starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Dakota Fanning
screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer
directed by David Slade
by Walter Chaw The first and greatest surprise of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (hereafter Eclipse) is that it's not awful; it's actually almost good for its first forty-five minutes or so, until the burden of Stephenie Meyer's genuinely, legendarily poor source material catches up to it. Until such time, there's some interest blossoming despite itself in the love triangle between mopey Bella (Kristen Stewart), fruity Edward (Robert Pattinson), and swarthy Jacob (Taylor Lautner): a hint of racial discomfort, a soupçon of class struggle, a glimmer of insight given over to the difficulties of teen relationships at a moment in life when Nancy Drew plays like Richard Wagner. Never mind that of the three leads, only Pattinson delivers a (surprisingly, too) good performance--and then only fitfully; never mind that Meyer has taken a giant, steaming dump on centuries of folklore and tradition to construct thin cardboard monsters that serve as bad metaphors for Mormon libido (as told by Judy Blume's less talented soul sister); never mind that the picture's entire last two-thirds devolves into constant repetition of the will she/won't she theme punctuated by its stupid mythology. Really, the way that new director David Slade's flat-to-the-point-of-garish camera brings out the faintest suggestion of corruption beneath the pancake makeup and baggy eyes of the film's immortal underwear models--who are, literally, ancient beasts--lends the series the dread that was buried in the first two films under volumes of camp and dreary incompetence. Not to say that Eclipse doesn't ultimately end as the same old bullshit, but for the first time, if only briefly, the clouds part for a brief, tantalizing twinkle of what it was that all this could have been.