Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Eclipse premiere at the Pickwick Theatre: Celebrities, screams, and madness

Last night/this morning I attended the midnight showing of the latest film in the Twilight franchise, Eclipse, at the Pickwick Theatre in downtown Park Ridge. Before the film's midnight showing two of the actors, Gil Birmingham (Billy Black) and Justin Chon (Eric Yorkie) appeared for an autograph session with fans and then gave a Q&A. I attended the Q&A, which started out as a mini-concert given by Birmingham on acoustic guitar. He sang an Elvis cover, John Mayer's "No Such Thing," "Never Tear Us Apart" by INXS, a few other songs, and a couple original compositions. During the Q&A session we learned that Chon dyed his black hair blonde both to anger his management and for a movie role (earlier, while waiting on the sidewalk outside the Pickwick box office, Chon walked right by me and I didn't realize it was him with blonde hair until he walked through the door to go inside!). He said he just wanted to be his own person and not listen to what people were always telling him what to do. When asked which actors they admire, Chon talked about the craziness of Crispin Glover and Birmingham said he liked Johnny Depp. And, weirdly of all, Chon overshared some information that was just so bizarre I couldn't help but crack up laughing, but I won't repeat the specifics here.

The turnout for the Q&A was disappointingly small, especially taking into consideration how many fans were waiting in line outside to watch the movie. At the Q&A's conclusion at 11:30 PM the waiting fans streamed into the Pickwick's main theater, which very quickly became packed to capacity. The crowd mostly consisted of teenage girls, junior high up to high school, with various small groupings of teenage boys thrown into the mix and some accompanying parents; I definitely felt old standing next to the teens and wondered where the other twenty-somethings like me were hiding (I saw plenty of them at last year's New Moon premiere at my local AMC!). Five minutes before the movie started Birmingham and Chon walked back out on stage with their cameras, and madness erupted. We then only had to sit through one preview before the start of Eclipse.

In Eclipse, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is at the end of her senior year in high school. She wants her boyfriend, the vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), to change her into a vampire after graduation, which he only agrees to do if she marries him. Bella's friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), a werewolf, is in love with Bella and is angered by the thought of her choosing to be a vampire over living a human life, especially if that life could be shared with him. Additionally, the vampire Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) is still at large and looking for revenge for the death of her mate, James, at the hands of Edward, which occurred in the first Twilight movie. To have her revenge Victoria manipulates a newborn vampire, Riley (Xaiver Samuel), to build an army of newborn vampires. Newborn vampires are very strong because they still have some human blood left in their bodies and are difficult to control because all they can think about is drinking blood. In spite of the animosity between the two groups, the Cullens and the Quileute werewolves join together to fight the newborn army. Because Alice (Ashley Greene) saw them coming in her visions of the future, they have time to prepare; Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) teaches the vampires and werewolves on techniques to use to kill newborns. I think the action sequences featuring the vampires and werewolves were a highlight of the movie.

I continue to root for the character of Jacob, even though I know his fate in the books (Stephenie Meyer, Jacob doesn't deserve that! Twilight fans, you know what I'm referring to!). Lautner and Pattinson share some scenes that are entertaining to watch as each guy barely contains his hatred for the other. Eclipse also includes several flashbacks to the vampires' pasts. Jasper especially has a larger role in this film; the vampire who created him did so because she wanted Jasper, a major in the Confederate Army, to train armies of newborn vampires. Unfortunately, aside from Jacob, the members of the Wolf Pack (Sam, Paul, Jared, Quil, Embry, Seth, and Leah) are mostly seen in werewolf, and not human, form. Paul (Alex Meraz) fans like me will be disappointed in that.

For the most part the movie follows the plot of Stephenie Meyer's book of the same name. Unfortunately, that means that the 18-year-old Bella is intent on getting married and remaining a teenager forever so she can be with her love, Edward. I just don't believe that a girl that young would know exactly what she wanted to do with her life. As Jessica (Anna Kendrick) says in her commencement speech, they are at the point in their lives where they can make mistakes and experience all sorts of things in life. I just want to tell Bella to go off on her own somewhere to college, away from Edward and Jacob, and just experience being independent. A huge reason why I think the character of Sookie Stackhouse is so well-written in Charlaine Harris' southern vampires novels is that the twenty-something Sookie doesn't need a boyfriend to have happiness in her life. She has her job, friends, and hobbies like reading books from the library. Sookie knows who she is and can stand up for herself. Although she hangs with (and sometimes dates) vampires and werewolves, Sookie has her own life. End of Sookie rant!

Despite my problems with the Twilight-series plot as a whole, I enjoyed Eclipse more than the previous installments; I had a blast seeing the movie at its midnight showing at the Pickwick. The audience loudly reacted to the plot developments but stayed quiet during the sections with dialogue. The audience screamed the most for Jacob; Edward only got screams when he locked lips with Bella. My favorite audience comment had to be near the end of the movie, way after the character of Riley had been established-- he appeared on screen in the woods and a teenage boy shouted, "Who's that guy?"