Stephenie Meyer's popular teen-loves-undead-dude series gets its third trip to the big screen, this time under the direction of David Slade. Newbie alert: The story kicks off where last year's New Moon left off, with the ongoing feud between vampires and werewolves, and a nasty vampire seeking revenge.
Eclipse is livelier (and shorter) than the second film, but the story still advances slowly. Not surprising, since the focus of this episode is several large indecisions, discussed again and again. Edward wants to marry Bella, but she doesn't; Bella wants Edward to make her a vampire, but he doesn't. Jacob wants Bella, but she wants Edward. Or maybe not. Edward knows what's best for Bella; no, Jacob does. (Be advised: Resolution isn't necessarily forthcoming. Presumably, that's what the next two movies will cover.) Such is adolescence, and these anxieties are only complicated when choosing between eternal life with a "cold one," or hunkering down with a werewolf.
On the upside, there's less moping, a fresh set of good-looking vampires, and the usual dose of pretty Pacific Northwest scenery. Taylor Lautner, who stars as the deliciously shirtless werewolf, Jacob, is more engaging this time out. On the downside, Robert Pattinson (vampire Edward) and Kristen Stewart (human Bella) seem more wooden than ever. (There's a reason the film has to endlessly remind you that these two are soulmates.)
And on the cheesy side: a cameo by the music-video-ish Volturi group of vampires, and flashbacks to bloodsucking episodes of yore, which offer the intrigue of Confederate Army nightstalkers.
The film builds a good deal of anticipation toward a battle royale between the "good" vampires and the bad ones who trek down from Seattle. But the ultimate showdown is disappointingly flat, and notable only for the revelation of a new way to kill vampires. Apparently, you can just snap their heads off, as if they were made of cheap plaster.