Tuesday January 12, 2010
Review: “New Moon” (2009)
WARNING: PENSIVE, TORTURED SPOILERS
Near the end of “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” as the Volturi, the council that enforces vampiric law, is arguing over what to do with vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and his human girlfriend Bella Swann (Kristen Stewart), one of the members of the council, Marcus (Christopher Heyerdahl, distantly related to Thor Heyerdahl), stands and declares, “Let us be done with this!”
Me in the audience: Amen, brother.
“New Moon” is painful. It's as painful as listening to a girl lament about some unsolvable problem everyday for a year. Bella and Edward start out tortured together (Bella: “I can’t even think of someone hurting you.” Edward: “Bella, the only thing that can hurt me is you.”), and they soon become tortured separately. She thrashes in bed. She sleepwalks through her day. Basically she’s waiting, which means basically we’re waiting. At one point the kids debate which movie to see at the local theater, “Love Spelled Backwards is Love” or “Face Punch,” and Bella opts for the latter, declaring, “Guns, adrenaline, that’s my thing.”
Me in the audience: Then it’s a good thing you’re not watching your movie.
It begins well enough with the image of a new moon that slowly fades to a half-moon, a quarter, sliver, all the while revealing the title. Then we get a dream/nightmare from Bella. She’s at the edge of the woods looking over an open field toward more woods, where an old woman, her grandmother, stands. She’s with Edward, and, though she warns him, he walks into the sunlight, revealing his vampireness (vampirity?) to her grandmother; so she walks with him into the open field to introduce the two. But when she speaks her grandmother speaks, with the same voice, using the same words. She looks over at Edward, confused. When she looks back, she’s looking into a mirror. Her grandmother is her. She’s aged, Edward hasn’t, and she’s an old woman now. Then she wakes up. A year older. It’s her 18th birthday.
Everyone wants to celebrate it except her, and one gets the feeling it’s not just the nightmare. She’s just built that way. People do shit for her and her response is blank confusion. She’s a bit of a downer.
When she first sees Edward, at school, in the parking lot, he walks toward her in slow motion. That’s how love is revealed these days: via slow-mo. In the old days it was through words, words, words, and in English class we get one such example: “Romeo and Juliet.” Which means after hearing the Bard’s dialogue, and after Bella is nearly attacked by one of Edward’s clan and the Cullens decide to leave Forks, we get Stephenie Meyer’s dialogue:
Edward: You just don’t belong in my world, Bella.
Bella: I belong with you.
Edward: No, you don’t.
Bella: I’m coming with you.
Edward: Bella, I don’t want you to come with me.
Bella: You... You don’t want me...?
He goes, she’s bereft. And bereft and bereft. At one point she realizes that whenever she's in danger she sees Edward's face, so she keeps putting herself in danger. She becomes an adrenaline junkie, and her friend, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), helps her rebuild some junker motorcycles to help her newfound need for speed. She enjoys his company but he’s got a crush on her. Plus he’s a werewolf—part of that Native American wolf pack that has treaties with vampires. When she learns this she manages to rise above the emotional minutia of her life and wonders whether all of the stories she heard as a child, of fairies and trolls, are true; but then, poof, that moment is gone, and it’s back to Bella Bella Bella. Me, I wondered if this meant there was some Frankensteinian clan living over by Lake Quinault. Fire, bad. Rain, good.
As awful as the dialogue was before the revelation, it gets that much worse after it. Here’s Bella and Jacob walking on the beach:
Bella: So. [Long pause.] You’re a werewolf.
Jacob: Yep. Last time I checked.
Werewolves, we find out, are warm, 108 degrees, which is why these wolf-boys run around shirtless in the Pac Northwest winter. (BTW: Are there girl werewolves? Is there a Title IX issue for them somewhere?) Like the Cullens, this wolf pack leaves humans alone. They prowl after bad vampires. They like cliff diving. They eat muffins. As wolves do.
“Twilight” fans are apparently divided between Team Jacob and Team Edward, and, with no rights in the matter—not having read the books, disliking the movies, and being, you know, a straight guy—I’ll still cast my vote for Edward. Maybe because he’s more learned. Maybe because his powers are tempered by shame. Probably because Pattinson’s the better actor.
Much of the movie is Jacob mooning after Bella, who is mooning after Edward, but in the last act she travels to Rome to save Edward. He thinks Bella’s dead and, like Romeo, he’s thinking of suicide. Which, for a vampire, means revealing himself to humans so the Volturi will kill him. He’s about to do this when Bella arrives in the nick of time and saves him. (Take that, Shakespeare!) But the two are led before the Volturi anyway, and the council debates the whole ugly matter. Should they kill him, whom they can’t trust, or her, who knows too much? Him? Her? Him? Her? She shocks them when she offers her life to save his. A human? Doing this for one of us? Well, to be fair, Aro (Michael Sheen), a good-looking one of you. You might do better with the girls, too, if you dressed snappier and didn’t look so creepily bug-eyed all the time.
By the end we’re back in Forks. All of that turmoil just to get Edward to see the logic of turning Bella into a vampire—which she contemplates the way other girls contemplate losing their virginity: “I was thinking maybe after graduation?” So the movie is less love story than an excruciatingly long and pointless pause in the love story. It sets up the love triangle that really isn’t a love triangle. Poor Jacob. He’s got the bod and the sincerity, but you can gauge each couple by what it watches. Bella and Edward get “Romeo and Juliet.” Bella and Jacob? “Face Punch.”