So, Twilight Saga: New Moon. Where to start with this Twilight frenzy? Well, for starters, I–and the 13-year-old girl that will forever live inside me–totally get it! In the first film (and book) of the Stephenie Meyer series we were introduced to Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson), as tortured and star-crossed as Romeo and Juliet (which is also the book that we see beside Bella’s pillow in the opening scenes of New Moon, with its iambic pentameter that Edward can rattle off from the top of his head–because he is dreamy), whose romance was set within the angst and inherent tragedy that is high school. It was heady, heady stuff. Bella, awkward and clumsy and played by a twitchy, dead-voiced Kristen Stewart, was singled out by the utter hotness and sparkly skin-toned Kennedy-sized-head Edward, a man who wouldn’t have sex with her but who swore to protect her and never, ever leave her. I mean, come on!
Since last year’s release, the film and its stars became big ole superstars. The original director, Catherine Hardwicke, was unceremoniously dismissed and Chris Weitz (About a Boy and, uh-oh The Golden Compass) was brought aboard. Poor Mr. Pattinson can’t walk the street without people trying to bite him. Every young gal on the L train seems to be dressing like Kristen Stewart–an interesting style icon for these gloomy times. But (and don’t come murder me, crazy Twilight fans!) this new film has a hard time living up to the magic of the first. Let’s discuss!
I do not place the blame on the cast, writer, or director, but rather the source material. The second book veers into some murky, Dan Brown territory, with stuff about vampire royalty, the Volturi. It’s all pretty fun and interesting, actually, and there are mystical werewolves too. Which is really just a lot. (Read: too much.) The film is over two hours long and very complicated but, once you take the story and premise out of the reality of high school and its confines, you end up losing the grounding and what made Twilight so relatable in the first place.
The film’s main plot is that Edward breaks up with Bella, sending her down into a fairly realistic rabbit hole of depression, where she basically mopes around, gazes sadly out the window and concentrates on growing her hair longer. This immediately sets up a hurdle, because it separates us from Edward Cullen/Robert Pattinson, which isn’t good for anyone. But the solution to that dilemma is that every time Bella puts herself into danger, she sees a ghosty Scooby Doo-like apparition of Edward’s face. This just did not work. At all. It felt odd and a little silly to see the big Cullen head mist up and say such scintillating lines of dialogue as, “Bella, don’t!” and “Turn around!”. (Not to get ahead of myself, and certainly not to get all He’s-Just-Not-That-Into-You about it, but having the guy who dumps you explain it was because he really really loves you is not helpful for the female psyche.)
The way Bella starts to heal is by spending time with the younger, very cute guy–Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner)–who has a crazy crush on her (this is realistic). And holy cow, this kid got ripped! (The audience actually started laughing when he took off his shirt for the first time because of the ridiculousness of his torso.) And yes, he does turn into a giant wolf at some point, and that is weird–but even more weird is that it’s very well done and he and his wolf-pack like to chase vampires. The middle section of the movie is preoccupied by this, and Mr. Weitz has done an excellent job beefing up the action sequences, which is probably why they tapped him in the first place. But then, Bella has to go to Italy to save Edward from killing himself because he thinks she killed herself and if you are remembering now the whole Romeo & Juliet thing at all, well then congratulations on graduating from middle school.
Anyway, here’s where we get to what I consider the most fascinating thing of all. Michael Sheen plays the main Volturi, Aro. Michael Sheen! The man (and his manager) is either a genius or in severe credit card debt, because here is an actor who was not only the star of Frost/Nixon and The Queen but showed up in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans and then this sucker, too. Good for him! He also seemed to be having an excellent time with his red eyes and special powers, as did little Dakota Fanning, who didn’t have nearly as big a part as I thought she would–and I can’t figure out why poor Jamie Campbell Bower (Sweeney Todd) only gets to stare rather angrily and deliver one line (ditto for Nikki Reed and the Cullen family–more Cullen family next time around please!). We imagine that poor Robert Pattinson got a lot of direction to “look more tortured”–not that it matters, because it is Robert Pattinson and things are always just a little bit better when he is onscreen.
Phew! So the bad news is that this movie isn’t as good as the first, but the good news is that it doesn’t matter one little bit. I’m hoping that Michael Sheen is paving the way for more high caliber actors to get on board (a la Harry Potter movies). I want to see more of Peter Facinelli and the Cullens. What is the deal with Jasper? Will Bella’s dad ever get a girlfriend? Will there be some epic werewolf v. vampire storyline in the next one? All these and probably more important questions still need to be answered, and I am not ashamed to admit that I will be the first in line for Twilight part three.