Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Thoughts on Eclipse. Let Me Give Them To You.

I have to give credit where credit is due. I may not have wanted to face it, but I admit that The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is probably the most tolerable Twilight movie. There were fewer moments than the earlier installments where I just wanted to scream it was so bad, but there are several reasons for that and there is one in particular, near the end, that stands out.

As much as I can't stand Bella as a character, she does give an interesting speech that I think relates to a lot of fantasy stories, the central idea being that, only in said fantasy world does she really belong. Now, I don't know if that stems from the actual book or if it's a movie only thing because I've never read the book, but it was interesting. I'm not sure if I like it, though, because it is a question that I feel is important to consider in any fantasy landscape.

The Hero's Journey, as written about in a book I recently read on screenwriting entitled The Writer's Journey (by Christopher Vogler), has a step near the end called "The Road Back." Such a grand example could easily be found, say, in The Lord of the Rings where it is a literal road back to the shire. The literal road back leads our four dear hobbits back to their homeland. Whether the book version or the movie version (because The Scouring of the Shire chapter is not in the movie), the shire is (or is eventually) a proper home for three of the four again. Sam, Merry, and Pippin, despite their wild adventures, can find home in this place. Frodo, on the other hand, does not belong in this world anymore. Bilbo, also, in The Hobbit can be said to have gone on the road back to the shire and he lives comfortably there for a long time after his adventures outside of his home.

One reason I think it is very easy for Bella to not go on the road back is because she doesn't really go on a road to the vampire world. To be quite fair, I read an article recently comparing the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises and stating that one obvious advantage Harry Potter has over Twilight is the fantasy world. Comparisons aside, there really isn't a lot of definition over the vampire world. Vampires are described, sure, but there isn't a lot of fantasy involved and Bella isn't really transported into a whole new environment, unlike in Harry Potter where Harry is constantly learning the crazy differences between the muggle and wizarding worlds. But, like I said, this is comparison aside. The world of Twilight is very normal and, honestly, not very interesting. I like my mortality most of the time, however, and unlike Bella, I feel as if I can achieve things in a mortal life, as if I do belong here, even when it's uncomfortable, awkward, or stunted, which it often it.

Even on The Road Back, however, there really is no going back, especially because The Road Back is not the last stop. There is still "Resurrection" and "Return with the Elixir." To be quite honest, Twilight follows this Hero's Journey outline well in the end. Bella clearly goes under a resurrection when she is transformed and boy oh boy, does superstar model and wicked talented vampire!Bella have an elixir. The road back isn't about returning to an old life as much as it is returning to an old home as a new person. There is no spontaneous "Happily Ever After" and then fade to black, because we are always growing beyond the end, which is clear in the last sections of the journey. I think the problem here with Twilight is that it assumes a happily ever after and there is an eternity where neither Bella nor Edward nor the other Cullens will ever grow. It is as Rosalie says in Eclipse, how they are frozen in time.

So while it is easy to say other literary characters such as Bilbo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin return to their old lives, it is also wrong. They all return to their old homes as completely changed persons/hobbits, leading their old lives into new realms. That is their resurrection (well, if we're ignoring The Scouring of the Shire, which could be cited as the real zone off a resurrection) - upon their return, they resurrect their old lives with new spirits and lessons.

Even in Harry Potter, as much as we may criticize the Epilogue of Deathly Hallows, it does prove interesting to observe what happens after the final battle, what happens after Harry goes back. Not to his old life as a wizard stuck in the muggle world, no, but back to being a generally normal kind of life, but after some very abnormal experiences. We see Harry as a new person, as a father and husband and man changed by his adolescent ordeals. It is important to understand this, even if its execution leaves something to be desired (I mean, Albus Severus? Really? Poor kid, poor poor kid...), because we see Harry resurrected into his future self. This is kind of a double resurrection though, as only a chapter earlier did Harry undergo a semi-literal resurrection after Voldemort supposedly kills him but he doesn't actually die and has that beautiful conversation with Dumbledore in "King's Cross." Oh how I love that chapter. But that resurrection is a figurative one as he comes back not so different than he was beforehand - he still has a battle to fight and he has not really gone on the road back yet; he hasn't finished his job just yet, but he's nearly there.

