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|Written by April Yorke|
|Wednesday, 07 July 2010 00:00|
Book vs. Film discusses both texts in their entirety, i.e. spoiler alert!
Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series has grown along with its characters. Like Bella and Edward, Eclipse shows a new maturity from the author, readily addressing compromise, sexuality, and violence in a way that the previous books were too young and shy to touch. It would certainly be my candidate for the best in the series. To say that ever-present screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg and new series director David Slade go Meyer one better is almost a cliché at this point, but it's nevertheless true.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse opens with a young man venturing out into a stormy Seattle night. An unseen entity moving at superhuman speed bumps into him, eventually directing him towards an empty shipping yard. A small slice in his hand leaves him writhing on the ground in immense pain. Yes, it's Riley (Xavier Samuel), who readers know has an important role to play in the events that unfold in Eclipse. In Chapter 24. Of 27. Just let that sink in.
We find Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella (Kristen Stewart) studying and making out in The Meadow (just like real teenagers! minus the sparkling!). Edward's trying to convince Bella to marry him, his prerequisite to make her a vampire himself, while Bella sticks to her refusal, knowing Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) will turn her after graduation anyway. Bella's reading Robert Frost's "Fire and Ice," nicely setting up the choice between her ice cold vampire lover and her scorching hot werewolf bestie (Taylor Lautner), and eschewing the novel's heavy-handed references to Wuthering Heights.
Just a few minutes in, and we're freed from the novel's dreary house arrest, where Edward supplies Bella with endless college applications to schools he wishes she would attend while Charlie (the still delicious Billy Banks, providing comic relief) supervises.
Charlie lightens up on Bella's grounding but cautions her to use it to see people other than Edward. Bella decides to go see Jacob, who's been avoiding her since Edward's return, but her truck won't start. Edward appears out of the shadows on the bench beside her. He disabled her truck after Bella's future dropped off Alice's (Ashley Greene) radar. Holy man, does this level of controlling behaviour go on for a long chunk of the novel. Alice can't see Bella's future when it entwines with the wolves, as if "the future can't hold them."
Given that Victoria (an underwhelming Bryce Dallas Howard) is still on the loose and plotting revenge, a future that Alice can't see is the same as no future at all. Besides, Edward reasons, the wolves are dangerous in their own right. Bella trusts her own judgement and wishes Edward would, too. She slams out of the car and stomps into the house. End scene. In the book, the argument is bookended by Edward telling Bella that she's within her rights to kick him out for the night (he spends every night in her room, watching her, as these vampires have no need for sleep). Though she slams the window shut, Book Bella rethinks and leaves it wide open. In the movie, this simply doesn't happen. The idea that Edward is there every night is implicit.
At school, after we're reminded of the friends Bella has made and the way the remaining Cullens have joined their social circle, Alice does two things: plan a graduation party (Jessica [Anna Kendrick]: I've never been to the Cullens'. Angela [Christian Serratos]: No one's ever been there) and have a vision. Edward's privy to the vision but doesn't share it with Bella. Instead, he manipulates Bella using Charlie and her graduation deadline to get her to use Carlisle and Esme's (Elizabeth Reaser) hinted-at-but-never-revealed-in-the-movie-New-Moon birthday present: two tickets to visit Renée in Jacksonville.
The movies are generally a little easier on Renée (Sarah Clarke) than the books. Though she's obviously still supposed to be scatterbrained, the movies don't hammer away at the idea that Bella is the adult quite as hard. Renée makes her book-required observations that Bella and Edward's relationship isn't normally teenage: Edward looks ready to take a bullet for Bella while Bella is hyper in tune with Edward to the point of subconsciously mirroring his every move. Then, Movie Renée gets to do something very sweet. She gives Bella a quilt she made out of all their old trip t-shirts, laughing over tri-clawed lobsters and the world's biggest this, that, and the others. Renée hopes it will keep Bella warm up at the University of Alaska and suggests that they can continue adding to it as Bella ages and has kids of her own. Bella just tells her mom that she loves her.
