Saturday, November 21, 2009

Full Frontal: Twilight: New Moon

It’s that time again! All the little girls of the world are jumping around like they have to take a bathroom break, bursting with anticipation for the day when their dear Edward slow walks across the big screen again, all slack-jawed and lazy-eyed like the vampire equivalent of Garfield. Surely, The Twilight Saga: New Moon will destroy at the box office this weekend with advance ticket sales alone, but beyond all the sparkle, there is a dark side. I feel that after this movie is released, we will have to hold a telethon for those poor boys (and girls for that matter) talked into taking a friend to this film. They leave, shambling like zombies, eyes vacant, scratching their head in disbelief, and, if I’m not mistaken, looking a bit older ... beaten by life. As you have already calculated, this is not a review. It’s a cautionary tale.

Bella (Stewart) loves Edward (Pattinson) with the passion only a slip of a teenage girl with very few facial expressions can muster. Edward loves Bella so deeply he feels their souls are intertwined. Unfortunately, Edward is a vampire (in a fashion), and part of his desire for Bella is tainted by his monstrous urge to taste her blood between his lips. Nevertheless, Edward has vowed he will always keep her safe and waits for her wherever she goes, standing a short distance away in a stylish sport coat and slacks, looking off into the woods for no apparent reason. Theirs is a love so tragic that when their lips meet, it causes them to groan in agony ... quite literally. THEIRS is a love SO POWERFUL that Edward must move half a world away in the hopes Bella can have a normal life, but he still remains spiritually tethered to her when danger is near.

The Twilight Saga: New MoonWhen Edward takes off for parts unknown, Bella is torn apart, staring longingly out her window as the months fade away (just like the book, kids!!), each night spent screaming into her pillow as if she’d just been told she can’t go to Jackie’s make-out party. Her dreams torment her, and distancing herself from the few friends she has just makes matters worse. In walks Jacob Black (Lautner), a boy who, we are constantly reminded, is younger than Bella but cares for her as best he can, though it’s obvious he has a seething hatred for Edward and his kind. Jacob and Bella become closer as he agrees to repair some motorcycles for her, the damage coming as a result of her attempt to taste death and feel Edward close to her, if for only a fleeting moment. When it seems Jacob might make the pain of loss fade away, the boy chops off his hair and joins a gang of wayward youths who loiter around the woods with no shirts on. TRAGIC!!! Of course, we already know Jacob and his shirtless company are werewolves (again, in a fashion), and ... umm ... do you really want to hear the rest of this? It’s all in the trailer. Wolf boys go grrrrr. Jacob doesn’t want to hurt Bella. Bella looks cross-eyed a lot. And Victoria and Laurent have returned for revenge.

The original Twilight gang is back with the emotional weight of a poorly rehearsed high school production. Stewart painfully forces her anguish, unrelentingly, on the audience as she struggles to make it all work. Whether it is successful in the eyes of the pre-teen girls it is meant for remains to be seen, but I can attest that the book-loving/older teen audience in attendance with me were writhing in their seats. Never have two hours felt like six in such a way before. Those hoping for brief relief via battle scenes and/or vamp/wolfie action will find themselves floundering in a sea of low grade love story muck as the drama drags on. Stewart delivers a great deal of her lines into Lautner’s buff chest as he masters his stern “pout and sigh” maneuver before running off into the night. Pattinson and Stewart seem to recoil in pain when they get too close to each other. You’d think someone would have asked them to bring down the intensity just a little bit! Somewhere there’s a soap opera cast going, "WOW ... overact much?"

The Twilight Saga: New MoonThankfully, New Moon’s supporting actors seem to know they are in a movie that will be watched, begrudgingly, by millions and bring their skills to the table. Bella’s little circle of friends allows for some dorky teen moments in-between the melodrama, but the scenes they follow almost beg for them to make fun. Instead of taking jabs at Bella’s albino boyfriend, the script attempts to insert some light comedy with disastrous results. Thank the lord for Ashley Greene as Alice Cullen, who brightens up every scene with FACIAL EXPRESSIONS AND EMOTION and is so likable, I’d willingly go to see a spin-off movie with her as the main attraction. Hell, even Jackson Rathbone’s Jasper has become a point of unintentional comedy with his look of immortal indigestion, a most welcome distraction amid the doldrums of this infinitely one-note film.

The look of New Moon has not strayed far from the original film, though we are spared the continual sweeps across the forest canopy. With a larger pool of characters, the film shows a more expansive landscape from the cliffs at the edge of the treeline to winding cobblestone streets of some Italian town. New Moon seems to want to attain "epic" status, but the story just isn’t there to support it. A brief trip across the water does not an epic make. Pattinson sports the same, all too pale makeup that doesn’t seem to continue fluidly down his neck with rosy red lips shining brightly. The look is so comical that when it's coupled with the shimmering diamond effect we are treated to whenever Edward hits the sun, you can’t help but laugh. This, alongside the overly dramatic mannerisms of anyone outside of the Cullen family, makes it hard for us to muster even the slightest creeps from what should be a horrific bunch. Imagine if the monster Muppets from Sesame Street suddenly attacked. They could be chewing on you, and you’d still go, "Ha! Look at his waggly arms!!" Twilight’s vampires fail in the same way. It’s all just too distracting. Meanwhile, in the forests of Forks run a tribe of scantly clad male models who transform into MEGA WOLVES!!! I say it like that because the look of the massive wolves they almost instantly transform into is definitely up there with the Syfy Channel’s greatest moments of sub-par CGI. (However, half a point is given for the cloud of ripped clothing left behind them, unlike the mystically disappearing garments of Blood and Chocolate.) I can’t help thinking the spoof of this movie should contain the boys giving the full monty in all their scenes with everyone else averting their eyes save Bella, whose gaze is eternally transfixed.

The Twilight Saga: New MoonAmid two hours of emotional torment (for both the on-screen characters and us, the viewing audience), you can count on one ALMOST killer vampire battle at the Volturi stronghold, filmed almost entirely in slow motion naturally. The Volturi scenes are made more tolerable with the presence of Dakota Fanning as Jane, who is the only vamp in the film you might be a little wary of. Of course there’s Victoria as well, but it’s hard to feel menace from someone who runs through an entire movie.

Honestly, I REALLY tried to like this movie. My willingness to see it even after an extreme dislike for the first chapter should speak of my intent! The sad fact is this: The Twilight Saga: New Moon is even less of a horror movie than the first film. You couldn’t even call it a thriller. New Moon is a juvenile, overly dramatic love story that takes the Romeo and Juliet theme, duct tapes it around a giant, cartoonish hammer, and slams it into your head for 130 minutes to the point where you expect zombie Shakespeare to burst into the back of the theater screaming, "ENOUGH ALREADY!!" This movie is pain. Save yourself, if you can.

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