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Cinema Signal: It's long and overheated, but will play well to the audiences it's intended for.

New Moon (The Twilight Saga)
by Stephenie Meyer
(Paperback, new & used, from Amazon)
. "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse"

The idea of changing directors through a sequel series, while retaining the same screenplay adapter (Melissa Rosenberg), maintains a consistency despite differences of style and approach. For me, it's finally paid off. Under David Slade management, clarity wins out over obscurity as a tool of creating mystery. This leads to the discovery that the mystery is not that difficult to comprehend or negotiate.

Danger pervades while the elements of vampirism, werewolves, a triangular love affair, a mortal wishing to "change" into a vampire in order to keep her beloved close and to achieve immortality, her ambivalent emotional connection to a childhood chum who is now a werewolf--such raging chick-lit!

"Eclipse" follows "New Moon," in which Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and his family felt the need to exile themselves from town because of their reaction to Bella Swan's (alluring Kristen Stewart) blood-producing injury. His absence, allowed the supposed "friendship" with Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) to flourish and become something more. Happily, in "Eclipse," there is no such detachment of a major presence and that's one of the improvements about this sequel.

Anyone who has followed the vampire legend since, at least, Bram Stoker, who may be credited with unleashing an ancient strain of literary myth into the modern world, it is a significant concept to create a clan of vampires to answer the question of how they survive in a community without decimating the population because of their need for an endless supply of blood. Meyer's answer is that some of them have the good sense and discipline to slake their thirst with wild animals that no one will miss. There's a bit of genius about that formulation and the portrayal of it with a band of excellent actors.

All the more so when another strain of vampires shows up with no such restraint. This strain is led by witchy Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) who starts the realization of her plan to destroy the Cullens in general, and Edward and Bella in particular. Knowing how powerful the Cullens are, her aim is to create an army of rampant "newborns" which, when numerous enough, might have a chance to overcome the Cullens in what will be a climactic and inevitable battle.

She doesn't, however, seem to reckon with the Cullens achieving a detente with their natural enemies much closer to home, the pack of werewolves of which Jacob is a leading member. Even with the mental telegraphy between vampires, Victoria couldn't foresee such a development.

Why it was possible for unity between these two sets of non-humans has everything to do with Bella's graceful adoption by both sides as a friendly. It's almost natural for the vampire clan since Bella wants so much to become one of them and because of her tie to Edward. Acceptance by the werewolves is a nattier problem but friendship with Jacob earns their welcome.

Bella's motivations are complex and antithetical to humanity enough to deserve contemplation. In meeting a vampire on the level of romantic attachment, she, a high schooler, finds a way to break out of a mold of being ordinary. The desire to change is her means to acquire individuality like no one else she's ever known. Plus, it ensures keeping Edward, who understands the loss of someone's mortality well enough to resist her entreaties. It becomes a matter of negotiation as they discuss marriage.

And then, there's Jacob. Her simultaneous attraction to this mostly shirtless reprobate from a health club, Jacob is part of the lure and the intoxicant in the life she envisions. And, it makes for a high level of feverish interaction between her two men.

Which becomes a primary problem for the film. Couched in endless melodrama, the film (and presumably the book) revels in the boys' hatred for one another and the emotional discomfort they're forced to cope with when Bella bounces back and forth between them. She doesn't waver in holding her heart for Edward but she has a slice of it for Jacob, too. It's enough to give a man a headache. Was two hours' worth of such repetitive and overheated emotional triangulation really necessary--even for the demographic that'll be breathing hard over every frame?

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  
Breaking Dawn
(The Twilight Saga, Book 4)
by Stephenie Meyer
(Discounted Hardback, new & used, from Amazon)

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Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart as Vampire Edward Cullen and wannabe Bella Swan.
When immortality is such a problem.
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