When they're back at school, Jacob appears in the parking lot, and Lautner gets the same fawning treatment Pattinson received for his first appearance in New Moon, minus the wind machine but plus his own guitar riff. Jacob's there to give the Cullens a warning, and that's when Bella learns the real reason she was taken out of town: Victoria returned. She'd figured out the boundary line between Quileute and Cullen land and used it to force a confrontation between the wolves and vampires, allowing her to escape unscathed. In the book, Edward and Jacob have a conversation about Bella's right to know right in front of Bella like she's not even there; in the movie, Bella jumps in that Edward lied to her (to protect her, he rationalizes), asks him to trust her judgement, and takes off with Jacob. Hopping on the back of Jacob's motorcycle doesn't happen until much later in the novel, and it's characterized as a prison break: Alice is holding Bella hostage to prevent Bella from running off to La Push while Edward hunts. Fortunately, the net result is the same: Edward learns to lighten up about the werewolves. Also, Jacob comes prepared with a helmet, which is far more reasonable than having it appear as a sudden gift from Edward in the book -- because Jacob and Bella couldn't have thought of a helmet, apparently.The two end up fighting when Jacob realizes how soon Bella intends to join the ranks of the undead. Jacob thinks Bella would be better off dead. Once again we are spared Book Edward's drama queen reaction to the remark ("I could literally kill him for saying that to you"). Still, Bella realizes that she must figure out what to do after she's made vampire, how she can keep everyone away without worrying them. Edward tries some reverse psychology: "After a few decades everyone you know will be dead. Problem solved." Dear Edward, I suspect her 18-year-old friends will last a little longer than a "few" decades. Just food for thought.
Though this section is truncated from what appears in the novel and isn't repeated at length, it does signal a new maturity in their relationship and in Meyer's narrative: Edward and Bella talk about things. In Twilight, Bella always seemed nervous about asking Edward questions, even afraid of his reaction. In New Moon, he wasn't around. But now Bella's more confident in discussing her feelings and asking Edward about his: they talk about why he doesn't want to turn her, why she doesn't want to get married, why he does. They've got things to figure out, and, for the first time, it looks like they might be able to do that.
Bella visits Jacob a second time ("Doesn't he own a shirt?" Edward cracks when he drops her off), and Bella learns the Quileute legends (15 pages of made-up myths in the book, a far more reasonable minute and a half on screen). Still, Bella's choice has created tension between her and Jacob.
Unfortunately, an intruder (unknown in the book, we see Riley in the movie) uses this opportunity to break into the Swan residence and steal Bella's red blouse for her scent. Edward catches the stranger's scent, but the Cullens can't figure out who it could be or why he came.
By the third visit, Jacob's calmed down some, but only enough to declare his love for Bella and his desire for her to choose him over Edward. When she tries to let him down gently, Jacob presses his case with an unwanted kiss. Bella slugs him as soon as it's done, but she only breaks her hand against his werewolf-thick skull.
Again, Rosenberg streamlines and cleans up the characters: Edward threatens Jacob without Bella chirping in that she wishes Edward would hurt Jacob and Edward insisting that she'll regret that later, and Charlie learns about the forced kiss and doesn't compliment Jacob on his choice (instead, Banks makes a series of faces that look like he's trying to figure out who would win in a fight):
After Carlisle bandages Bella's hand, Bella and Rosalie (Nikki Reed) have a heart-to-heart about why Rosalie is opposed to Bella joining their coven (this conversation occurs during the Alice imprisonment in the novel). Origin stories in the movies have either been truncated or cut out entirely so far in the movies, so it was a bit of a surprise that one as violent as Rosalie's was kept in. For the viewer, it's short: Rosalie was rich, happy, and engaged in 1933. One night, her fiancé and his friends gang rape her. While lying in an alley waiting to die, Carlisle finds her. He can't save her medically, so he saves her as only he can: by turning her. Rosalie gets her revenge, killing his friends, his guards, and finally her fiancé in a stolen wedding dress (how very Tarantino of her). Now she has Emmett (Kellan Lutz), but it's never enough. Rosalie longs to have children, grow old, and die. She'll never have any of those things. For Bella to consciously reject life is too much for Rosalie to bear. Mercifully, both Book and Movie Bella accept Rosalie's hesitation without pushing back.We move ahead to graduation day. Instead of Eric's mostly tuned-out valedictory address, Jessica gets to deliver the message that Bella needs to hear. She gives a speech about youth and impermanence, how this is the time to screw up and make mistakes, to try on new selves, because they have their whole lives ahead of them to figure it out. Jessica's revealed to be a cipher at this point in the books, but Kendrick's a firecracker, so the filmmakers wisely give her more to do.
