New Moon

Something about the Twilight films (I haven’t read the books) gets around my defenses somehow. Not being a teenage girl, I’m at a loss to explain my response. But here’s a guess. I have a soft spot for gloom and angst in music — Morrissey songs, any Polish composer you could name — and the first Twilight film and the new one, New Moon, somehow communicate some of that tone and flavor. These films are a callback to a time when love, or what teenagers think is love, is all-encompassing and anything that stands in its way is the most horrible thing ever, and the only possible reaction to heartbreak is sitting in one’s room numbly watching the seasons pass. And listening to depressing music.

There’s a scene like that in New Moon, wherein our fumbly heroine Bella (Kristen Stewart) has just been dumped by her sparkly vampire boyfriend Edward (Robert Pattinson). He’s leaving, of course, for her own sake — he fears she’ll get hurt if he stays. She doesn’t see it that way, and for months on end she simply shuts down. Then she figures out that if she endangers herself, Edward will appear to her as a forbidding apparition (“Don’t ride that motorcycle,” “Don’t eat Pop Rocks and drink Coke,” etc.). So Bella spends half the movie being reckless, even though Edward made her promise not to. She also strikes up a tentative thing with local Native American boy Jacob (Taylor Lautner), who is also afraid she’ll get hurt if she gets involved with him, because he’s a werewolf.

Stephenie Meyer, who wrote the Twilight books, is sort of a Laurell K. Hamilton for teenagers. Hamilton writes the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series, which began well enough but eventually tipped into porno wish-fulfillment as Anita found herself madly desired by pretty vampires and hunky werewolves. Meyer does the opposite: the mad desire is there, but the fulfillment isn’t. Edward and Jacob, put plainly, can’t have sex with Bella or they might break her. The self-repressed Meyer stumbled onto a key secret of pulp-romance success: Always leave them wanting more, and keep the lovebirds from getting what they want for as long as possible.

New Moon features vampires — even nasty ones — and roaring werewolves, but is not a horror movie; it’s barely even a supernatural movie. It’s a starcrossed romance with creatures of the night. Its emphasis is far from gothic — it takes its cue from the drizzly grays of the Pacific Northwest. It is essentially a fable that a lonely, bored, imaginative girl living with her stoic dad in Washington state might tell herself. The whole Twilight saga is a special-snowflake daydream of being pursued by exotic monsters while still keeping one’s virtue. As before, Kristen Stewart underplays, which allows the teenage female audience to project onto her blankness, and Robert Pattinson’s Edward is insipidly noble and non-threatening (he gets his growl on far less here than he did in Twilight). Taylor Lautner’s hot-blooded Jacob is a change of pace, if a bit of a drip. I was happy to welcome a playfully overacting Michael Sheen (as a sort of executive vampire) and a red-eyed, dead-affect Dakota Fanning (as another fancy vamp) into the film; for a few scenes, we almost seem to be watching a real movie.

Which it isn’t, really. New Moon doesn’t have much of a plot; the bulk of it is Bella moping around. But director Chris Weitz knows a thing or two about love, as anyone who saw About a Boy can attest, and he almost makes something moving out of Bella’s heartsick stasis. Bella does a lot of stupid things in the movie, and we don’t really question them, because nobody’s in a particularly logical state of mind when their first love has gone off somewhere forever. The longing is palpable, and when Bella and Edward finally reunite the rare smile on Edward’s face says it all. But we’ve still got two movies to go, and more agonizing over whether Bella will become a vampire and whether Edward will allow that and what Jacob might have to say about that, and I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ll be watching.

See also: Twilight

Explore posts in the same categories: adaptation, romance, sequel

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