Directed by Chris Weitz
Written by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer
Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Anna Kendrick
Running time: 130 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (violence and action)
Well, folks, it’s finally here. The movie that ravenous Twilight fans, Robert Pattinson-aholics, teenage girls and apparently suburban moms alike have been awaiting with bated breath.
It’s time for New Moon.
The Twilight Saga has become a full-fledged, international phenomenon. Kind of like the Backstreet Boys or the Macarena. Twilight is massively popular and raked in the most money in terms of dvd sales this year, but it’s also one of those phenomena that lack the universal appeal of, say, Harry Potter. Despite the limited demographic and even though substantial mockage has been made of the Twilight Phenom (check out the awesome SNL Parody starring a brunette Taylor Swift in “Firelight“), it’s an international blockbuster – and the legions of fans busting down doors at midnight tonight and all day tomorrow care not what the cynical critics say! It’s New Moon! Shirtless underage boys on steroids! Chalky emo vampires with bad contact lenses, sparklies, and pixie hair! Cheesetastic lines about endearing, all consuming love!
Now while I’m obviously not a huge fan (Breaking Dawn was amazingly terrible), I’ll grant that Twilight has its own appeal. It’s one of those guilty pleasure, silly, I-probably-shouldn’t-be-watching-this-but-I-can’t-look-away films. So far as adolescent vampire love story films go, Twilight is an entertaining as they come. When I was lucky enough to get invited to watch an early screening of New Moon, I experienced a strange mixture of emotions. My hopes weren’t high by any stretch of the imagination – but I was expecting to be entertained, even if it was on a guilty pleasure level.
Sadly, New Moon just isn’t a very good movie. On any level.
At just over a draggy two hours, New Moon has some moments of intentional humor and genuine sweetness, but these are far and few between – not to mention, they are overshadowed by poor pacing, shoddy direction, and an abundance of unintentionally hilarity.
After a comically bugeyed Jasper (audiences burst into laughter at his “serious face” – no joke):
attacks Bella when she cuts herself opening a birthday present at the Cullens’, Edward decides that woah woah woah, this relationship is waaaaay too dangerous, so he tells Bella that this will be the last time she ever sees him. He lies and says that he’s bored with her and that he’s moving on without her (psh). Bella goes catatonic after the love of her life (at all of eighteen years old!) leaves her, and she has weird bouts of screaming in her sleep, gasping, sighing, morosely staring out her french windows as Chris Weitz decides to use awkwardly dizzying 360 camera techniques to illustrate the passage of time.
Doormat Bella never really gets over Edward leaving – though she does come to rely on best friend Jacob (a ridiculously ripped Taylor Lautner). After he helps Bella to feel human again, promising that he’ll never hurt her the way Edward did, OMG he turns into a werewolf (the curse of his clan, charged with protecting the innocent humans of Forks from the vampires that prey upon them). Jacob’s refusal to talk to Bella leads her to relapse into her funk – and she soon discovers that by taking idiotic, suicidal risks, she’s “gifted” with misty apparitions of her beloved Edward (giving her the very helpful advice “BE SAFE,” and other insipid cautionary remarks before dissolving into inky swirls of poorly CGI’d smoke). Bella eventually takes it too far, jumping off a cliff (for the ultimate rush, ya know), and via Alice’s visions, Edward thinks Bella has died, and decides to go off on a half cocked plan to reveal himself to humans in Italy, provoking the Volturi (a big bad association of vampire granddaddies) to kill him too. Only, Bella didn’t die when she jumped off the cliff, so she and Alice rush to Italy to stop Edward before it is TOO LATE.
Where do I begin with the problems New Moon had? Should I start with the hollow performances, even from the lovely Kristen Stewart (who is a fine actress, but feels sadly drab in this film)? The laugh-inducing choices for certain special effects (did you know that when Misty!Edward appears, his sweet Volvo does too)? The sloppy transitions and hilarious slomo scenes of characters running through the forest (yes, this really happens. Multiple times.)? There’s not a lot that’s very good with this film.
So far as writing goes, the script for New Moon is intensely loyal to the book, and in all fairness does a good job, weaving Bella’s depression with her growing friendship/romance with Jacob, ending in a dramatic encounter at Volturi headquarters. Though, one can’t help but think that one of the film’s greatest weaknesses – especially so far as the Edward fandom is concerned – is how absent Edward is from the film. A welcome surprise, however, is Taylor Lautner’s undeniably brawny Jacob Black, lending a warmth and humanity, an endearing, dogged (hardy har!) love interest for a decidedly wooden Bella.
The interactions between Jacob and Bella are alternately funny and touching, and comprise the best of the films few high notes – a scene where Jacob, Bella and Mike watch a movie on an awkward triple date, a ride home in Bella’s truck with Jacob driving, an almost kiss in the Swan kitchen. Too, the members of the Quileute tribe (or rather, pride) are decently entertaining in their shirtless uniform.
In contrast to the warmth of the werewolves of the Pacific Northwest, the vampires feel trite and, frankly, lame. Something happens with redhead vampire Victoria (who has it out for Bella because…Edward killed her mate and so she must kill Edward’s mate to MAKE HIM PAY!) and dreadhead Laurent because he’s helping Victoria…but that fizzles out into so much boring background noise. Though, I will say Rachelle Lefevre’s red hair looks pretty as it whips around in the forest. Robert Pattinson’s mopey Edward with his stupid hair and scrawny, (sporadically hairy) pale torso emerges late in the movie, giving the impression that he’s hollowly disinterested in the role.
The Volturi (for all five minutes they are in the film – all of which have basically been revealed already in the previews), with their blood red contacts and ornate hair and styling, feel ridiculously silly. In the age old vampires versus werewolves showdown, reimagined in New Moon, werewolves clearly win.
Perhaps the most annoying thing about New Moon and the Twilight Saga in general is how insipid a message it projects – especially to teenage girls. It is not cool for you to go catatonic, severing all ties to your friends and family when a boy decides to break up with you. It is not cool to try to kill yourself repeatedly just so you can experience hallucinations of said boy, warning you to “be safe.” I understand that first love is intense, scary, and passionate. And experiencing those highs and lows are all part of growing up. But it is kind of ridiculous that the prevalent female role model right now is a doormat – a bland, no-personality girl whose idea of a good time is to jump into life-threatening situations in order to feel closer to the boyfriend that left her behind.
Leaving New Moon, I felt as though a literal lunar month had passed since the start of the film. If you’re a Twilight fan, you’re probably going to watch this anyway, regardless of what some reviewer has to say. If you’re on the fence, I’d recommend waiting for this one on rental.
Rating: 4 – Pretty Bad (Although I’m pretty damn sure the box office sales and Twilight fandom will disagree with this assessment)