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- The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Directed by Chris Weitz
Screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg
Bella Swan – Kristen Stewart
Edward Cullen – Robert Pattinson
Jacob Black – Taylor Lautner
Alice Cullen – Ashley Greene
Victoria – Rachelle Lefevre
Charlie Swan – Billy Burke
Dr. Carlisle Cullen – Peter Facinelli
Rosalie Hale – Nikki Reed
A Catastrophic Romance Can’t Be Saved by Its Charming Young Cast
In line for the second movie in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight vampire romance saga, New Moon, a middle-aged woman clasps her hands in front of her mouth as if in prayer. “I’m so excited!” she murmurs to her daughter. In the theater, a girl two seats down curls up, removes her shoes, and avidly studies the copy of New Moon in her lap until the lights go down. A horde of ten- or eleven-year-olds doesn’t even bother getting seats, instead flopping on the floor in the front of the theater. When the projector rolls the film, hushed whispers and girlish cries reverberate through the theater. This is the Twilight phenomenon.
Anyone who hasn’t been hiding under a rock for the last two years has surely caught on to the Twilight madness. Stephenie Meyer’s fantasy romance novel Twilight jumped to the top of the New York Times bestseller lists immediately upon publication in 2006, and the author followed the original with three more books, causing a ruckus among teenage girls around the world. Her novels follow Bella, a normal teenage girl from a broken but loving family, through her romance with Edward, a 108-year-old vampire in the body of a gorgeous seventeen year old. The books, though terribly written, are a hypnotic and addictive phenomenon. Their appeal lies in the innocent, tantalizing relationship between Edward and Bella. In Meyer’s world, sex before marriage is forbidden, and every touch and kiss is perilous. Her ability to accurately ascribe both maturity and passion to teenagers drew an ardent fan base. Tweens and middle-aged women, calling themselves Twihards and TwilightMoms, latched on to the books with an insane fervor. When Summit Pictures released the first film adaptation in 2008, it caught like wildfire, throwing its reluctant cast into an international bout of lunacy.
The second film takes dreamy vampire love interest Edward (Robert Pattinson) out of the picture—he has to leave Bella (Kristen Stewart) because he figures he’s endangering her, since he can barely contain his bloodlust (emphasis on the lust). In his absence, Bella suffers the horrid agony of losing him, but then befriends Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who becomes her “own personal sunshine.” Jacob just happens to be a werewolf whose sole purpose is to kill vampires. When Edward hears Bella has committed suicide (this is untrue), he decides to off himself as well; the book and the movie shamelessly reference Romeo & Juliet. To do so, he has to anger the vampire royalty, the Volturi, so they’ll execute him. This is as easy as stepping into the sunlight, because Meyer’s vampires don’t melt or burst into flames when exposed to ultraviolet rays; they sparkle. Bella must race to save him from himself, and all ends happily ever after (almost). If it sounds utterly cheesy, that’s because it is.
The script is a disaster, though to be fair, the cast do their damndest to act through terrible lines and preposterous plot twists. Kristen Stewart, a slight brunette always clad in hoodies and Chuck Taylors, is subtle and touching. Bella is effectively a blank canvas upon which teenage girls can project their own insecurities and misgivings, and Stewart possesses a raw vulnerability that makes her character identifiable, though infuriating. Throughout the books and films, Bella is a weak, fainting damsel in distress, and eventually readers and viewers wonder why on earth she’s so important to everyone around her. Seventeen-year-old Taylor Lautner, the caramel-skinned heartthrob who plays Jacob, bulked up until he’s so muscular it’s hard not to gape—especially when the camera lovingly lingers on his physique (to the shrieking delight of women everywhere). Luckily, Lautner is both charming and innocently sweet, and the chemistry between him and Stewart is palpable. Michael Sheen, a Brit with a formidable acting resume, steals the final act as Aro, the Volturi’s powerful leader. Grinning, cheerful, and utterly eerie, Sheen adds a bit of stimulation to an otherwise dull encounter.
No expense was spared in the film’s effects budget, and it pays off. The werewolves take a distinct visual cue from The Neverending Story’s creepy G’mork, and though the fight scenes rely perhaps too much on slow motion, they’re executed masterfully. The soundtrack, featuring emo-pop artists like Muse, Thom Yorke, Death Cab for Cutie, and The Killers, is both catchy and monotonous. Alexandre Desplat’s score, heavy on piano, is melodic and pretty: the perfect background music for a doomed romance. The movie positively drags at two hours eleven minutes; when the kids at the front of the theater start chatting amongst themselves during the “tense” final scenes, something’s not right.
Summit publicly fired director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown) after the first film, replacing her with Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass, About a Boy). Hardwicke’s Twilight had a shaky, independent quality that gave it a realistic feel, but New Moon feels less authentic and more ridiculous. Though the Twilight books may be a guilty pleasure, the films are proving to be little more than industry cash cows. David Slade, whose last vampire movie 30 Days of Night didn’t fare well in box offices, is set to helm the third installment. Perhaps he can pick up the slack, but in the end, the film’s young and charming cast may be the series’ saving grace. Pattinson and Stewart’s are-they-aren’t-they, tabloid-fed offscreen relationship is perhaps the most interesting result of New Moon, and as they say, that ain’t much.