It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The price for surrendering your virginity is so high in “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” that even Edward Cullen, the proposed tool of surrender, balks at it. Like him, you would become one of the undead. This is a price that Bella Swan, the virtuous heroine, must be willing to pay. Apparently when you marry a vampire, even such a well-behaved one as Edward, he’s required to bite you.
This romantic dilemma is developed in “Eclipse,” the third installment in this inexhaustible series, by adding a complication that has been building ever since the first. Jacob Black, the shape-shifting werewolf, is also in love with Bella (Kristen Stewart), and she perhaps with him. Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and his tribe are hot-blooded and never wear shirts, inspiring little coos and ripples of delight in the movie audience. Here is a fantasy to out-steam any romance novel: A sweet girl is forced to choose between two improbably tall, dark and handsome men who brood and smolder and yearn for her.
Nothing is perfect. There is a problem. The flame-tressed vampire Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) has been active in Seattle, initiating new vampires, or Newbies, who in their youth are ravenous for blood and would have superhuman strength, if they were human. Victoria wants to destroy Bella in revenge for the murder of her boyfriend James. Edward and Jacob both vow to protect the girl they love, and their fellow vampires and werewolves of course are prepared to fight to the death in this cause. This is true buddy love.
The movie contains violence and death, but not really very much. For most of its languorous running time, it listens to conversations between Bella and Edward, Bella and Jacob, Edward and Jacob, and Edward and Bella and Jacob. This would play better if any of them were clever conversationalists, but their ideas are limited to simplistic renderings of their desires. To be sure, there is a valedictory address, reminding us that these kids have skipped school for three movies now. And Edward has a noble speech in which he tells Bella he doesn’t want to have sex with her until after they’re married. This is self-denial indeed for a 109-year-old vampire, whose actions add a piquant flavor to the category “confirmed bachelor.”