At the graduation party, Jacob shows up with Quil (Tyson Houseman) and Embry (Kiowa Gordon). Bella points out that a right hook should be perceived as a dis-invitation. Jacob apologizes for the kiss, and he presents a mollified Bella with a gift: an intricately carved wolf charm on a silver bracelet. They're distracted by Alice, sadly not wearing the "sequined tank top and red leather pants" from the book, falling into a vision trance. The Cullens plus the wolves present have a quick conference. Alice has seen that the army of newborns terrorizing Seattle is coming to Forks for Bella. They still have no idea who's leading them or why, though Movie Edward recognizes Riley as the missing boy Charlie has been looking for for over a year.The audience does, however, know what the newborns are up to. Picking up material from The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner and an odd throwaway line in Eclipse the Book, we know Riley's raising up the army at Victoria's behest (she's convinced him that the Cullen clan is a threat to their lives) and that the Volturi did send a team to clean up the mess (Volturi punish vampires who make a spectacle of themselves), but Jane decided to see how the fight would play out when she realized Victoria's end game. Because Alice was only watching Victoria and Aro's decisions, she was blind to these developments.
At any rate, a newborn army is a dangerous thing, and the Cullens and the werewolves will stand together. Training sessions are led by suddenly important Jasper (Jackson Rathbone). I think you know what that means: montage! Even Edward gets taken down a peg. Jasper also reveals his origin story (two! in one movie! cut down as well, but that's okay) in order for us to understand how he came to know so much about newborns. As the second in command of a warring Southern vampire clan, Jasper raised up and destroyed newborn armies for decades before he fled and found Alice. They also use this time come up with a plan to use Jacob's scent to mask Bella's when they hide her in the woods away from the fight.
Back home, Charlie and Bella repeat their hilarious sex talk from the book (Charlie: You didn't have a boyfriend when you were eleven. Bella: I'm pretty sure everything still works the same.), though it's a bit shorter and funnier as Charlie observes that he's liking "old school" Edward more and more. Still, it puts an idea in Bella's head. There is an experience she wants while she's still human: sex with Edward.
Alice has convinced Charlie to let Bella stay with her for the weekend while her family is out of town, establishing Bella's alibi for the night. Bella arrives at Edward's empty house (Debussy's "Claire de Lune" plays quietly in the background), and he presents her with a heart charm for her bracelet. This moment is treated matter of factly in the movie, a vast improvement over Book Edward snitting about how Bella won't let him give her gifts ('cause he's the best gift, gag) and then concealing from her that it's a huge diamond and not the crystal that she mistakes it for. He takes her up to his room, where he reveals that he got Bella a bed to sleep in. It looks just like the wrought iron and gold linens four poster described in the book, but it's a much nicer gift since it isn't tied into Bella's imprisonment.So Bella puts the moves on Edward. Edward's into it until he realizes how far Bella wants things to go. He puts a stop to it much more gently than he does in the book, wherein he pins her arms down and clamps his other hand over her mouth. Dude, just because she's dating a vampire doesn't mean she's ready for this level of kink. At least negotiate a safe word first. Later he pins both her arms over head to stop her from unbuttoning. Seriously, dude, one step at a time. In a final show of drama queendom, he rips off and crushes part of the bed, sending the silt flying into the far wall. Movie Edward just uses his words, insisting that it's too dangerous no matter how much he wants Bella. Eventually, he agrees to give sex a try when they're married.
This part would be a lot easier to take if it were Edward asking Bella to respect his principles, but it's not. Given all the soul-endangering he thinks they've been up to (largely as a murderer on his part, which Book Bella rationalizes as okay because he only killed "bad people"), he's decided to protect Bella's soul this little bit more by not cashing in her V-card before marriage. Regardless of what Bella wants or what he wants, that's his plan. Bella offers him the fancy college of his choice (seriously in the book and sort of as a joke in the movie), but Edward won't budge. It's so awesome when Edward controls Bella's sexuality that she finally accepts his proposal. He excitedly gives her a hideous ring. The Masens must have been loaded.
