The Twilight Saga: New Moon Review
Most good soaps have a key love arc (or several) which plays out across the season. The will-they-won’t-they is what keeps you hooked, in everything from Eastenders to Eldorado (“Markoooos?” “Pila!”), from One Tree Hill to The O.C. Even dramas like the excellent House and the increasingly good Lie To Me (both driven by fantastic lead performances by Brits, Hugh Laurie and Tim Roth, respectively) rely on this ongoing relationship subtext – hinted at across a 22-episode run – to keep you intrigued as to whether or not they would ever get together. It makes sense – once they’re in a relationship the tension dissipates, and the only progression from there is whether or not they stay together. In some ways it’s better never to change this status quo, unless perhaps the show is finally coming to an end. Of course, in many of the aforementioned soaps – and in others like Dawson’s Creek, with its seemingly interminable Dawson-Joey-Pacey love triangle – the stories do actually see the characters get together. Then split up. Then get together. Then split up. Ad infinitum. Normally, it works as an end-of season thing: either they will go for the cliffhanger approach of having one of the characters forced to randomly leave (of course, they will be back as soon as the next season starts up) or it will show the characters happy together at the end, and then see the start of the new season mix things up and tear them apart for the first half of the run. It’s predictable, but it’s what keeps viewers hooked. So for Twilight, which has already proved itself to be little more than a bloodless, nauseatingly melodramatic glorified soap opera, it’s no surprise that things go down the route of all soap love triangles.
“You give me everything just by breathing.”
If you want to know more about the first movie then read my review here, but I will assume that most people who have come to Twilight: New Moon, know something about the film that started it all.
Basically it’s about Bella, a 17 year-old girl who’s just moved to a new town to live with her estranged but relatively stand-up dad, who also happens to be the town sheriff. Bella meets Edward, a big drama queen who happens to be a hundred-plus year-old vampire trapped in a brooding, angst-driven teenager’s body. After much gazing off into the distance, and about 5 minutes of knowing one another, the two ridiculously confess their undying love for one another. But dating a vampire brings more than just warnings from their respective parents and friends, it also brings danger, and they draw the attention of some ‘bad’ vampires, who then pursue Bella, as a way of getting to Edward. Two of these ‘bad’ vampires are a couple, and Edward is forced to kill the man in order to save Bella, but not before she gets bitten and almost turned. Draining the blood out of the wound himself, Edward stops just short of killing Bella, in order to save her. And the two go on to live happily ever after...
“You've disappeared. Like everything else. Now who else can I talk to? I'm lost. When you left, you took everything with you.”
New Moon sees the two still together, but not for long. Attending a dinner with Edward and his ‘family’, a simple paper-cut sees the youngest addition to the Cullen household, Jasper, go wild, and try to attack Bella. Of course this means they have to split up, with the Cullens deciding to uproot and move to a new location where they will be able to start again. Edward states that he’s never going to see Bella again. Bella sits in her room for a few months. Encouraged by her dad to spend more time with a more acceptable boy her age, Jacob, Bella finds herself getting closer and closer to him as they hang out, but is perpetually reminded of Edward since his ‘presence’ appears every time she is in danger. With Jessica, the partner of the vampire killed by Edward in the first movie, on the loose and seeking revenge, Bella’s life once again comes under threat. And, through a miscommunication, Edward learns that Bella has died at the hands of Victoria, and promptly travels to Italy to kill himself.
So whilst Twilight played out as a cross between Pride and Prejudice, Underworld, and The O.C., the second part: New Moon, turns out to be a cross between Underworld, The O.C. and Romeo and Juliet. Writer Stephanie Bassett is on the record as having stated that she wrote the book, New Moon, as an afterthought, indicating that she went back to Bella’s high school years because she felt that there was more to cover during that period. She’s also noted that the project drew inspiration from Romeo and Juliet. Well, unfortunately, it’s very evident that New Moon was an afterthought, a poorly-strung-together series of disjointed ‘events’ which merely pads out the already painful will-they-won’t-they situation of Bella and Edward, and basically sets up the plot for the subsequent story/movie, Eclipse.
“The absence of him is everywhere I look. It's like a huge hole has been punched through my chest. But, in a way, I'm glad. The pain is the only reminder that he was real.”
On the plus side, we finally get to see some werewolf action (albeit of the big furry CG dog variety). Yes, Jacob has a secret – his Native American family are actually a pack of werewolves, who can change by choice, but are often provoked as they have ridiculously short fuses. Oh, and they have some kind of ongoing blood feud with the vampires – which has resulted in some unwritten detente: the vampires can live next to the werewolves (on opposite sides of a river border). Of course, all this interesting vampire/werewolf lore is basically just designed to set up the backdrop for the Edward – Bella – Jacob love triangle which ensues over this instalment. Bella and Edward are together (cue slo-mo walks, hand in hand, with endless longing looks); then, after a pathetic break-up scene, Edward leaves abruptly; then Bella mourns (cue a ‘months of depression’ montage set to moody emo tunes); then Bella starts taking more risks with her life, so Edward starts ‘appearing’ to Bella (in the book he was just a voice in her head, but here he takes on a Willo the Wisp look); then Bella starts hanging with Jacob, who is clearly into her; then Bella starts to warm to Jacob then Edward gets jealous...it goes on ad infinitum. And no amount of werewolf action can make up for the fact that there’s still an uncomfortably large amount of teen angst on offer in this sequel. It’s painful.
