Twilight Saga, The: Eclipse (2010)

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some sensuality.
Length: 124 minutes
Grade: BD+AA=B+
Budget: $68 million
Box Office: $109 million in two days (93 U.S., 16 Intl.)

Written by: Melissa Rosenberg (New Moon, Twilight, and TV shows), based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer.
Directed by: David Slade (30 Days of Night, Hard Candy)
Starring: Kristen Stewart, David Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner
With: Billy Burke, Anna Kendrick, Peter Facinelli, and Bryce Dallas Howard.

Victoria has returned with a plan to finally kill Bella in revenge for the death of her beloved James by creating an army of “newborn” vampires. In response, Edward and Jacob must cooperate to protect the woman they both love.

Entertainment Value: B
Let me start with a relatively minor complaint. The original Victoria was played by Rachelle LeFevre, who was everything an evil female vampire should be: stunningly beautiful, fierce, and smoldering in her hatred. Bryce Dallas Howard, in contrast, is not any of these things. However, she is Ron Howard’s daughter. Hmmmm. There were some minor scheduling conflicts used as a pretext by Summit to replace LeFevre with Howard, a move which stunned LeFevre and makes for a gaping discontinuity between the films for fans. Think of replacing Carrie Fisher with Sissy Spacek or Jodie Foster as Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi. (They were early candidates, by the way.) But the truly annoying thing is that Howard had been the first pick for the part originally and turned it down because she though it was too small and beneath her. I say reward pride with prejudice. But enough about an error that will cost them nothing at the box office. The plot here is fairly interesting, although it seems based on a premise that is contrary to lore of vampires, namely that the newest vampires are the strongest they’ll ever be. This idea undermines the presentation of the Volturi as the typical ancient and powerful vampires. But neither of these issues is central to the story, which is essentially a conflict of romantic interests from two boys from different tribes, each with different things to offer Bella. I still think the first movie was the most entertaining, but this one is better than New Moon and certainly enjoyable enough for anyone who knows the characters. Also, there were some pretty hilarious sardonic moments in this movie, which I don’t remember from the others.

Superficial Content: D+
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity B, Violence D+, Language B
There is no nudity, no sex, and no strong language here. However, there is a scene of implied sexual assault and several make-out scenes. Lots of scenes with muscular boys sans shirts and implied sexual desire. But precisely because the movie is all about sexual restraint, I have to grade it better than some reviewers are. No parent would keep this from a teenager because of sexuality. Rather, the issue is violence, and this is the most violent of the three, with lots of vampires and people being killed or turned into vampires, even from the very beginning of the movie. I was actually surprised at how much violence there was in a PG-13 movie. I’d go R-15, but I doubt anyone will stop a teen who’s seen the other three already from seeing this one. (Besides, she’s two years older than she would have been for the also PG-13 Twilight in 2008, right?)

