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Entries in Twilight Saga/New Moon [2009] (1)

Sunday
Nov292009

The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)

Interlude with Some Glam-pires

If you’re considering going to see The Twilight Saga: New Moon because you’ve heard it’s better than the first film, I’d like to propose a brief, rather vulgar, mental exercise.

Consider the last time you were constipated. It was excruciating, wasn’t it? Lots of effort and groaning, perhaps some tears of agony—all followed by a result that probably wasn’t worth the effort.

That’s the first Twilight movie.

Now recall your last bout of diarrhea: likely a much smoother experience, with better pacing and far more colors.

That’s New Moon.

The lesson? No matter how drawn out or mercifully short the process, shit is shit, and shit stinks.

It’s hard to believe that, when this film franchise is complete, we will have four—maybe five—movies devoted to such a simple, bland story. After having endured the first two, I’m convinced they could have been condensed into one hour-and-a-half movie (much like the bloated Harry Potter series). Of course, this would mean taking out all of the extended pouting and longing shots, not to mention the gratuitous shirtless preening. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Taking place shortly after the events of Twilight, New Moon opens with Bella Swan’s (Kristen Stewart) 18th birthday party, which she celebrates with the Cullen family. They’re a tight-knit clan of undercover vampires who includes Edward (Robert Pattinson), Bella’s boyfriend and James Dean idolater. Bella slices her finger open on some wrapping paper and is attacked by one of the “younger” vampires, who hasn’t learned to control his blood lust. The Cullens leave town for Bella’s safety and she spends three months staring out her bedroom window; her policeman father allows her to do this because he apparently believes prolonged waking catatonia and violent, screaming nightmares to be acceptable teenage behavior.

Enter Jacob (Taylor Lautner), Bella’s platonic best friend. When Bella finally drags herself out of bed, he helps her restore a busted motorcycle. You see, she’s developed the ability to see a ghostly, Jedi-like vision of Edward whenever she is endangered, and figures that if she can get close enough to death she’ll be able to communicate with her beloved. Did I mention that the Twilight films are packed with great messages for teenage girls?

Over several weeks, Bella and Jacob bond over break fluid and she helps keep him out of trouble with the other kids from his Indian reservation high school: a pack of buff dudes who spend their free time roaming the woods, wrestling and diving off cliffs—wearing only cut-off shorts and eager smiles (I’ll leave the “recruiting” subtext to the scholars). Bella kind of falls for Jacob, but she can’t shake Edward, so she leaves him in the “friend zone”. Cut to several more weeks and a dozen un-returned phone calls later, and we find Bella driving out to Jacob’s house. He’s cut his long hair and forsaken the “shirt-and-pants” look for—you guessed it—cut-offs. He warns Bella to stay away from him and his new band of secretive, well-waxed friends; she ignores him and is attacked by the bronzed brotherhood who are—gasp!—werewolves.

I’ll fast-forward through the next hour of will-they/won’t-they drama (they won’t) and get to the semi-interesting stuff. We learn of an ancient vampire council called the Volturi. They live in Italy and maintain the laws of their culture; one of which is that vampires cannot reveal themselves to mankind—under penalty of death (never mind that Edward and Bella’s relationship has been going on for quite awhile and that a good number of vampires know their “secret”). Edward goes before the Volturi and asks to be killed (don’t ask); they deny his wish, so he decides to step out into the sunlight during an Italian festival; Bella shows up (seriously, don’t ask) and stops him. The vampire police are miffed and demand to see the lovesick teenagers; during this encounter, it is discovered that Bella is immune to the Volturi’s powers: they try to psychically inflict pain and it doesn’t work; they try to read her mind and find only a void (which I’ve known about Kristen Stewart ever since Adventureland). Several boring fight scenes later, Bella and Edward are released and head back to Forks, Washington, where they rekindle their relationship.

This leaves Jacob out in the cold, moping shirtlessly and rambling about some treaty between vampires and werewolves. I had serious deja vu during the last twenty minutes and realized that I was watching a re-run of the first film’s climax—though New Moon’s sets are cooler.

That’s a lot of summary, huh? I’m sad to say that I’ve left out several sub-plots because A) I don’t care and chances are, neither will you, and B) they are filler that serve only to pad out this weak story and give it the illusion of depth. New Moon is not without its charms, but every two- or three-minute scene of nice character touches is cut short by poorly choreographed action or drastic personality shifts that come off as bad rehearsal footage. These movies have a rabid fan base and it’s cute that the screenwriter and director attempt to stuff as much of the books into the film to give it an air of legitimacy, but the real reason these pictures are so popular is because of the goddamned beefcake. Pattinson and Lautner strike so many poses in this movie that a number of times I swear they were replaced by cardboard standees. If—as the Twi-hards claim—the books are amazing, great literature, then the filmmakers have utterly failed to bear this out. Watching these movies, I’m not at all compelled to read the source material; if anything, I’m inspired to start some Fight-Club-style book-burning franchises.

New Moon is actually very entertaining, if you’re up for a good laugh. The actors are forced to recite lines that one can picure scribbled inside squiggly hearts on the back of Stephenie Meyer's sophomore English Lit notebook; but they can't even do it convincingly. Kristen Stewart once again demonstrates that she has some kind of respiratory disorder (she huffs before, during and after almost every line, and occasionally launches into these weird limb-flailing spasms). Robert Pattinson continues to perfect Method Sulking. Only Taylor Lautner fares well here; his unforced sincerity suggests that he may have squeezed an acting class into his rigorous workout routine. But all of the leads are upstaged by Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning (you read that right) as members of the Volturi. Their fifteen minutes of screen time almost make up for the other hundred-plus, and they (briefly) turn New Moon into something interesting, something adult. Unfortunately, they come and go, and leave us with a love triangle that is destined to become this generation’s guilty, dated embarrassment (like the original 90210 or a prom night abortion).

Note: I’m not the audience for this movie, as I’ve neither read the books nor had a period (sorry, if there’s a definition of a “chick flick”, New Moon is it; the irony-free gender cross-over potential for this franchise is zero). I do appreciate entertainment aimed at different audiences, but I’ve seen more honest storylines about love, loss, and longing on Gossip Girl. For all the cheesy glamour and stigma of it being a network teen drama, it does well with archetypes and features actors who at least have life to breathe into the material.