I think the reason Breaking Dawn split fans was that it presented a shitty conclusion to a mildly interesting premise. Bella gets to live in both the ordinary and fantasy world in the end, which is not right and downright selfish of Stephanie Meyer to grant her protagonist that. She gets to have a child, something to propel her forward, as well as remain in the fantasy world forever. It's gross and one of the many reasons I absolutely hate the introduction of "teethbaby" (aka Reneesme or however it's spelled). The debate between Team Jacob and Team Edward, the debate between life as it should be and life as it is (as Bella phrases it in the movie), is destroyed in the final chapter as totally irrelevant, which is appalling to me.

But Eclipse gets credit as probably the most interesting installment in the franchise. Bella and Edward, though still Mary Sues and lacking personality to the point of painfulness, have grown as a couple and are not totally disgusting when they're together (as a perpetually single girl surrounded by her perpetually dating friends, I know the difference between a sickening couple and a couple who has grown into their affection for each other, which sometimes takes a really long time and sometimes no time at all, but my personal life aside...). While the action is still horrible, the dialogue cheesy, and most of the characters pointless or annoying, there is something appealing in the actual story of Eclipse. I don't like what Bella chooses, and I hate how it turns out thanks to that atrocious author, but I relish the decision that has to be made and the options and the weight of it all. I can respect Bella's choice for one reason: namely the way she phrases it as how life "IS" rather than how life "SHOULD BE." That is such a mature and great phrasing that I can forgive her other nonsense about not fitting into a normal world, which, though understandable, just makes me dislike her more and more because it never feels like she deserves that special world. She never earns her keep, to me, which makes her such a dull character. But that aside, I have to give it to the three leads, their acting was totally watchable and occasionally, OCCASIONALLY, engrossing. Mostly, though, I live for Charlie, because he gets the only good dialogue in any of the movies.

I still can't stand Twilight for the many reasons I have brought up in the past and will bring up in the future, but I respect the movies more than the books. It helps that it would be even stupider to describe on film CONSTANTLY Edward's beauty and perfection. Actually, it's quite tamped down in this installment, which I liked a lot. On some occasions, I could almost even spot a personality. Granted, when he said things like how he'd let Bella go if he chose Jacob, I also felt like he was thinking to himself "...and then I'd kill myself." But I might blame that on the Eclipse 8-bit game of AWESOME where I know there's at least one scenario where Edward dies of a broken heart. Regardless, I feel as if some of the major flaws in the books are fixed in the movies. But the story is still rather crappy, so there's really no fixing that, no matter how many unintentionally interesting premises come into play.

For instance, I wonder to myself if Stephanie Meyer actually caught that Jasper had filled the same shoes as Riley once. I know the film noticed it, but it wasn't particularly direct, though clear to any intelligent moviegoer (which, I think it is safe to say, many Eclipse viewers cannot claim upon their viewing of the film. NOT THAT THEY ARE STUPID PEOPLE, but fangirls will be fangirls and when you are drooling over your fave hunks, you are not paying attention to plot details). I have no faith in Stephanie Meyer's writing abilities though, to be quite honest, and I feel that it may have been an unintentional thing. She MAY have realized it later, but I'll be a wee bit surprised if she had intended such a connection.

All in all, I can say that there were parts of Eclipse I genuinely liked (more than Twilight, where the only elements I liked for real were the vampire baseball and the soundtrack/score... and New Moon, where the only elements I liked were nothing). It was still bad overall, but I can understand the appeal more than ever. But then, that's me. Sexy vampire romance? Eh, not my thing exactly. Topics that raise a question that every fantasy story tackles in one way or another? I'm totally sold. That's what Eclipse has going for it, in my opinion, and that is where Eclipse surpasses the previous two films (not that it's too hard to do that).

I could go on for ages about the "ordinary world" and the "special/fantasy world" and the Hero's Journey and fantasy stories at large, but I'll hold onto that for another time because this post is long enough.

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