Twilight has a two word problem: True Blood. Anyone who’s seen the HBO series knows that it’s dangerous, funny, outrageous, and kinky. Now that’s a vampire story you can sink your teeth into!
By comparison, the Twilight series is Hannah Montana: The Undead Years.
But if you can get past the fact that Twilight doesn’t compare to True Blood—or Buffy the Vampire Slayer for that matter (hilarious tee-shirt in circulation: “And then Buffy Staked Edward. The End”)—it delivers on its own terms: An old fashioned love story about a moody girl torn between two boys—one a brooding, Byronic poet type; the other athletic and well-adjusted. One just happens to be a vampire and the other happens to be a werewolf.
(And, as I said in my first review of Twilight, this is the most chaste vampire story ever told. Bella practically throws herself at Edward, but he is committed to her chastity. “I’m liking this Edward guy more and more,” muses Charlie (Billy Burke), Bella’s police officer dad.)
But here’s the good news: Eclipse is the best of the series so far. The love triangle heats up: The idea that anyone could be on Team Jacob (Taylor Lautner) had seemed inconceivable to me, but now I get it. Jacob is flesh and blood, unlike the undead Edward (Robert Pattinson). And, since Bella has made her allegiance to Edward clear, Jacob’s the one doing the pining, always an attractive quality in a man. Also, he's often shirtless. So there's that.
Meanwhile, Edward can’t even keep his woman warm on a snowy hideout in the woods. In one of the film’s best scenes, Edward has to watch in agony as Jacob cuddles with Bella to keep her from freezing to death. Nice touch.
Also, the action picks up quite a bit here. The first two films were big on romantic declarations, low on vampire butt-kicking. But in Eclipse, the werewolves and the good vampires (those model-tastic Cullens) team up against a mysterious army of reckless “newborns”—newly created vampires—who are after Bella. Butts—of the vampire, werewolf, and human variety—are most definitely kicked.
The acting remains solid if unspectacular. Pattinson has chosen to play Edward as if every moment in Bella’s presence fills him with exquisite pain. Lautner exudes a hunky decency: he's like the popular kid at school who’s even nice to the ugly girls. And the (bad) weave that Kristen Stewart is sporting has helped rid her of that annoying hair-playing tic. She’s a better actress than she’s shown in this series (see The Runaways), but at least her blunt, tom-boy beauty makes her credible as both an outsider and an object of desire.
Bottom line: It’s safe to take your girlfriend, daughter, or any other Twihard in your life to this film. You won't admit it in mixed company, but you might actually enjoy yourself.
For an expanded version of this review, check out the August issue of Baltimore.