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The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

by on July 1, 2010
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God help me, but I actually enjoyed a “Twilight” flick.

No, the mashup of teen romance and vampire mythology ain’t Shakespeare, and it doesn’t pretend to be. Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg does a fairly decent job of translating the uber-popular novel by Stephanie Meyer about a glum girl and the immortal blood-sucker who loves her … and the shirt-resistant teen werewolf who also loves her.

But even the Bard himself couldn’t do much with dialogue like this: “Your alibi for the battle is all arranged!”

For the third installment, new director David Slade is brought in to replace Chris Weitz (who in turn took over for Catherine Hardwicke), and he brings a welcome harder edge to the material. He previously made “30 Days of Night,” a truly hardcore vampire flick, and while the noferatu-vs.-lycanthrope action stays safely within PG-13 bounds, “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” at least can boast more visceral thrills than the first two movies combined.

And Team Edward gets to do battle with Team Jacob as well. Whenever the movie isn’t concerned with the impending arrival of an army of newly-made vampires, all the attention is focused on Edward (Robert Pattinson) trying to prevent his human lady love, Bella (Kristen Stewart), from falling into the occasionally hirsute arms of Jacob (Taylor Lautner).

For those who haven’t been following the score: Bella is in love with Edward, one of the Cullens, a coven of “vegetarian” vampires who only feast on animals in the area around the soggy town of Forks. After successfully fending off multiple attempts on Bella’s life by a rogue vampire, all is more or less well.

Bella wants to have sex, but Edward doesn’t because his vampire super-strength might kill her in the midst of their, uh, labors. Also he’s an old-fashioned dude — literally, since he’s about a century old — and demands marriage before coupling. (This, incidentally, is enough to tell you that Edward is the figment of a female imagination and a horde of adolescents lapping it up.)

Edward agrees to turn Bella into a vampire, but only after they’re married. This doesn’t sit well with Jacob, who loves Bella himself and is a leader of the local American Indian tribe, who can turn into wolves. The tribe and the Cullens honor an uneasy truce, which the squabbling over Bella threatens to overturn.

Trouble threatens with rumors of mass disappearances to the north in Seattle. The Cullens believe someone is building an army of “newborn” vampires, and suspect Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard), the mate of the foe they defeated in the last movie.

There’s also the Vulturi, vampire royalty who lurk about the edges of the conflict.

But really, the main dynamic is the love triangle, and for once it seemed to have a little substance beyond a whole lot of Edward and Jacob strutting and threatening.

There’s even room for a little humor, as when Edward and Bella meet with Jacob to discuss an alliance, and Jacob typically shows up bare-chested to show off Lautner’s recently-acquired muscles. “Does he have a shirt?” Edward asks.

And who can resist the entendre when Bella is freezing to death, and Jacob offers to heat her up with his body — something the undead Edward cannot. “Let’s face it,” Jacob insists. “I am hotter than you.”

I also liked that some of the other Cullens, Rosalie and Jasper, are given a chance to show a little of their backstory and deepen as characters. Both stories are surprisingly dark and dreary.

Could it possibly be that, after three go-rounds, the “Twilight” movies are actually growing up a little?

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