The next day, Jacob carries Bella up to the out-of-the-way site Edward has set up for them. Along the way, borderline-rapey Jacob keeps insisting that Bella is in denial about her feelings for him. As a snowstorm rages around the tent, Edward and Bella are forced to use Jacob as a human electric blanket (the wolves run hot). Unlike Book Bella, Movie Bella does not protest against this plan for the sake of Edward's feelings. Survival first! While they think she's sleeping, Jacob and Edward have a heart to heart about Bella. Jacob is sure that Bella loves him, which Edward can neither confirm nor deny. He can only be sure that Bella loves him. Even so, if Bella wanted him to, Edward would give her up again. Jacob asks how Edward coped when he thought Bella was dead, no doubt thinking of how soon she will be dead to him, and Edward simply replies that "there are no words." Actually, there are words, but they sound like "attempted suicide."
In the morning light, Edward makes sure Jacob overhears that he and Bella are engaged. Bella chases after Jacob, trying as best she can to smooth over the situation, but there's only one thing she can do when he starts threatening suicide via vampire battle (charming!): ask Jacob to kiss her. He does, passionately (his kisses are always described as "angry" in the book to contrast with Edward's "passion"), but he still goes off to the fight. When she returns, Edward knows what has happened, even if Bella's not fully prepared to admit it. "You love him," he tells her, simply. "I love you more," she replies. "I know," he accepts, and that's the end of it in the movie. Sadly, in the book, Edward is downright nasty. He reveals that Jacob was never so noble as Bella believed, ready "to go out in a flame of glory just to clear the way" for Edward. Edward's lies are of omission, not fabrication, so it's more than likely that he really did pluck this thought out of Jacob's head. It's probable that he says this to ease Bella's worry and self-loathing, but it doesn't matter. It can't be said at all without knocking Jacob down a few pegs.At any rate, there's no time for everyone to sit around feeling their feelings. We're back at the vampire battle we never get to see in the book, and it's as expertly choreographed as we all hoped it would be. Cullens and werewolves are working together and defending each other. Jasper gets to badassedly rip both arms off a newborn.
Up on the mountain, though, Edward, Bella, and Wolf Seth (BooBoo Stewart in human form) barely have time to prepare themselves before Riley and Victoria's unexpected arrival (though at least Bella was convinced that it was Victoria behind this whole thing). First Edward mind-ninjas Riley, making it clear that Victoria is only using him. Riley pulls it together enough to fight off Wolf Seth. The attackers seem to get the upper hand on Edward when Bella slices open her arm to distract everyone with the scent of her blood. Wolf Seth is able to finish Riley off, and Victoria tries to bolt when Edward drops some more mind-ninja tricks on her about missing her best chance at Bella and what it was like when he killed James. It's just the push he needs to get her close enough to rip her head off. Edward then bandages Bella's arm. They burn the vampire pieces and head back down the mountain, skipping Book Edward's fear that Bella is put off by his decapitating someone in front of her (she's not, for the record) and his pissy lecture about Bella nearly giving him a heart attack with her "little stunt."
In the valley, the Cullens are sending the wolves away before the Volturi Alice has foreseen arrive. A hidden newborn jumps out and attacks Wolf Leah (the stunning Julia Jones in human form). Wolf Jacob jumps in and is injured before they kill the newborn, so his wolf brethren have to carry his broken body away. The Volturi arrive, get the full story, and off little Bree Tanner (Jodelle Ferland), who the Cullens would have taken in if the Volturi had let them. They're surprised to see that Bella's still alive but accept that "the date has been set." Even so, the Cullens know this isn't over. While in Italy, Edward saw that Aro wants Edward and Alice at his side, and he's unlikely to give up on that desire any time soon.
Skipping over endless exposition from Charlie about Jacob's injuries in which Edward comes out looking like a prince because of his brotherly concern for Jacob, Bella shows up at Jacob's bedside. He's weak but healing, and Bella breaks him all over again. She knows now that Jacob was right all along. She does love him, but she's choosing Edward. Jacob is willing to concede, at least for now, but he adds that he might be willing to keep fighting for her even after she's made vampire.
