Because even though Eclipse has now been out for about eight months, everyone knows I can’t leave Twilight alone. So I’m catapulting back into your lives with a bunch of run on sentences and content all wrapped up in a nice long article. By the way, for those of you who have been living under the sole non-sentient rock in the II castle, there will be spoilers. On your own head be it if you move forward.

If you’re still reading this, I’m guessing your head’s willing to take the risk. Let’s go.

Eclipse is a movie that is, ostensibly, about Bella’s choice between having a full human life, or getting vamped. That’s what it’s been marketed as, it’s what David Slade, Wyck Godfrey, Stephenie Meyer, and presumably Melissa Rosenberg say it is, and it’s a premise I’m going to rip apart for this essay.

Along the way, there’s a lot of Edward vs Jacob drama, a minor amount of vampires vs werewolves drama, and an action-driven plot about Victoria coming back from the first movie to get her (now with bonus newborn vampire army! Just add venom!).1

So, Eclipse’s plot threads have now been established.

The Choosing Vampirism plot consists of a lot of people telling Bella that it’s not a good idea to become a vampire—Rosalie and Edward directly; and Renee, Charlie, and her human friends by showing/telling her what would happen if she disappeared or wasn’t there or what human things she’d be missing out on as a vampire.

None of this seems to affect Bella one jot. Her main response to Rosalie and Edward is ‘But I’m different! I want to be a vampire! Therefore, I should be one!’. Her main response to her parents and other humans is an uncomfortable, vaguely agonised look, possibly with a couple of tears in the corner of her eyes. At no point does she consider their arguments in enough depth to affect the choices she makes. These things give her pause at the time, but she never says or does anything to make us believe that she may have internalised some of these arguments. The very storyline does nothing to make us believe that she has two conflicting goals in her head.

I mean think about it: Edward and Bella get engaged halfway through the movie. She made this choice in New Moon. Really, Bella’s choice in Eclipse was about getting married, and it only lasted about half-way through the movie. The rest of it was just her agonising about the best way to placate Jacob. The idea that she wouldn’t be with Edward forever never entered her head. It was just a question of who would convince whom that their stance on marriage was right. (Riveting stuff.)2

Again, choice is meant to be the defining theme of the movie/book. I’ll leave the force of the facepalm you apply to yourself up to you.

When it comes to vampirism, everyone but Bella in this movie has the idea that being a vampire is a course of action you should research thoroughly and only take when all your other options have been exhausted. But Bella, as the protagonist, has an entirely different idea. And since it’s her choices that move the plot forward, and despite the desperate attempts of the characters around her, none of those choices are actually based on input from other people, the majority of the events in the movie are wasted and ineffectual. What should be 2 hours of a gut-wrenching decision process is instead 2 hours of something neither gut-wrenching nor decision-like.

A small amount of lip service is paid at the very end of the movie to ‘I choose me’ and a rejection of human life, but that really is no excuse. It doesn’t tie the movie off, it just tries to harmonise two wildly different plot objectives: Bella’s (VAMP ME NAO!) and the filmmakers’ (‘a heartwrenching choice for a strong and independent… um, whiny teenage girl’). The contrast is rather amusing. Or, alternatively, infuriating. We’re going to come back to this in a little bit.

Aside from Bella’s character wilfully ignoring the complexities of the vampirism plot line, it also suffers from the amount of dramatic tension not devoted to a whole side of the debate: Bella’s relationship with humanity. Time and time again in the movie, we see passive people standing by as they do their very dialogue-heavy scenes about why Bella choosing vampirism isn’t a good idea: Charlie sitting down discussing a hypothetical disappearance of his daughter, Renee giving Bella a quilt made of old camp t-shirts, Rosalie having flashbacks. And each time, Bella has a couple of thoughtful closeups where she’s a little shaken about it. There’s some slight emotional tension not apparent for the first couple of watch-throughs.3

In contrast, the action, all the really gritty dramatic tension of the movie, is given to the werewolves vs vampires story, the Edward-Bella-Jacob love triangle, and the Victoria conflict.

So these plots get all the action and all the dramatic tension, while the Flip a Coin: Does Your Heart Continue Beating Or Not? subplot has practically zilch. Going further, all of them except for Flip a Coin are combined in the climax: we have werewolves and vampires joining together to battle it out against Victoria’s newborn vampire army whilst Jacob, Edward and Bella angst it out on top of a mountain, and Jacob gets Bella to admit that she likes him (like, like-likes him) but that she likes Edward more. The only time Bella having a human life is brought up is when Jacob uses it as ammunition against Edward—hardly a portrayal of this choice as an issue in its own right.

