Thursday, July 1, 2010

Squalor: Eclipse

I'm not sure why it's so hard to make a good Twilight movie, since they seem to know how to make an awesome soundtrack. I'm going to pretend that it's a lazy thing and not an incompetence thing, because when people throw money at you, you don't take your material seriously, and you have a guaranteed hit, why try, right? I am essentially a Twilight defender, unlike some people who shall remain nameless *cough* Wilde.Dash *cough*. I promise you, the characters, basic story, and setting are pretty interesting, and when Stephenie Meyer works at it, she has something that borders on good and intriguing. Unfortunately, in between all that good, Meyer writes her characters into situations straight out of my feminist nightmares, leaves the majority of her characters hanging, and can't ever seem to figure out plot pacing by the end of her four part series. These are problems, that while mighty, could easily be fixed by a clever director who would tighten up the editing, give good characters their due, and cut and paste a few things. It's a great opportunity, that just doesn't seem that hard to pull off with an existing outline that both has the right idea, and gives you the freedom to do something legendary and cool.
David Slade's take on the third installment of the "saga" isn't all bad. Following in the steps of Director Chris Weitz's New Moon, Slade allows the characters to breathe and develop further, instantly bringing out some of the best parts of the books. The actors seem more relaxed and willing to slip into character, giving the film an almost lived-in feel that's a welcome change from the first installment in particular. Jasper (Jackson Rathbone), Alice (Ashley Greene), Rosalie (Nikki Reed), and the members of the wolf pack begin to feel like more than set pieces, the emotion and story more important than the action, Rosalie and Jasper's flashbacks as exciting to finally see on film as they are to read in the books. In the very least, fans of Twilight will be satisfied as their imaginations take over and fill in the gaps that the filmmakers (and Meyer herself) leave out. For the first time in the films, the vampires actually feel threatening and dangerous, another nice added bonus that makes the film feel more satisfying. And the sparkly vampire thing? Finally figured out on the third try.
But when it comes to construction, Slade's film takes a turn for the worse, leaving the tight editing and beautiful cinematography of New Moon behind. Weitz and cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe (who also did one of my favorite movies ever, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) actually created a creepy and beautiful atmosphere that made Forks come alive. But under the direction of Slade, Aquirresarobe loses the gorgeous imagery that was dotted throughout New Moon, making the film feel ordinary. But for once, a lack of good cinematography isn't the problem that bugs me the most.   

Eclipse is downright slow in the middle, not because nothing is happening, but because the editing and pacing are off. The heart of the Twilight saga is the love triangle between Jacob (Taylor Lautner), Edward (Robert Pattinson), and Bella (Kristen Stewart), the tension and excitement formed as Bella is forced to decide between the two. Of course, in the books, she makes it fairly clear that she's just using Jacob for his warm werewolf abs and his skill as a mechanic, but again, this was a chance for Slade to play up the decision, to make us feel the tension, to make us wonder, just who will Bella choose? Would I be team Edward or team Jacob? But instead, Slade focuses on Bella's non-decision to become a vampire, which she doubts for about two cliched seconds, once when hugging her mom, and during the graduation speech given by her friend Jessica (the lovely as always Anna Kendrick). This is simple stuff Slade, simple, text book love triangle stuff. It's not hard, and man are you lucky that Taylor Lautner looks like a good kisser, his washboard stomach about the only thing keeping the love triangle afloat.
The editing doesn't help the pacing with Jasper's flashback as one of the worst examples. The scene cuts to his time in the Civil War, and his meeting with his vampire maker. We get some nice, up close shots of him being turned into a vampire before it cuts to his now wife Alice giggling and hugging him as Bella watches. The scene appears to come to a natural progression and end, as a long, establishing shot of a river pops up on screen to start a new scene...but then Jasper's flashback appears to continue before melting into a nightmare of Bella's. This sort of sloppiness happens so often throughout the film, that it's hard not think that Slade and editors Art Jones and Nancy Richardson didn't bother to waste a few extra minutes fixing the little details. It's distracting and just unnecessary. I get it, it's a river in Jasper's flashback that sets the scene for Bella's dream, but when you're paid the big bucks, you should be able to figure out how to make it flow.

Why would you choose Edward? (SPOILER ALERT! BELLA CHOOSES EDWARD!) I wouldn't, I'd be all up on that werewolf in a second. I'm hoping Meyer releases another book in which we discover that Bella did it just for the immortality the whole time. But I suppose, as Bella discovers, we love who (and what) we love, and while some sparkly vamp devotee might like this tale the best, I expect a little courtship, some decent editing, and some white hot cinematography before I'll say it's love.

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