The Twilight Saga: New Moon

December 1, 2009

Oh boy. I really don’t know where to begin.  The Twilight series of books and now accompanying films are a genuine global phenomenon, and it is almost enough to make me give up on the world altogether.  Okay, that’s unfair, as there are plenty of cultural touch points that are just as bad and befuddling in their popularity (Dan Brown, Transformers, and The Hills come to mind).  Still, there’s something insidious about the enterprise that just feels worse in some way.  The writing in the books (of what little I have read, anyway) is appalling, and I can’t help but feel that an entire generation is getting dumber for reading them.  At least with Dan Brown and Nicholas Sparks it’s a more adult demographic, meaning that an awful lot of people are already lost.  As Stephanie Meyer’s series is directed at tweens and teens,  I worry that it might stunt their growth.  Only time will tell, and that’s literature anyway, which isn’t my area in the first place.  Based on the two films so far, however, I wonder if they’re not just feeding a generation of emotional idiots, but actually creating them.

To recap the first in the series, boring, annoying, drippy Bella (played by a comatose Kristen Stewart) moves to a small, foggy town.  She’s something of an outsider and has to negotiate the difficulties of adjusting to a new life in a new school, which isn’t easy for her.  After all, it takes about ten minutes into her first day for a group of loving, really friendly peers to take her into their circle, after which she’s forced to fight the eternal struggle to be as callous, condescending, and dismissive of them as possible.  It is not an easy trick to pull off, as they find no fault with her and are continually supportive through everything.  High School is never a cakewalk.  She becomes obsessed with a family of pale-faced loners, and one in particular:  the intense(ly bland) Edward Cullen, played by Robert Pattinson as a humourless, self-important bore.  They begin an epic romance that can only be had by people who are entirely without personalities and interests.  That’s basically it, really, as the first film is a meandering and structureless mess, directed with professional indifference by Catherine Hardwicke.

New Moon picks up where Twilight left off, with Bella and Edward still in the most boring ‘epic’ romance of all time.  Every time they kiss they moan and grumble in either orgasmic delight or terrifying sadness, I can’t tell which.  They cannot consummate their love, of course, because in Twilightland, ever man is an uncontrollable beast who will ravish you if you don’t push them away fast enough.  Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile, presumably in under two seconds given their speed.  Instead of passionate lovemaking, they’ve decided to fill their time disproving Schopenhauer by demonstrating that the fulfillment of desire does not lead to boredom, but that it is the desire itself that is boredom.  I hope the third part consists of them writing down their findings and then climaxing with a blood-curdling peer-review process, but I digress.  So the two lovebirds continue on, never really asking about each other’s days but rather greeting each other with some variation on ‘Hey!  If I’m not with you, I’ll KILL myself!’ because that is just how epic their love is.  A problem arises when one of Edward’s brother’s tries to eat Bella, and instead of working this out like normal people, Edward dumps Bella and runs off to be alone.  Now, you’d expect a piece of horror fantasy to exploit this post-breakup situation by using the tropes of a well loved genre to metaphorically explore the emotional fallout, the way Buffy did or the way even these films do to advance their abhorrent, backwards morality.  Something along those lines would be far too interesting and entertaining for New Moon, which instead just shows Bella sitting in a chair catatonic for months, her depression occasionally punctuated by laughable night terrors.  She briefly becomes an adrenaline junkie before attempting to move on with Jacob (Taylor Lautner, who at least attempts a smile on occasion, thus giving him the lead-character charisma award), an old friend and eventual werewolf who builds motorcycles.  The film trundles forward as we watch Bella shamelessly use the poor kid for his affection without reciprocating, as her approximation-of-a-heart lies elsewhere, and thus the love triangle consists of a line segment and a sad, pathetic dot hovering off to the side.

Chris Weitz, responsible for my much-beloved About a Boy and the mediocre mess that was The Golden Compass (based on an infinitely greater book series for teens, I should add) is slightly more interested in the material than his predecessor, helped in no small part by a significantly larger budget.  Still, very little can be done with the wretched source material, and the screenplay itself is so dull it’s hard to truly blame the performers for being unable to infuse their parts with anything approaching humanity, even if they are the undead.  In fairness to Weitz, there is a fairly entertaining sequence involving a Thom Yorke song and a chase through the woods, which is well shot and cut together, and helped in no small part by its utter lack of dialogue.  Beyond that, the film lies on the screen as lifeless as its love interest.  It opens with a cheap framing device that should pique the viewer’s interest in what happens, but only serves to remind us that, ninety minutes in, we still have another act to go.

All in all, it is a terrible viewing experience.  Boring when it’s not outrageously cringeworthy, it is a film that only exists because of its brand popularity.  The appeal of the love story must be in its dumbfounded nothingness, allowing teenagers to put themselves in the empty space that is Bella and be swept away by a powerful force of nothing.  Edward is not challenging in any way, for what might give him personality might take away his mythic mystique, and the appeal is not for an actual romance but rather a superbeing choosing an average girl and raising her to the level of special by association.  You can blame the success of a lot of numbskull blockbusters on 13-year-old boys, but in so doing you must blame the success of The Twilight Saga on 13-year-old girls.  Neither assessment is particularly fair, however.  Shit, after all, is not gender specific.

-M

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One Response to “The Twilight Saga: New Moon”

  1. Jake Perkins Says:

    Thank you for the review. I think I’ll wait a bit for the price to drop before I buy one though 😉


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