Meanwhile, no aspect or representation of Bella’s human life gets a look-in for this part of the movie, unless you count Bella and Jacob’s romantic interaction, (because Jacob wants Bella and he wants her to stay human). And never mind that the filmmakers are trying to pass off Jacob as the ‘full human life’ choice; that’s a flimsy argument. The girl does not have to choose either one of them if she doesn’t want to. She can go have a full human life without choosing Jacob, whom she’s not in love with anyway. He’s in love with her. There’s a difference. For Pete’s sake.

The only actual direct references to choice that we get in the movie is between Edward and Jacob rather than between vampirism and a human life. This is a consistent problem throughout the movie. It’s not objective and it’s not fair on Bella—not that she realises it, but still. Note to filmmakers: When it’s a choice between two guys, which involves making a choice between two ways of life, please don’t confuse this with the straight issue of choosing between two ways of life.

Another thing: Bella’s choice in this case does not in any way affect the main plot. I mean, vamps coming to get Bella! With a main plot like that, it should be pretty easy to make her human life and her supernatural life collide and force her to come to some kind of realisation or make a choice or, I don’t know, do something. But no.

In short, not enough dramatic tension is devoted to actual humanity, so why does it matter? Why should we as the moviegoers care? We never buy that there’s a choice between humanity and vampirism, because Bella never really seems to be attached to any humans around her, and the movie never really seems to be concerned with humans, either.

Besides, she wants to be a vampire for the whole movie, anyway. If that’s not detachment from your own species, I don’t know what is.

At the end of the movie, Bella’s ‘my whole life I’ve never fitted in anywhere.’ speech is so logically inaccurate, I just want to hurl.

Frankly, it’s bull. Here’s why.

Dear Bella,

As shown by you still sitting with Jessica (who still seems to like you in the movie version) and Mike and the others, you fit in fine with humanity. If I remember correctly, soon after you came to Forks High School, you fitted right in, making jokes about speedo padding on the swim team, getting asked out by several guys, and generally being well-received. Your Mary Sue aura makes sure you will be well-received wherever you go. Your mother and father would miss you sorely were you gone.

As a human in a vampire’s world? That is where you didn’t fit in. Patrol details, vampires coming after you to eat your face, the possibility of outliving everyone you know by a large margin, not being able to sexx0r your boyfriend for fear of him either eating your face himself or ripping you in half… Staying out of a world like that is the smart thing to do when you don’t have any supernatural powers, because you don’t fit in there. The only reason you were in that world in the first place is because you got a crush on some boy—and even he doesn’t think it’s a good idea for you two to be together.

I’m sorry to be so harsh on you, honey, but there it is. I suggest you go and have a good long think for once.

Yours sincerely,
Steph (what is left).

I mean, really. You should be able to see where any movie with this setup would be going. I’m talking dead love interests and regretful sparkly vampires and angry, angsty broken hearts. But because it’s Twilight, because Bella Swan is at her core all about making stupid decisions, because Stephenie Meyer is Stephenie Meyer, and finally because alienating your fanbase is a stupid thing to do for any franchise (the only excuse I’ll accept), Bella ignores every single chance to learn from her previous mistakes (and from others’ mistakes) and does what she wants with no real consequences at the end of it all. She’s still exactly the same Bella who was trying to get into Edward’s pants Edward to change her at the end of Twilight. Just slightly more sexually frustrated.

The movie undermines what it thinks is its own premise on so many different levels.

1 And then also something about the Volturi that basically amounted to ‘hey, don’t forget us! We’ll be semi-important to the plot of the fifth movie!’ and I’m not even going to bother talking about it from now on. At least until Breaking Dawn comes out. We’re almost definitely going to go to town on that one, kids.

2 If I can digress for a moment, which I can because—hey! footnotes!—I’m going to put forth a theory:

The main reason this didn’t occur to Meyer was because she’s a Mormon, and in that culture if you don’t get married, you’ve basically said you’re not spending forever with each other. There’s no living together before marriage, anything like that. So to Meyer, if Bella’s not ready to get married, that subtextually means that she hasn’t fully committed to Edward yet and she’s still got a choice to make.

