The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
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Romantic love is a paradox, a mixture of joy and pain, gift and curse. Finding a mate is one of the most important decisions we make, yet falling in love shreds our intellectual sobriety, turning us into a mass of poet-quoting, passion-addled reflexes. It's hard to think clearly when we first fall in love—a time when a little clear thinking would seem most beneficial.
Bella is in love. We all know this by now. She has a thing for brooding Edward Cullen, a vampire who shimmers in the sun. "He moves, you move," her mother tells her. "Like magnets." She thirsts for him like water, craves him like Turkish delight. She spends every minute she can with him and would sacrifice everything she knows to be with him forever—her friends, her family, her very life.
And because Edward is a vampire and all, it looks as if she'll have to make just such a sacrifice.
Nearly everyone thinks Bella is making the wrong choice—even Edward. He knows better than she does what she'll be giving up. He pleads with her to turn from this path, begs her to find a more reasonable course for her life. To change Bella into a vampire, Edward tells her, "just for the sake of never having to lose you, that's the most selfish thing I'll ever do."
But Jacob, Bella's shape-shifting werewolf friend and Edward's rival for her affections, believes he's her ideal mate. He, after all, lives and breathes. To be with him would mean giving up immortality but keeping her friends, her family and possibly her soul. "I'm going to fight for you until your heart stops beating," he tells her.
Meanwhile, an army of newly minted vampires is gathering strength in Seattle, hoping to put the kibosh on Bella's decision-making … permanently.
Some might scoff at the idea of conscientious vampires and werewolves, but The Twilight Saga is filled with well-meaning creatures of the night.
Edward loves Bella just as deeply as she does him. But his is a more mature, selfless love. He's positively chivalrous when it comes to courtship, always looking out for Bella's wellbeing and insisting that the two of them not sleep together unless and until she marries him. In this respect, Edward is a study in abstention. He's also willing to let Bella go, if she so chooses.
And speaking of choice, the film repeatedly emphasizes how important our choices are. Specifically, Jacob challenges Bella to grapple with the reality that our choices have consequences.
Jacob, long one of Bella's closest friends, struggles mightily with his feelings for her, even crossing a big line when he kisses her without her permission. Apart from that self-serving mistake, though, he understands that it's Bella's choice to make, and he's still willing to risk his life for her safety—even if it means teaming up with those dastardly Cullen vampires to protect her.
A number of other ancillary vampires and werewolves strive to protect Bella too. Likewise, her parents try to care for her as best they can, albeit in their own, rather ineffective ways.
For a film loaded with vampires, werewolves, telepathy and superhuman strength, overt spirituality in Eclipse is limited to a couple of scenes. Bella is the first outsider ever to sit in on a council meeting involving Jacob's Quieute tribe (most of whom are, or will become, werewolves). The clan's leader mentions magic and an ancestor who was a "great spirit warrior." Alice Cullen continues to have visions in which she gets glimpses of enemy activities. And Edward still frets that his eternal soul may be lost, though the subject is rarely discussed. (It's a subject explored with more intensity in the books and the previous two movies.)
"Doesn't he own a shirt?" Edward asks Bella, referring to Jacob after they see him loitering near his motorcycle while flexing his pecs. Truth is, Jacob does own a shirt. He just doesn't wear it much. One of Jacob's shirtless scenes even takes place in a driving snowstorm. And he's not the only one with this proclivity: Jacob's hot-blooded werewolf packmates also shun shirts much of the time.
If Edward represents a purer, more idealized form of love in Eclipse, then Jacob personifies a more animalistic passion. "Let's face it," Jacob tells Edward as he snuggles next to Bella (again shirtless) in order to keep her from freezing to death, "I am hotter than you." He jokingly suggests that she take off her clothes (so she can warm up faster) and forces a kiss on her—for which he receives a punch in the face. Bella later asks him to kiss her, and he does.
The drawn-out lip-lock that follows leaves Bella momentarily conflicted. But Edward ultimately remains Bella's main squeeze. The two smooch often and, once, engage in some foreplay—complete with the beginning of clothes removal—before Edward puts a stop to it (much to Bella's chagrin).
That's because Edward wants to get married before they have sex, something Bella's not much concerned about. "She wants sex," Eclipse screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg told the Techland blog. "She is absolutely clear about that. … When he says, 'I don't want to have sex until we're married'—and he is trying to protect her virtue—but she's like, 'You're a … dinosaur!'"
Bella's father, meanwhile, believes she's already having sex, and he awkwardly tells her to "take precautions" before Bella informs him that she's a virgin. "I'm liking Edward a little bit more now," he mumbles.
Other couples in the film kiss, too. But the most egregious sexual content is a suggested gang rape. We don't see all of it, but we are asked to watch one of the woman's assailants begin to manhandle her and force a kiss on her. We later hear that they left her in the street for dead.
