Thursday 15 April 2010

The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)

Thursday 15 April 2010
DIRECTOR: Chris Weitz
WRITER: Melissa Rosenberg (based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer)
CAST: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Rachelle Lefevre, Michael Sheen & Anna Kendrick
RUNNING TIME: 130 mins. BUDGET: $50m
A horrid strangle of teenage angst that chokes to death any hope of a decent character or interesting situation, The Twilight Saga: New Moon (hereafter New Moon) is the second of Stephenie Meyer's inexplicably popular vampire novels; part of a literary saga that suggests adolescent girls either have very poor taste in books, or are very susceptible to schmaltzy fads. You can't even blame Robert Pattinson for the "Twi-hard" phenomenon, as the books were popular before he was chosen to be its posterboy. Even allowing for the fact I'm clearly not the target demographic, it's mystifying that a vampire romance story has, literally, nothing to offer anyone with a Y chromosome.

In a story that stretches 20-minutes of story across two languorous hours, the setup is simple, nay anemic; miserable Bella (Kristen Stewart) still can't crack a smile over landing herself the town's heartthrob, brooding vampire Edward Cullen (Pattinson), and is instead having nightmares about the realities of their relationship (that one day she'll be a granny with an ashen boy under her bingo wing.) But before the story can do anything interesting with a teenage girl's concerns about her mortality and relationship ethics (Ed's effectively a dirty old man -- well, mentally), their romance is ended when it's Edward who realizes they're too different for it to ever work out.

Edward and his dull family of veggie vampires leave town and Bella sinks into a tedious depression, during which she has oddly amusing nightmares where she mewls in her sleep, and in waking life starts hallucinating Edward as a Jiminy Cricket-style spectre warning her not to do anything "rash" (like ride pillion with dirty bikers, silly girl.) Bella eventually snaps out of her melancholia after meeting Native American himbo Jacob (Taylor Lautner). I say "snaps out of her melancholia", but I really mean she rises to a less gloomy performance. Bella's wedding photos will curdle milk.

Jacob's got a torso you can grate cheese on, hair like a stallion's tail, and slightly more personality than Edward's porcelain metrosexual. As a redskin, Jacob's stereotypically more macho and in harmony with nature/spiritualism (he gives Bella a dreamcatcher as a birthday gift, natch), while also being part of a family of werewolves who run around the forest bare-chested. This is ostensibly because they have a faster metabolism and too much body heat to require T-shirts, but it's really because girls like ogling young men's pectorals. I'm okay with that; the flipside's what made Baywatch required viewing every Saturday for me. Anyway, with Edward away Jacob becomes Bella's latest supernatural plaything (in Eclipse she must sleep with a zombie, right?), and has to protect her from flame-haired vampire Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre) from the first movie, who's back for her revenge. Blah, blah, blah.

Look, I didn't like Twilight, but I could understand why sullen 12-year-olds would find the idea of a powerful, mysterious vampire boyfriend an appealing fantasy. Edward's essentially celibate (sexually, vampirically), which makes him the perfect boyfriend for any virginal girl who wants to take things slow and just enjoy a casual relationship. The only thing New Moon offers on top of that is... well, another suitor who's the literal opposite of the girl's true love -- dark-skinned, brawny, personable, emotional, a literal animal beneath the surface -- and likewise scared of getting too close because werewolves can lose their temper and injure humans. If vampires are celibate ponces in the Twilight universe, these sexually-active werewolves are possible wife-beaters! Learn the lesson, kids. Sex is danger, so stick with the impotent old man who only looks like an Abercrombie & Fitch model. Vampirism's the ultimate chat-room avatar for nonces, really.

Academy Award nominee Michael Sheen's in this claptrap, playing vampire "king" Aro, for no good reason that I can see -- other than to impress his daughter's school friends and, possibly, as a backup plan if the biopics dry up, because you can charge £10 per autograph at conventions. I'm being harsh; I actually reallly like Sheen. It's just that he has a very peculiar fetish for werewolf/vampire-themed garbage, between this and the Underworld movies.

New Moon has little to recommend it, unless you're only watching to wallow in its reflective self-pity, or swoon over its double-whammy of beautiful boys. You could stare at a poster of Twilight's shirtless beau's and get the same entertainment value, and not have to suffer the performances of Pattinson and Lautner as a bonus. Director Chris Weitz crafts a marginally more handsome production than the original achieved, mostly thanks to a budget increase, and gets to reuse his Golden Compass animals for the "werewolves" (okay, big Alsations). I also found it galling that the movie dared pick on zombie movies and their use of lazy allegory (at least they have something to impart), or dumb action movies (examplified here by "Face Punch", which I started to wish was a real film I'd rented after an hour.)

The whole of New Moon boils down to one very simple question: who will Bella choose to join her in listening to The Smiths while it constantly rains outside, locked in a sexless relationship... perhaps until the day she dies? The answer's a foregon conclusion, even without having read the books, by virtue of knowing there are sequels and the makers are in no hurry to end the Bella/Edward recipe. They're even thinking of splitting the final book's adaptation into two parts, just to prolong the torture.