Eclipse dims Twilight franchise, while Jonah Hex is unwanted – dead or alive
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse marks the third in the immensely profitable screen franchise based on Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling series of novels. Happily, at 125 minutes, it’s the shortest of the Twilight films so far. But, unhappily, it’s the worst and most repetitious of the bunch.
One of these days, when the Twilight faithful sigh wistfully and think back to the film series, Eclipse will not be the one most fondly remembered, and for those viewers not steeped in Twilight mania yet somehow get sucked into seeing it, it’s unlikely to be remembered much at all.
The film picks up essentially where the last one left off, with teen heroine Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) reunited with her handsome, undead boyfriend, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Highschool graduation is fast approaching, and the two are making marriage plans, despite the presence of
Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), the hunky werewolf who also has eyes for Bella.
As so often seems the case, however, Edward has neglected to inform Bella of some news that could well spoil their intended nuptials: An army of vampires is gathering in nearby Seattle and planning an invasion.
Putting aside their differences, vampires and werewolves are compelled to join forces to repel this onslaught. And that, pretty much, is the story.
Given that Eclipse re-emphasizes the Edward/ Bella/Jacob love triangle, much as New Moon did, broken only by preparations for the impending attack — which basically entails characters looking worried (behind their yellow contact lenses) and saying “The vampires are coming” over and over again, until the (anti-)climactic bout, this film basically shapes up as a combination of leftovers from the last film and a tepid warm-up for the next.
Stewart, Pattinson and a mostly shirtless Lautner go through the motions here, although with a bit less enthusiasm than before. Ashley Greene (Alice) and Nikki Reed (Rosalie) are given a bit more screen time this go-round, while Bryce Dallas Howard snarls intermittently as the vicious (but not terribly formidable) Victoria. Billy Burke earns a few laughs as Bella’s dad, the town’s clueless police chief, whose apparent obliviousness to the supernatural goings-on around him makes one wonder where he learned his trade. Also back: Peter Facinelli, Jackson Rathbone, Anna Kendrick, Elisabeth Reaser, Cameron Bright and Dakota Fanning, who delivers her lines in a “mysterious” monotone that less suggests malevolence than bored indifference.
Eclipse also has trouble keeping its seasons straight. Shortly after high-school graduation, Bella is whisked away to safety in a mountain hideaway that appears to be somewhere near the Arctic Circle, given the incessant snowfall. (Is the Pacific Northwest so cold as to have blizzards in the summer, or even the early autumn?) Little of this will matter, of course, to the legions of Twilight fans who will flock to this mostly tension-free endeavor and make it one of the year’s bigger box-office hits (if not the biggest). It’ll make lots of money, thereby satisfying the studio.
But that’s where satisfaction ends.
In the case of Jonah Hex, the viewer again gets no satisfaction.
This is a textbook example of how to kill a screen franchise before it even gets started, an overblown, overproduced and painfully underwhelming Western fantasy based on a popular DC Comics series that ranks, already, among the summer’s biggest box-office disappointments and among the year’s worst films to date.
“This here’s my story,” intones Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) as the title credit looms onscreen — a clear case of stating the obvious.
Brolin scowls and swaggers his role through the emptiness as Hex, a grizzled and disfigured gunslinger with the ability to communicate with the dead — a skill won after surviving a botched hanging. Now he wanders the West, blasting bad guys left and right and philosophizing in voiceover.
Jonah Hex looks like a Western, but it never feels like one. For a film so ostensibly steeped in Western lore — and with more than enough cinematic predecessors to inform it — it displays little interest in delving beneath the surface trappings, which tend to be lifeless in this misguided context. There are also flashbacks (unnecessary) and hallucinations (incongruous) to further pad out a shockingly slim (80 minutes!) yet undeniably protracted narrative. The scars of post-production are as evident as the scars on Jonah Hex’s face, and it doesn’t make for a pretty picture.
Later, once the film’s plot has lurched into motion (unsteadily so), President Ulysses S. Grant states: “The very fate of our nation may rest on the shoulders of Jonah Hex.” It’s a terrifying thought and an unintentionally amusing line.
The theft of munitions has been attributed to Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), a renegade Confederate general and Jonah Hex’s sworn enemy. Years before, Turnbull thought he killed Hex, then Hex thought Turnbull was dead. Turns out both men were wrong, yet not nearly as wrong (or as wrong-headed) as the film depicting their enmity has turned out.
It’s Turnbull’s aim (nefarious, to be sure) to fashion a super-bomb called the “Nation Killer” and drop it on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington DC during the nation’s centennial celebration on July 4, 1876. Naturally, it’s Hex’s aim to thwart Turnbull’s plans. No prizes for guessing who triumphs. It’s not the audience, that’s for sure.
Also along for the ride are Megan Fox, nicely filling out her period costume as Hex’s prostitute girlfriend Lilah; Michael Fassbender as Turnbull’s Irish-brogue, oddly-tattooed henchman Burke (a lethal leprechaun, if you will); Will Arnett, Wes Bentley, Tom Wopat, Rance Howard, an (understandably) unbilled Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Michael Shannon, who comes and goes so quickly as to not register at all.
Then again, very little of Jonah Hex registers. It deserves to be forgotten — and quickly.
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