The main point of action in Eclipse is a mini-war between the Cullens and an army of "newblood" vampires. We see this vampire army in Seattle in the throes of hunger pangs, feeding on practically anything that moves. (Those deaths are blamed on gangs or a particularly horrible serial killer.) Later, when they battle the Cullens, several are killed, and we witness heads and other body parts being cut off and smashed like ceramic vases. The decapitation of one villain (we see her head separated from her body) is particularly intense. Similarly disturbing is the implied death of a young girl shortly after she becomes a vampire. (Broken necks via twisted heads seems to be the preferred method of vampire dispatchment.)
Gigantic werewolves chew on adversaries and are sometimes hurt or killed themselves. One vampire fighting a werewolf tries to pull the wolf's jaws apart, for example. Another werewolf suffers painful broken bones which have to then be rebroken (in his human form) to heal properly.
When Bella smacks Jacob in the jaw, she injurs her own hand. And when Jacob learns that Bella and Edward are getting married, he threatens to kill himself.
Elsewhere, vampires beat each other up during action-packed training sequences and torture each other via telepathy. A woman stabs herself in the gut to attract the attention of blood-mad vampires. Bella later slices open her arm for the same reason, and we see the blood running off her skin in a stream. The character who was raped later gets revenge on her assailants after she becomes a vamp. We see her bursting into the room of one attacker, sporting an obvious intent to feed.
Crude or Profane Language
We hear a "d‑‑n" and a "h‑‑‑." "A‑-" is said a couple of times. God's name is inappropriately exclaimed at least once.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Bella's dad drinks beer. One scene shows a man who is clearly intoxicated. Later we see him clutching an unmarked bottle of alcohol.
Other Negative Elements
Several people lie or try to keep truths from each other—none with much success. Edward, in particular, has a habit of hiding the truth from Bella (for her own good). While giving a speech, the high school valedictorian for Bella's class embraces the idea that everyone makes mistakes on the path to adulthood, to the point that she glorifies intentionally making bad choices.
Before walking into The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, I expected the audience to consist mostly of girls in the 13-to-18 age range. You know, the demographic that might go to a Justin Bieber concert.
I was wrong.
Granted, there were plenty of young women. But many were in their 30s and 40s. Even 50s. And let me tell you, they were into it: They cheered kisses. They cheered shirtless appearances. They saved their biggest hurrah for Edward's proposal. I don't know whether this was the "Team Edward/Team Jacob" dynamic at work or whether these fans were just absorbed in the story, but they couldn't help applauding every time somebody's lip gloss started rubbing off on somebody else.
In short, these viewers were engrossed in the film's fantasy world—and I'm not talking about the whole vampire-and-werewolf fantasy. I'm talking about the film's fantastical view of love.
Eclipse, like Twilight and New Moon before it, is far more about romance than horror. And almost all romances, by their very nature, idealize both love and the lovers involved. In some ways, that's manifested pretty positively here, and some of these values should be idealized. It's great to see Edward so often taking pains to be careful with Bella's virtue and act like a gentleman, for instance. More folks in the real world should aspire to such chivalry.
But Eclipse takes that romanticism to another level, giving us two male protagonists who are practically godlike: Edward is a knight in shining skin who props his beloved Bella on a pedestal; Jacob is a dark-haired pinup idol, sensitive and vulnerable even as he's virile and strong. They are creatures of pure imagination—preternaturally powerful and kind and desirable and desirous. No wonder teens who are still mulling what true love looks like are attracted to these characters. No wonder grown women—many of them who fell in love, got married and found their relationships weren't wall-to-wall passion and joy forever and ever—find themselves drawn to them too.
In this sense, I suspect that The Twilight Saga, particularly Eclipse, feeds our already unrealistic, sky-high expectations about what romantic relationships should look like. I don't think a lot of teens will walk out wishing to be vampires or werewolves. But many of them (and more than a few adults, it would seem) may painfully pine for the sort of love and attention Bella receives from her supernatural suitors.
The film has some other problems as well. I mourn the fact that Bella is so bent on becoming a vampire. Setting aside, for a minute, the ethics of becoming undead, the fact that she wants to jump into this irreversible decision feels terribly hasty. Bella's own father comes across as practically powerless to influence his daughter's life, yet another reason for sorrow. Eclipse is also darker and more violent than the first two entries in the franchise. The decapitation scenes in particular are jarring. And sex is obviously becoming a bigger and bigger issue for Edward and Bella.
As I left the theater, though, I thought less about those things and more about the American inclination to idealize love. That inclination can sometimes make real love—an undeniably great and wonderful but complex roller coaster—feel a little like a disappointment.
It's telling, perhaps, that Eclipse's supposed love triangle isn't much of a triangle at all. Bella is Edward's girl. She always was, always will be. She chooses a charming, bloodless, idealized man over one of flesh and blood who's arguably more fallible, more real.
And I can't help but wonder how many Twilight fans are being encouraged to shop for love in the very same way.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan; Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen; Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black; Billy Burke as Charlie Swan; Jackson Rathbone as Jasper Hale; Ashley Greene as Alice Cullen; Peter Facinelli as Dr. Carlisle Cullen; Dakota Fanning as Jane; Bryce Dallas Howard as Victoria
David Slade ( )
June 30, 2010
December 4, 2010