and “Bella,” however, feels a bit clipped, as director David Slade is more interested in leaving the battlefield and taking us back to “Bella’s” hormonal feelings. 

           

Teenage love stories told passionately definitely have their place in the world, but “Edward” and “Bella” have many miles to go before they reach “Romeo” and “Juliet” status.  Stewart and Pattinson’s chemistry rides on the wings of Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling novels and tabloid gossip, and ironically the true spark lies between the heated exchanges of our heroine and Lautner.   One wonders director Bill Condon will bring much needed life to the two part finale, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn.  “Bella” should really count her blessings, she’s got two dreamboats who would kill for her, and she’s a few steps closer to living forever.  So why is Kristen Stewart acting like a zombie from a George Romero film???  Please, Ms. Stewart…once more, with feeling.