OK, you sure know at least something about the Twilight Saga already, right? So what if you’re not all into the whole Team Edward v Team Jacob thunderstorm – we’ll have plenty more on that to come. That’s not what really matters at this point. Just calm down, breathe easy, and remember: this is a teenybop-franchise about…vampires. Not your average The Little Vampire children’s story, not bloodsucking, sex-craving maniac True Blood, not Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt-style Interviews With a Vampire, either.
New Moon is the second installment (out of now five, it seems) of…oh, forget it. New Moon is your new pretty-people-not-biting-not-killing-not-so-scary-joyfest. At least if you’re twelve. Or if you like analogies.
Here’s what you need to know:
Meet Robert Pattinson, 23, British actor, Cedric Diggory from Harry Potter of yesteryear. Now playing Edward Cullen, pale, strange 17 year old schoolboy, who accidentally happens to be a well-read, 109 year old vampire from a family of other creatures with manageable desire for blood. Never sleeps, reads people’s minds, looks like sparkling diamond when exposed to sunlight.
All of those qualities, except for the creepy mind-reading thing, comes in handy as he falls in love with Kristen Stewart, 19, former co-star in lots of Jodie Foster-movies. She plays Bella, also 17, moody, young girl with hippie-like mom, now lives with kind, but clueless dad Charlie in Forks, Washington. In love with Edward, even though he’s a vampire, but struggles with low self-esteem due to the fact that she is human, and will get old by the time Edward turns 170, and is therefore convinced that by then he’ll leave her to live with younger, more attractive and more vampire-like woman. Wants him to bite her, so she can become a vampire and live with him forever. That plan is quickly revised as she cuts herself on a piece of paper at a family party at the Cullens, and weird, more blood-friendly Cullen son Jasper goes crazy and wants to eat her. Edward takes Bella to the woods and declares, unconvincingly, that he has to leave with his family, and that he does not want her to come with him, even though she a) has done so before, and b) is in danger of being killed by red-haired she-pire due to conflict in the first film.
Enter Taylor Lautner, 17, child actor probably not to happy to be reminded that his most well-known work pre-Twilight was as the character Sharkboy in a Robert Rodriguez kids-flick. He’s Jacob Black, native American youngster and friend of Bella since childhood. He is growing up, takes obvious pride in impressive long, black hair, very clean teeth, and redneck shirts. All-round good guy, in a gay-best-friend kind of way, except for proclaimed interest in bikes and slasher movies. Becomes romantically involved with Bella after oh so many hours of bike-fixing and slasher movie-watching. Then turns into a werewolf after jumping from a cliff with pals from native private school. Starts hating everything Cullen because of vampire issues, cuts his hair short and stops taking his shirt on. Things get sort of messy.
That’s the set-up. There’s probably a giant pool of small distinctions I’ve forgot, but I suggest you do, as well. Or read the books, maybe. This, of course, is a movie about a girl loving boys, in plural. It’s also, if you like, an allegory over just about everything you want it to be about. Please, read whatever you want into it. Most popular, of course, is the Twilight is a hidden plot to encourage young women not to have sex before marriage (or ever, if future husband is vampire or wolf)-reading. Sadly, this still makes sense – the reading, that is. Edward and Bella still, like they did so painstakingly throughout the first movie, lust for each other. It’s just that minor catch; the one about how Edward fears he just might never be able to keep himself form biting her while kissing her and thus turn his flesh’n’blood-girlfriend into a vampire. Reading this film as confirming to conservative, Christian values has its blurry lack of logic, though – mostly due to the Jacob character. I may well be killed by an armada of schoolgirls and their angry moms for this, but hear me out: Jacob Black, while all fixated on cool guys-gear and gory horror movies, just might be any liberal’s Trojan horse in this epic tale. Simply, he may well be a walking, talking homosexual, eh, werewolf. We don’t want to give away to much, do we? No, but look out for classics along the lines of “You could never know what kind of pressure I’m under”, “It’s not you, it’s me. It really is me” and, who’d thought, “I didn’t choose this. We were born this way” in scenes involving a beach. The religious connotations comes back with a vengeance toward the end, though, do not fear. Our friend Edward, at this time absent from Forks for quite a while, decides to pay a visit to what looks like an…equivalent of the Pope, only in vampire drag. The reason remains unclear, perhaps luckily, but the Pope guy is an old acquaintance of Edward’s father, Carlisle. They haven’t spoken for, let’s guess, hundreds of years. Literally. The Pope, the head of the vampire bourgeoisie, condemns the Cullens’ habit of not eating the humans aaound them, or something. We’ll leave it there, no more spoilers. But it’s great fun, I promise, and Michael Sheen of The Queen fame plays the Pope like a bloodlusting incarnation of the Tony Blair character he did in that film (feel free to insert your own Blair/blood/Iraq-related joke here).
All in all, New Moon is thoroughly enjoyable, despite a truckload of logically maddening missteps and gaping holes in the plot. The special effects are quite good, although the tech guys possibly got a little bit too tipsy after drinking to much from the stop-motion fountain while choreographing some of the fight scenes. But beware; one thing often threatens to turn this honest love story into something horrible. You will never hear me say anything even vaguely approving of the acting job done by the leads, especially the male ones. Lautner’s character is by far the more interesting, and he plays the werewolf part with stubborn, wolfy integrity, and nothing more. A bit less would do, kid. But you gotta give it to him – he delivers the films’ funniest scene brilliantly, when he rushes of to help Bella after she has crashed the motorbike he spent months reworking for her after about 20 seconds. She falls and bleeds from the head; Jacob seizes the moment, and takes, or more like rips, his shirt off to help her clean up. The overblown, stupid gesture of macho showiness had me and most of my fellow audience laughing wholeheartedly. After that scene he cuts his hair, stops the smiling and starts looking like a teen angst ball of “Native American Matt Damon” (Regrettably, the Matt Damon observation isn’t mine – it comes from Slates Dana Stevens). For seven seconds he was brilliant, though, but it had nothing to do with the otherwise impeccable aesthetics.
Pattinson, for his part, is lost for the most of the movie. Not just acting-wise, mind you (although definitely in that way too!); his character enjoys a healthy bit of off-screen-time, rushing of to see Popes or whatever he is doing. Sadly, for the well-being of moviegoers, he returns in the end, in Popeville. Yes, I know: New Moon would be really boring if the main vampire just went missing and then magically didn’t return at all, but that’s just how awful his acting is. I particularly enjoyed the break up-scene in the beginning, where Pattinson has to insert “feelings” to his Edward Cullen personae. It’s just sad. And not good sad.
Pattinson sums up the whole New Moon experience for me. Actually, he sort of reminds me of the feeling I get when I see a striking Annie Leibowitz shoot in Vanity Fair of say, Robert Pattinson: While it might be visually appealing, I can’t really understand how it fits with the rest.
MOVIE OF NOTE:
New Moon – The Twilight Saga premiered in Norway November 20