I feel almost like I should grade “Eclipse”, the third in the “Twilight” series, on a curve.

While viewing the movie, I was reminded of my thoughts regarding books the series is based off of. I read the first one. I didn’t particularly like it, and I didn’t have the urge to read more. But all in all I found the novel thoroughly inoffensive. Good to see young girls (and their mothers) reading anything, I thought. It’s not progressive in its views or even terribly well-written, but why should boys get all the fanboy fun? Bring on the hot vampire action!

Directed by: David Slade
Written by: Melissa Rosenberg (screenplay)
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner
Rated: PG-13
Seen at: Regal Fenway Cinemas

I feel the same about “Eclipse.” The third installment of the vampire sensation that’s sweeping the nation is a fun diversion, and even sometimes enjoyable for the non-Twi-hard viewer. It’s got humor, a healthy dose of self-awareness and a surprising poignancy.

The story takes place during the last few months of heroine Bella’s (Kristen Stewart) time at Forks High School. She’s already made her icy soulless beloved Edward (Robert Pattinson) promise to change her into a vampire once she’s graduated, something he’s endlessly trying to persuade her not to do. Jacob (Taylor Lautner), her Native American/Werewolf friend is trying to convince her that she belongs with him and his pectoral muscles. Meanwhile, the vamp Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) is busy raising an army of bloodsuckers in Seattle to make war on the Cullens, with the ambivalent aid of the Volturi (or, as I like to think of them, the Vampire Vatican.)

One of my colleagues made the comment that this might be the Twilight episode that boyfriends of Twi-hards might be able to enjoy, or at least tolerate. I’m not totally sure I agree, but the action sequences are riveting, with expert use of hand held cinematography and smooth CGI. I could have used more time dedicated to the climactic fight- you couldn’t shave off a few minutes of Edward and Bella discussing yet again how dangerous it is to become a vampire?

Writer Melissa Rosenberg, God bless her, does her very best with translating Stephenie Meyer’s eggplant purple prose onto the screen, and managed to inject some much-needed humor into the mix, much of it extremely self-aware. “Don’t you own any shirts?” growls Edward at the perennially half-naked Jacob. For the most part, though the dialogue is pretty painful, with Pattinson repeating “I won’t let anything happen to you, Bella.” or “It’s too dangerous, I can’t let anything happen to you, Bella.” or “Bella’s in danger?!” over and over with varying degrees of urgency.

Pattinson, Lautner and Stewart don’t seem to act so much as pose their way through the film provocatively (and in Lautner’s case, shirtlessly). Their performances are less wooden than in “Twilight” and “New Moon,” but I still found myself cringing through a lot of their exchanges. Stewart especially seems incapable of letting any emotion cross her face, assuming that “determined” means she can never crack a smile or display any signs of personality.

There were some profoundly touching moments, however. The scene where Edward tells Bella that he wants to wait to have sex until marriage was incredibly sweet. “I’m from another time,” he says. “If I had met you then, I would have courted you.” Also lovely was a scene where Jacob gets into bed with Bella to keep her warm during a snow storm, while a jealous and resigned Edward watches. I’m an active member of Team Jacob, but dammit if Pattinson didn’t make me feel for Edward’s tortured sparkly soul.

As a feminist, I suppose I’m obligated to comment on the “message” of the movie. But I’m not going to, save for one comment: one of my favorite things about these silly films is that contrary to most mainstream movies the eye candy is decidedly not female. In “Eclipse” Bella’s almost always dressed in sweatshirts, flannel and jeans, her hair hanging in her face. The boys on the other hand are so very pretty, with their chiseled abs, brooding eyebrows and sparkly faces. In a world where the term “male gaze” is shoved down the throats of film students on their first day, the “Twilight” movies are attempting something that might actually be perceived as radical: they make the men the sex object.

So what the hell — it’s not great cinema, just like the books aren’t great literature, but it’s fun, and relatively satisfying. It’s the summer! Let’s crank up the Twi-mania to 11! And those werewolves look awfully uncomfortable in their shirts…

About The Author

Emma Johnson is a Blast Magazine critic whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe

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