Character-wise, the adults are still the more interesting ones by far: from Bella’s father to Jacob’s werewolf elders, or even Rachelle Lefevre as the feisty redhead antagonist, Victoria, who shamefully gets sidelined for the whole movie – and the kids are still childish as hell. Robert Pattinson’s Edward and Kristen Stewart’s Bella are the same as ever – longing looks at one another, sorrowful gazes into the distance, often standing around looking off to the side like Horatio Caine from CSI: Miami; inept in their interaction, and emotionally dysfunctional – and, once again the same neon sign flashes that these two (admittedly hampered by the characters) cannot act. Petulant children, and with Pattinson playing a seemingly hundred-plus year-old vampire, it just doesn’t make sense that he’s this much of a whiner. Seriously, after that long on the planet how did he turn out to be so pathetically whimsical and emotionally stunted?
Bella (17 years old) – “I feel like a 40 year old.”
Still, this one focuses more on a new part of the now love triangle: Jacob, who finally jettison’s that terrible big girls’ haircut that he sported before reaching werewolf puberty. Taylor Lautner unfortunately joins the bottom end of the acting spectrum, amidst Pattinson and Stewart, who occasionally actually become quite tolerable when compared with Lautner’s ridiculously short-tempered Jacob. This kid has serious anger management issues, and most of the time you just want to give him a slap. Worse still, the Bella-Jacob story arc mirrors exactly that of Edward and Bella in the first instalment. I guess Meyers just ran out of ideas, so just went with what we already knew: having Jacob suddenly disappear on Bella, only making her yet more interested before telling her she has to stay away; revealing his hidden ‘super-power’ before putting her under threat of those with similar powers. Sound familiar?
There are also a couple of more famous faces – Dakota Fanning (Push, Man on Fire) and Michael Sheen (Underworld, The Damned United) – joining the cast as two of the Italian ‘Volturi’, the kind of landed gentry of the vampire world. This could have been a nice development – these are, after all, proven actors – but their overly theatrical roles diminish the subplot somewhat, as the Volturi appear to be little more than Renaissance period bores, all smoke and fury. A shame, I was really looking forward to Sheen bringing some gravitas to the proceedings, but I shouldn’t be surprised, as Twilight scripts tend to bring out the worst in actors. Sheen, himself, does the best Kenneth Williams ‘Carry On’ impersonation that I’ve seen in a decade, pity this wasn’t supposed to be a comedy.
“These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die, like fire and powder, which, as they kiss, consume.”
Ultimately, however, New Moon falls down because of its plotting, and since the novel was just as well regarded as the first book (ok, so that’s not exactly high praise), I guess the blame should rest on the shoulders of the new director, Chris Weitz. His take on the events is painfully staged, with episodic events perforating the drama and leaving it just about as far from fluid as you could imagine. Weitz doesn’t go for three acts, he goes for five ‘chapters’, and decides overall story arcs are largely unimportant. The action takes us over to Europe – randomly – for one of the story’s least inspired, most idiotic sequences (I’ve got to get a message to Italy urgently, do I: a) drive there; or b) pick up a mobile phone and get a message to the person you want to contact in Italy?). The shift in gears after Edward leaves, and then again in the final act, is so damn clunky and abrupt that the narrative is never given the opportunity to be fluid, and the whole thing feels massively drawn out, passing the two-hour mark with actually very little going on that isn’t ultimately resolved to the status quo that we found in the opening scenes. And honestly, Edward’s very absence – in the name of ‘protecting’ Bella – is the biggest cause of her subsequent trouble. It’s ultimately utterly pointless.
Twilight fans will always be apologists for this kind of fare, and who would blame them. Whether your soft spot is Steven Seagal action films or Jennifer Aniston/Lopez romcoms, your reasons for liking these movies aren’t always logical or coherent. And since you’re standards are necessarily quite low, you’re not going to complain like the rest of us. The soap style of things lends itself well to this kind of forgiving fan – after all, it takes a hell of a lot more than a single bad episode to put you off watching your favourite soap. New Moon is like a filler episode; a tribute, as it were, to the fans of the characters and the saga, further exploring both, and setting things up for the next instalment, but not really delivering anything standalone for those whose interest in the Twilight Saga is more of the passing variety. Thankfully, in much the same way as Twilight, there’s plenty of unintentional humour in this sequel: all the dialogue, and many of the scenes – from Edward’s ghostly apparition that springs up whenever Bella’s in danger (how irritating was that?) to Jacob’s hilarious temper tantrums (and his homoerotic shirts-off wolf crew) – so between the scant few moments of genuinely entertaining action and plot development, and these more frequent unintentionally hilarious bits, you’re seldom less than amused.
“If this is about my soul, take it, I don’t want it without you.”
“It’s not about your soul, Bella. You’re just not good for me.”