Friday, April 30, 2010


Directed by Chris Weitz

Starring Robert Patinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner

I'll be honest: I have a basic problem with Twilight that I just can't get over. It has nothing to do with Stephanie Myers's grade-school prose or its popularity with tween girls and bored housewives. I realize I'm not smack dab in the middle of the series' target demographic. Hell, I'm not even on the rim of the outer circle. My problem with Twilight is this: the romance between the two main characters - the main thread of the story - is poisonous. Edward is a manipulative perpetrator of emotional (and borderline physical) abuse and Bella a weak-willed, narcissistic twit, defined not by any pro-active personality traits or actions but by the men she encounters in her life. While I don't think Twilight is dangerous, exactly, to the young minds that devour the books and films, I do think the central relationship should be condemned more than it is condoned. There's a fine line between being in love and being obsessed, and Bella and Edward cross that line very early into the first book/film.

New Moon begins as Bella is about to turn 18 and even more miserable than she was in the first film. She's getting old, she complains. She flips out when her father Charlie (Billy Burke, sporting the best mustache this side of Remington Steele) jokes about a grey hair. She flips out when people point out she's about to turn 18. She flips out when Edward wants to throw a birthday party for her. Finally she relents, and during the celebration held at the Cullens' residence all hell breaks loose when she gets a paper cut. Unable to control his urge to kill when he smells blood, Edward's brother Jasper tries to attack Bella, only to be fended off by Edward and his other siblings. Realizing he's put her in too much danger (really, Edward? What did you think would happen? You've got 109 years under your hair and you've put the one you supposedly love in a situation equivalent to bringing her around a bunch of rapists who haven't been laid in years), Edward decides to leave the town of Forks, and Bella, forever.

This action right here proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Edward is abusive and terrible. "Don't do anything drastic", he tells Bella, knowing full well she will do just that. Even if Edward's intentions are dandy and all he's trying to do is protect Bella, his sister Alice is psychic. It stands to reason that he could ask her what would happen if he were to leave. He doesn't.

Distraught that her true love has left, Bella spends a good fifteen minutes of the film thrashing in her bed, screaming, and shaking like a detoxing heroin addict. Ewan McGregor had an easier time kicking the H in Trainspotting than Bella does dealing with Edward breaking up with her. It's embarrassing stuff for Kristen Stewart, who's going to look back at this film 20 years from now and pay WETA to digitally erase her from it.

Discovering that she can conjure up images of Edward whenever she gets close to doing anything that may harm her, Bella begins to do outrageous and dangerous things - like accept a ride on a moped from a fat, bald, 35 year old dude. Setting aside the ridiculous image of Bella on the back of a Yamaha with her arms around an Ethan Suplee look-alike, the fact that anyone would ever think like Bella scares the living bejeezus out of me. If Myers and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (who also writes for Dexter!) were commenting on how dangerous obsession is and what it could lead to, that would be fine. But they're not. Bella is rewarded for her dangerous and stupid activity with attention from Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), a Native American hottie who also happens to be a werewolf.

I have to give kudos to the Lautner kid. After having a small part in Twilight, he was dangerously close to being replaced in New Moon by another actor after the producers decided he wasn't "buff" enough for the role. He worked his underage tush off, beat the odds, and won the part back. And his excitement at being in the film makes his the only charming (and I use the word very, very loosely) performance in the film. While he's about as threatening and dangerous as a care bear, Lautner has a small sense of comedic timing. There's a scene mid-film where Jacob tags along with Bella and her friend Mike as they go see a film, and it's the only light-hearted and fun scene in the film, mainly thanks to Lautner. (Although director Chris Weitz should also be given a hand for it - he co-directed American Pie with his brother Paul and has a good handle on the awkward situations teens find themselves in when driven by a combination of libido and naivete.)

While New Moon is by no means great or even good for the first half hour or so, it's the middle hour that really tests one's patience. In between pining for Edward and falling for Jacob, Bella continues to be miserable, ignoring her friends and family. There's an hour of the film where just about nothing happens, at least anything memorable. The few action sequences that occur in the film are hampered by terrible digital effects (seriously, the gameplay in God of War III looks better than this films CG effects) and a dismal alt-rock soundtrack (save for a cut by Thom Yorke, "Hearing Damage", which is actually quite brilliant - and brilliantly used in the film). The film comes to a dead stop about halfway through, and it's not until Jacob's revelation that it picks up steam again.

Although it's a thinly veiled metaphor for homosexuality ("It's not a lifestyle choice, Bella, I was born this way" he says, about being a werewolf), Jacob's story is actually quite interesting. His struggle is compelling and intriguing. The problem is we don't see it. He disappears, Bella is told he's sick, and the next thing you know the animators (certainly not future ILM employees) are turning him into a wolf. It's a missed opportunity, but I understand the need to keep the focus on Bella's morose, depressing, ungrateful attitude. I guess.

The third act of the film is a tad more exciting than the previous hour, in that the characters are actually going places and doing things. Alice (the outrageously gorgeous Ashley Greene) finally steps into Bella's life after she tries to kill herself by jumping off a cliff. Alice informs Bella that Edward is going to kill himself by revealing himself to the human race, thereby upsetting the Volturi (briefly described in heavy handed exposition earlier in the film as a group that keeps the vampire race in line) who will then snuff him out. Edward believes Bella to be dead, therefore he just can't live anymore (*GAG*). So Alice and Bella race to Italy where Dakota Fanning, as one of the Volturi, gets a cameo (in a role I can only assume grows in the next installment or two, as I'm at a loss as to why they would give such a small part to such a high profile name) and Michael Sheen out-acts the entire cast in 10 minutes. Once there, badly-cut action ensues, laughable dialogue is spoken, and our two leads get to look nauseated while kissing each other again.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon isn't as flat and non-compelling as Weitz's previous film The Golden Compass was, but it's pretty close. It's a ridiculously banal and charmless movie that appeals to our most shallow and base senses. Oh well. At least it'll introduce millions of young tweens to Thom Yorke.

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1 comment:

  1. Well at least you were fair and you "get it" about the phenomenon. You pretty much hit the nails on the coffin perfectly on this one in my opinion. Pacing of this film meant more to me because the first one was rough for me to follow for some reason. Overall this film was just very entertaining me. Its soap operas on the big screen. Picture the Young and Restless with vampires and werewolves instead. Those make me sick so much its almost comical. I tease my fiance about that Edward/Bella love errrr obsession on how it is too much to drive a series but that's today's culture for you. We live in a world where shows like The View and Ellen take over the minds of the tweens and bored housewives, lol. Its really just those cheesy novels come to life through commercial mean. I walk in these films with no expectations and come out thinking of how I can twist it into some horror film like the makers of Cabin Fever took Melrose Place and placed horror upon them. That scenerio made that film classic to me. So, yeah, I'll finish the series (next on in June of course) and hopefully we can keep everyone here on earth. Maybe one day I'll have a real take on it, just have my mind on other films right now, ;)