By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin June 30, 2010 at 1:00AM
I haven’t read Stephenie Meyer’s books, but I liked the first Twilight movie, so even though I’m not a card-carrying Twi-hard I have no axe to grind where this series is concerned. That said, I thought this new installment was incredibly boring. Woe to any newcomer who’s unfamiliar with the characters and situations, because Eclipse offers virtually no exposition. I suppose the filmmakers feel that only the faithful will bother to see it, but that’s no excuse for the complete lack of dramatic context.
The film opens with Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella (Kristen Stewart) sitting in a field of flowers as she reads poetry and he moons over her. Their love talk is accompanied by music that one might hear in a Flowers-by-Wire commercial. Sorry to say, that vapid sequence is a portent of things to come: the whole movie feels lifeless (pun intended).
The anguish in this chapter of the story ought to be—
—palpable: Bella has committed to joining the Cullen vampire clan as soon as she graduates from high school. This is a crucial step that, once taken, cannot be undone. What’s more, Edward’s future is at risk because of a threat from a pack of rogue vampires—thirsty newborns who have no discipline. And there is the ongoing tension with the wolves, led by Bella’s protective friend Jacob (the perpetually shirtless Taylor Lautner). But even with those juicy elements, Eclipse feels hollow. I felt aloof during the wolf attacks—and normally I’m quite squeamish—because somehow I sensed that the animals weren’t real, and the film never made me believe otherwise when it mattered most.
Even if all one seeks from this movie is the opportunity to stare at its youthful stars, there are nits to pick. Kristen Stewart’s appearance has subtly changed, while Robert Pattinson’s makeup seems more obvious than ever. Some of the Cullen clan have little more than bit parts this time around, and the Volturis’ screen time is scarcely longer.
At two hours, the movie feels long, yet I’m sure screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg labored mightily to whittle Stephenie Meyer’s 640-page novel down to size. I don’t know where to point an accusing finger, but something is missing from Eclipse. Perhaps the filmmakers ought to watch their own origin story—released just two years ago—and remind themselves of the qualities that gave this series its momentum.