Skipping again over Bella's 24-hour crying jag and eventual reassurances to Edward that he's the one she really wants, we circle back to where we began. In The Meadow, Bella sets the date for their wedding (August 13th, a month before her 19th birthday). Book and Movie Edward wonder why she's doing this. Book Bella embraces the Cullen maxim of responsibility. Rosenberg, however, partially invents a speech for Bella. "It was never a choice between you," she tells Edward. "It was a choice between who I should be and who I am." Her whole life she's felt out of step except with the Cullens. She's found where she belongs. In Eclipse, Bella finally knows who she is. They're off to break the news to Charlie. Good thing Edward's bulletproof, Bella cracks.
So, book or film: Scenes like the one where Renée presents Bella with the quilt make it harder to think of the movie and the book as directly related rather than discreet properties. Rosenberg does so much with this tiny idea, reminding us of just how much Bella's giving up to be with Edward and how clueless her loved ones must be about her choice. It's invented whole cloth, and everything about it works. It's the same with the final scene in The Meadow. It's (partially) invented, and it works exactly the way it should.
Even so, it's only through Rosenberg that I can finally see what Meyer was doing all along. It's mimesis. In narrative, mimesis is a mirror that shows things as they are, as they should be, and as they could be. Mimesis simultaneously imitates and falsifies life. You can imitate, or try on, a variety of false lives through the characters you read. It helps you figure out who you want to be. The mimetic paradox is that by imitating others, we become who we are.In the novel, Bella must imitate, or try on, a variety of lives with Jacob and Edward, unconsciously rehearsing the right life. She has to truly love Jacob and have that vision of their lives together, black-haired children bobbing through the woods, in order to completely understand what she is giving up. Their relationship "would be as natural as breathing," Jacob claims. She has to fully imitate and reject that life in order to give her decision its full weight.
In the same way, Bella can't want to be a vampire solely for Edward. She must embrace the Cullens as her family and destiny. Mimesis allows tradition (human life) and innovation (vampirism) to occupy the same stage, but eventually we have to move beyond them. In Bella's case, she must choose between them. Her choice isn't between life and death. It's between life and life. After all, she'll only live once.
So do you, so choose the movie. Spare yourself Edward's drama queendom, the endless arguing over whether he's selfish or the most unselfish person ever (for reals), or the ridiculous retcon that Jacob is the natural progression Bella's life would have taken if not for Edward because we all know that's death. She would have been killed by that van in the school parking lot way back in Twilight if not for Edward. Follow your own story, Meyer.
Director of photography Javier Aguirresarobe has set his camera to close up instead of swirl this time around, but Slade's got a better handle on the situation than Chris Weitz did. The action sequences are actually exciting, and the icicle effect when the vampires break looks cool. Howard Shore's score is perfectly bland instead of obtrusively stupid like Alexandre Desplat's score for New Moon, but can't they rehire Carter Burwell and get back Bella's lullaby? There's a reason his guitar and tribal drum driven Twilight score is aped on The Vampire Dairies every chance they get: it's genius.
Eclipse would have been the perfect ending to the series: Bella makes her choice, but we stop just short of seeing everything wrapped up with a neat little bow. Then Breaking Dawn comes along to ruin it. I'll tell you exactly how in November 2011.
Tags: alexandre desplat, anna kendrick, ashley greene, billy banks, book vs film, books, carter burwell, cinema, david slade, eclipse, fire, howard shore, jackson rathbone, javier aguirresarobe, kristen stewart, melissa rosenberg, mimesis, peter facinelli, robert pattinson, stephenie meyer, taylor lautner, twilight, vampire diaries, vampires, werewolves
I think just the opposite...
The movies (especially the second and third) make it easier to like Jacob rather than Edward...they dial back Jacob's whiny, rapey ways and put Pattinson in that awful makeup and side-burn fiasco, which makes him decidedly less attractive. Plus, is it just me, or did Eclipse get away with making Jacob seem like...chivalrous or something?
"Mimesis allows tradition (human life) and innovation (vampirism) to occupy the same stage, but eventually we have to move beyond them." the wise one wrote, but will I be able to decrypt the message? Will I be able to penetrate the arcane? Tradition, innovation? What does she mean?