With roughly 20 minutes of its two-hour running time devoted to characters doing something besides alternately moping and declaring their eternal love for each other, Eclipse stands as the most action-packed entry yet in the Twilight series. Unfortunately, the trade-off for a whiff of the excitement implied by a vampires-vs.-shapeshifters saga is the expansion of the mundane Twilight universe, which means more space devoted to secondary characters who were seemingly cast more for their ability to induce squeals than their acting acumen. This is especially problematic, given that Eclipse is exceptionally heavy on dialogue, much of it the sort of tormented, garment-rending testimony that sounds ridiculous coming out of the mouths of characters who haven’t yet reached legal drinking age.
Eclipse picks up where last year’s New Moon left off, with glitter-vamp Edward (Robert Pattinson) coercing a reluctant Bella (Kristen Stewart) into marrying him. She, meanwhile, spends half of her time pining for vampire-hating wolf-boy Jacob (Taylor Lautner), in spite of his propensity for borderline-rapey sentiments like “You love me, you just won’t admit it.” As if that wasn’t enough cause for angst, the trio must also face an army of newly made vampires coming to wage war on them and their families.
Unlike the series’ first two entries, which packed what little action there was into the last 15 minutes, Eclipse breaks up the inert scenes of tedious dialogue with several comparatively exciting sequences featuring vampires and shape-changers doing something other than being dreamy—namely fighting and killing. Though the CGI wolves still look like oversized plush toys, new director David Slade (30 Days Of Night) has managed to create a sense of actual menace surrounding the rival vampire covens, and the battles between the two factions are much more dynamic than the repetitive glower-snarl-tackle attack method favored in the previous films.
But while Eclipse’s action highs are higher, its expositional lows are lower, particularly during the numerous scenes featuring Lautner, or a newly prominent secondary vampire played by Jackson Rathbone; the two actors seem to be competing over who can turn in the most wooden performance. Thankfully, there are a few ringers in the supporting cast, like Billy Burke providing comic relief as Stewart’s clueless father, and a slumming Anna Kendrick, who shows more charisma in her few scenes than most of the cast has in the entire series. Eclipse is still a mostly for-fans-only proposition, but it has slightly more to offer outsiders than the previous two films in the Twilight saga.