The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Director: David Slade Starring: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner The Twilight series is slowly becoming the ultimate acid test for film fans, splitting straight down the middle those who buy entirely, to the point of hysteria, its melodramatic and cod-gothic worldview, and those who are turned off completely by the same. At the end of the latest instalment, Eclipse, I found myself irrevocably placed in the latter camp. And not because I somehow couldn't identify with the romantic and hormonal urgencies of a female-centred adolescent narrative - on the contrary, movies such as Juno and Thirteen are standouts in that canon. No, Twilight fails, for me, and for so many non-"Twi-hards", because it is, fundamentally, bad cinema, bad drama and bad art.
The latest movie, for instance, masquerades as horror thriller and lovelorn romance, and is harrowingly inept in both departments. It picks up directly where the last movie, New Moon, left off, and thus follows the emergent love triangle between dour heroine Bella (Stewart), her romantic soulmate and vampire Edward (Pattinson) and her best friend and werewolf Jacob (Lautner). As a romance, this triangle exists wholly in daytime television soap territory. Even ignoring the fact that the acting is horrendously flat, the lines themselves fall from the mouths of the characters like so many jaded platitudes. "You need to know that I'm in love with you," says Jacob, appealing to Bella in a scene that, with only some variation, is repeated endlessly throughout the film.
In every encounter between the two, this dynamic is replayed, with Bella only half-rejecting Jacob until the next one. And in between his pleas? "You'll always be my Bella!" says Edward, again, in one of many scenes - in and around forests, in bedrooms and yards - in which the dramatic intent is only for Edward to profess his eternal love for Bella. This is not, it must be noted, drama. This is stasis. Nothing is moving here.
Around this triangle, however, sits the horror movie itself, which appears to have been created (by the writer Melissa Rosenberg and the director Slade) by people who've never seen an actual movie, let alone a horror film. Thus as the franchise villain Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, the one credible performer on screen) marshals an army of "newborn" vampires to attack Edward, Jacob, Bella et al, our vampire and werewolf heroes decide to join forces and train their own super-army for a fight-filled third act finale. In short, Edward and his family undergo a single "training sequence" in which they dress in fashionable blue Gap-style outfits and fight each other in shoddy speeded-up footage, before they inexplicably say, "We're done for the day!" and get ready for the big Donnybrook. The latter is executed with bargain-basement special effects (the werewolves don't even look like they're in the same frame) and confused editing, until Jacob is wounded and the series is set up for the fourth and, thankfully, final instalment.
Of course, the fundamental thrill of Twilight has always been the question of whether you belong to Team Edward or Team Jacob. If you belong, however, to Team Cinema, you're in big trouble.