However, Bella’s not written as a Mormon or a Christian or anything like that. Her values are quite different to Meyer’s (remember, she’s the one pushing sex, not Edward). Her dilemma should not be portrayed by the author as ‘having commitment issues’, because clearly that’s the last thing she’s got a problem with. And it’s going to be hard for an audience to take; or even recognise and understand, the portayal that Meyer is giving it. I mean, I’m a firm Christian, I believe in not having sex until marriage, and this idea didn’t even occur to me until just now. Why? Because I’m so used to people around me living together or sleeping together outside of marriage and seeing nothing wrong with it in terms of commitment. The general thinking in Western society today is that people who don’t marry can still be committed to one another and can still love each other. It’s incredibly hard for people who are used to this way of thinking to see why hesitating over marriage but still wanting to be with the other person could be seen as ‘still having to make a definite choice’. Because they’ve already gone and taken a third option, so why can’t Bella?

Meyer should have distanced herself and her values from her character and story a little more, and gotten in touch with where popular culture is at.

Yes, I am aware of what I just said.

3 Okay, so I’ve seen this movie more than twice. Shut up.

—-

To end this, I’m going to point out the things I think we can take away from this rather than merely get frustrated at it. I’m a firm believer in learning what not to do; that’s what this whole essay has been building up to.

1. Dramatic tension. Use the damn thing properly. Allocate enough tension to the stuff that is major and that you’ve said is the main point of your story.

2. Make sure your important plot threads collide in some way. This is not a sitcom show in which, every so often, you’re allowed to have A and B plots that don’t collide at the end, if each are funny enough. You’re not here for humour alone. You’re here for a memorable story, which it won’t be if everything gets resolved in bits and pieces instead of at least 75% of it coming together with a bang.

3. Don’t do what Meyer did and make a Mormon issue out of a story that clearly had nothing to do with Mormonism and no Mormon characters (substitute your word of choice for ‘Mormon’). If she’d wanted to do this successfully, she should’ve devoted a bit more time to why Edward’s morals are the way they are and explored the ramifications of them as they affected other parts of the story, not just brought in to say no to sex. But I don’t think she does anything consciously, so the point is moot.

4. Make sure your characters are saying sensible things. I refer you to the ‘I choose me’ speech at the end of the movie for how not to go about this.

5. Similarly, make sure your movie is logical. I refer you to the entirety of the franchise.

Here endeth the lesson.

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Comment

  1. Inkblot on 7 July 2011, 10:50 said:

    Well taught! I shall issue forth from the II gates a new and a wiser man. May I be struck from the earth if there’s anything I learned from Twilight that I didn’t know before, though. It just very forcefully underscores it.

    About those sentient rocks, where did the complaints box fly off to? They smashed up my airship and I want them to at the least put the pieces into a single pile in the parking lot. That granite is always leading the rest of them into trouble.

  2. Steph (what is left) on 7 July 2011, 10:53 said:

    Well taught! I shall issue forth from the II gates a new and a wiser man. May I be struck from the earth if there’s anything I learned from Twilight that I didn’t know before, though. It just very forcefully underscores it.

    Also, sparkles are your friend.

    The complaints box is in the Valley of Horrors, on the fifth floor. I think. It may have moved since last time.

  3. Apep on 7 July 2011, 16:54 said:

    At the end of the movie, Bella’s ‘my whole life I’ve never fitted in anywhere.’ speech is so logically inaccurate, I just want to hurl.

    Wait, she actually claims that she’s some kind of social outcast? Maybe when she lived in Phoenix (do we ever find out about her school experience there?), but in Forks? Please.

    She’s still exactly the same Bella who was trying to get into Edward’s pants Edward to change her at the end of Twilight.

    So after two whole books/movies (not counting the first), Bella hasn’t changed one bit. That’s not a good thing. Characters are supposed to change over the course of time (just like real people). If the characters don’t, it’s usually to their detriment.

    The complaints box is in the Valley of Horrors

    Hence why there aren’t a lot of complaints.

  4. Nate Winchester on 7 July 2011, 18:20 said:

    Hence why there aren’t a lot of complaints.

    [message from complaint department]

    Getting hungry.

    Send more whiners.

    -CD

  5. Costanza on 7 July 2011, 19:57 said:

    Yep, the Twilight Saga is utter crap in both visual and literary form. They make tons of money, but will they ever be remembered for anything? Will they have had any lasting impact on anything? Nope. If anything, it’s made the world’s teenage population more stupid and dellusional.

  6. NeuroticPlatypus on 8 July 2011, 11:32 said:

    Great article. It always annoyed me how she doesn’t seem to care at all about any human characters (maybe her mom in the first one, which is the only one I’ve read/seen).

    I also like your take on making a Mormon issue when the characters are not Mormon, not do they seem to have any religious affiliation.