Significant Content: A
At first, I gave this a B, but after sleeping on it, it has grown on me that this movie is presenting a rare and profoundly Biblical portrayal of the ideals regarding manhood and virtue. Putting aside the vampire angle for a moment, realize that this movie is primarily about showing us the three kinds of men, all of whom are monsters in one way or another. They all suffer from anger and lust. The worst (the newborns) have no control at all and are purely a menace. The middle (Jacob Black) have some self-control and are appealing for their sometimes danger, sometimes safe persona. But basically, Jacob is the type of boy who wants you because he wants you, not because he really truly cares about you. Rejecting him is the worst thing he can imagine. The best man-type, of course, is Edward Cullen, a man so firmly in control of his inner barbarian that he can actually tell the lusty Bella to wait until marriage and can even endure smelling her blood without it affecting him a bit. How did he learn this self-discipline and impulse-mastery? Through the patient instruction of his father-in-the-faith Dr. Carlisle Cullen. What is his vision of manhood? To be the protector and provider for his woman, even if that means pushing her away from himself because either her desires or his reality will ultimately harm her. Some mistaken commentators will say that Edward represents a juvenile female fantasy of the boy who wants to spend time in a meadow and caress her hair but doesn’t want her sexually. No. His maturity is poignant precisely because we know how deeply he desires her, desire to the point of wanting suicide when he thinks she was killed in New Moon. He’s self-mastered, not asexual. So here we have an incredibly countercultural presentation. The best man is restrained by his love, and this in turn makes him the very most desirable man to a woman who must be protected even from her own sexual urges. In short, he’s far more like Christ than he is like the lampoon of Christ in the Simpson’s Ned Flanders. The other big theme here is the ongoing one of Bella wanting to become a vampire so she can be with Edward but everyone, including most importantly him, trying to dissuade her. Making her into a man/monster is the one thing he would never want her to do, a view decidedly contrary to modern feminism which virtually worships men by wanting to make women into them, sexually, culturally, and politically, even to the point of saying that women don’t even need men the way Bella so clearly needs Edward. Is it a Christian story? Not particularly. But is it a counter-cultural gender re-straightener? Absolutely. If you ever had to pick between letting a teenage girl watch this movie or watching Sex and the City or anything on the CW, the choice is easy. This may not teach her how to be a woman, but it will certainly teach her what to look for in a man.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
I’ve already mentioned most of the big, deep stuff here, and you can see how there’s plenty to think about and analyze.

Discussion Questions:
~Our culture seems to think women are responsible for saying no to sex, not men. What does this view imply about men? What impact does this have on women?
~Why does Edward not want to turn Bella into a vampire? Are his concerns well-founded? Do you think that deathlessness makes life meaningless as well? Why does everyone else seem to want her to not become one, either? Why is she always refusing to listen to their advice? Have you ever been told by a bunch of people who have done something that you shouldn’t do it? Did you listen?
~Bella wants to make a life-altering and permanent decision quickly, but Edward keeps making her postpone it. Why is it important to wait on big decisions that can’t be easily undone? How many mistakes might be avoided just by waiting a month or a year to act? Do you agree with Jessica’s graduation speech that we find ourselves and who we want to be by making a bunch of mistakes?
~Victoria is consumed with wanting to inflict on Edward the sort of pain she suffered when he killed James. If she succeeded, would it actually satisfy her? Have you ever wanted to do back to someone what you perceived them having already done to you? What does the Bible teach about this?
~In the movie, it seems to make no sense for Bella to have any real feelings for Jacob at all. In fact, he seems like a particularly dangerous guy for her to be around. Do you think this is intended to show young girls how stupid it is for them to be attracted to the beautiful bad boy?
~Bella says that she has never felt normal or “in step” in the regular world but feels that way with Edward because she can fit in there without having to be normal. Have you ever felt alienated from what everyone else seems to think is normal? Do you think our culture has an unhealthy idea of what’s normal or that even having a single picture of normality for all people is healthy? Does Jesus want us to conform or to be different in our own special way?
~What do you make of all the fire and ice imagery from the beginning? How does this theme play out in the movie?
~Do you believe in love at first contact? How does this relate to the idea of “imprinting” in the movie?
~In what ways might you say that the Cullen family is like a Christian community? What roles do forgiveness and acceptance play in their group?
~Some women seem to thrive on drama and would love to have two men fighting over her. Does Bella seem to be this woman? Is she being fair to Jacob? Is she being loving to Edward?
~In what ways is Edward like Jesus Christ? In what ways not? Is this relationship at all representative of Ephesians 5 and the pattern of Christ’s relationship to His Bride?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The meadow.
~The tent on the mountain.
~Edward trying to reason with Riley about Victoria.

Favorite lines:
~“Let’s face it, I am hotter than you.”“If we weren’t natural enemies and you weren’t trying to steal my reason for living, I might actually like you.”
~“Doesn’t he own a shirt?”
~“Can you at least attempt to control your thoughts?”
~“Marriage is just a piece of paper.” “Well, where I’m from it’s the way you say, ‘I love you.’”

Overall Grade: B+
There’s a lot to like here and plenty to talk about, but I still think the first movie was more entertaining. Shame on Summit and Bryce Dallas Howard.

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