This time it's war -- or something.
What's starting, to clarify things, is a war with the "newborns" -- fresh-bitten vampires who are stronger than the usual sort, apparently. But the blood sport that Twilight fans will care about is the fight for high school heroine Bella, a battle waged between chilly but sparkly vampire Edward and hotblooded wolf-boy Jacob, he of the washboard abs.
But wait: Edward ended the last movie with a proposal of marriage, so everything's decided, right? Mmmm, not so much. As Jacob snarls during a confrontation with Edward, "She doesn't know what she wants!"
Macho posturing aside, that newborn vampire army is headed their way from Seattle, and the werewolves and the vampires need to work together to defeat them. Mostly this involves striking poses in the woods, snarling a lot, and waiting ... a lot. Also much bickering between Edward and Jacob in the high school parking lot.
It is during one of these bouts of male posturing that Kristen Stewart's Bella, refusing to choose sides, says, "I'm Switzerland," and it hits me. I'd been seeing this story in terms of high school gangs -- Sharks and Jets (or wolves and bats, or whatever) -- when there's a much better metaphor: geopolitics.
Think about it: Aging European aristocracy (Edward being 109 years old and downright Byronic) meets virile, all-American boy (Jacob having spent most of his 16 years in the tribe's gymnasium). Pasty, anemic Edward loves poetry and sitting in blossom-filled meadows. Brawny Jacob likes hikes in the woods and sitting 'round campfires. Sure, they'll be allies when the Germans -- um, the newborns -- threaten. But they're basically from different worlds.
Even their acting styles match up: Robert Pattinson's an English thespian, giving Edward sad eyes and a smile that looks like indigestion. Taylor Lautner's Jacob is such a chest-thumping Brando-wannabe that you half expect him to throw his head back and shout "Bell-llaaaaaaaa!"
The film around them has pretty scenery, pretty people, pretty wolves and pretty broad winks at the audience, including a jokey male-bonding scene atop a mountain ... in a tent. Bella falls asleep between her hunky boyfriends, and the two of them talk about the pain of love till the sun comes up. (All that's missing is a herd of sheep outside -- and maybe the chime of a single forlorn guitar string on the soundtrack.)
Director David Slade keeps the action brisk and the time-killing attractive. There are better special effects than last time, and Bella gets to be brave when it counts. All of which should be like a freshly opened vein for fans -- especially as it results in Eclipse ending up almost exactly where it started, with weddings still to come. Can you wait?