Slow 'Eclipse' Knows Just How To Stalk Its Target

Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson

Twihard With A Vengeance: Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) don't consummate their romance -- though they do allow the audience to gaze long and often at their flawless faces. Kimberley French/Summit Entertainment hide caption

itoggle caption Kimberley French/Summit Entertainment

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

  • Director: David Slade
  • Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller
  • Running Time: 124 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some sensuality.

With: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone

At 9 p.m. on June 29, I walked past hundreds if not thousands of mostly teenage girls in line for the first midnight showing of Eclipse in Times Square, and wondered what it was about the slow, old-fashioned, remarkably chaste Twilight Saga that has mesmerized a generation of kids — among them my 12-year-old daughter — whose one-word catchphrase is "What-ever."

You have Bella, a remarkably inexpressive teenage virgin; a gentlemanly vampire, Edward, who's afraid to touch her for fear his blood lust will take over and he'll gobble her up; and a Native American werewolf, Jacob, who doesn't have a prayer of landing Bella but hovers protectively, showing off his six-pack abs and deltoids like a human muscle chart. In part it's the trendy vampire fetish and the usual blockbuster hysteria. But most blockbusters don't move so glacially and withhold so much. Could it be that kids are actually thrilled for once to defer their gratification?

Speculation aside, Eclipse is, on its own terms, quite good. Now, I'm grading on a curve — the last one, New Moon, almost put me in a coma. But the new director, David Slade, has more of a handle on the measured tempo, and the screenplay blends those long, lovelorn dialogues with nifty historical flashbacks and lots of hissing vampire villains.

We're back in the town of Forks, on the coast of Washington state, where Kristen Stewart's Bella and Robert Pattinson's Edward are stretched out in a meadow of soft-focus violets. Edward asks her once again to be his bride; Bella stares at her lap and twists her wide mouth on her long jaw and refuses to give him a firm yes (or no) until he promises to kill and resurrect her as a vampire so they can be together forever.

She also wants to make love before she's a vampire, so she'll know what it's like, "while I'm still me." Edward, however, is old-fashioned, having come of age a century earlier; he believes they must wait until they're married before they have sex and he kills her. As you can guess, his pure-mindedness puts a strain on the relationship, especially with that werewolf always at the door.

Also, there's this redheaded vampire woman — played in this film by Bryce Dallas Howard — who wants Bella's scalp. (Or neck, or something.) Taylor Lautner's Jacob is only too happy to point this out when he runs into the twosome in front of their high school. "She has a right to know," he says, portentously. "She is the one the redhead wants."

Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart i i

Pretty Is As Pretty Does: Jacob (Taylor Lautner) doesn't have a prayer of landing Bella, but he does look like a human muscle chart. Kimberley French/Summit Entertainment hide caption

itoggle caption Kimberley French/Summit Entertainment
Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart

Pretty Is As Pretty Does: Jacob (Taylor Lautner) doesn't have a prayer of landing Bella, but he does look like a human muscle chart.

Kimberley French/Summit Entertainment

Sexual tension, pregnant pauses — that's Eclipse, except I hasten to add that the actors are very good-looking. And there are maybe 500 lengthy, monumental, screen-filling closeups of them. Around the 200th, I became hypnotized by their flawless complexions: Was their skin tone evened out in post-production? Did computers squeegee out their zits?

Pattinson comes off worse than Lautner in this one: His Edward hangs back, looking clingy and vaguely antiseptic. But the two have one good, tense, cards-on-the-table dialogue that had me thinking, "Oh, why don't you macho men kiss already?"

Stewart can seem sullen, a little dull, but I like her. She seems temperamentally averse to emoting; she's an anti-drama queen. Given how florid this material is, I think she's smart to hold something back, to let the audience project their own feelings onto her face.

The principal threat driving Eclipse's plot is an army of vicious "newborn" vampires, which means the upright vampires and righteous werewolves — normally antagonists — have to team up against their common enemy. The big rumble is a hash of smash-cuts and computer-generated imagery, but it's surprisingly cathartic after all those tortured silences. My ideal battle scene would have more splatter, but these vampires apparently don't bleed. As my 12-year-old daughter explained, "Vampires don't have any blood, that's why they need to keep drinking it."

I said I'd been watching vampire movies for 45 years, and that they sure as hell had had plenty of blood until now. And she said what I already knew in my bones: "Dad, these are not your vampires."

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