Monday, November 23, 2009

Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: New Moon

The Twilight Saga: New Moon * ½
Directed By:
Chris Weitz.
Written By: Melissa Rosenberg based on the novel by Stephanie Meyer.
Starring: Kristen Stewart (Bella Swan), Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen), Taylor Lautner (Jacob Black), Billy Burke (Charlie Swan), Ashley Greene (Alice Cullen), Jackson Rathbone (Jasper Whitlock), Anna Kendrick (Jessica), Michael Welch (Mike), Michael Sheen (Aro), Jamie Campbell Bower (Caius), Christopher Heyerdahl (Marcus), Peter Facinelli (Dr. Carlisle Cullen), Rachelle Lefevre (Victoria), Elizabeth Reaser (Esme Cullen), Kellan Lutz (Emmett Cullen), Nikki Reed (Rosalie Hale), Chaske Spencer (Sam Uley), Gil Birmingham (Billy Black), Graham Greene (Harry Clearwater), Kiowa Gordon (Embry Call), Tyson Houseman (Quil Ateara), Edi Gathegi (Laurent), Dakota Fanning (Jane).

Being a teenager is hard. It is a time of personal upheaval, confusion and raging hormones as kids try to become adults too quickly, and end up making mistakes. This is why teenagers are at the heart of many movies, TV shows and books. Their lives, even when mundane, are just so much more dramatic than adults lives are. Every little thing that happens to them is the BIGGEST THING EVER to them – at least for that moment. This is why the Twilight series – both in book form where I read all four novels, for reasons I do not understand myself – and in the movies is so frustrating to me. Never have I seen a group of teenagers so bloody lifeless and morose. That the series has legions of teenage fans is somewhat curious to me – does anyone actually relate to these characters? They certainly do not reflect my life as a teenager in any way.

But I digress. The second movie in the Twilight series, New Moon, is worse than the first film, even if they did drastically improve on the special effects of the first film. Director Chris Weitz, coming off the vastly superior The Golden Compass, knows how to use CGI very well in his movies, and in particular here he gives us some great work – particularly in the scenes of the werewolf’s transformations.

But the story is still so cheesy and lame, isn’t it? In this one, our teenage heroine Bella (Kristen Stewart, once again valiantly struggling in a movie so far beneath her obvious talent level it’s frustrating) and her vampire love Edward (Robert Pattinson, once again mistaking staring off into space and speaking slowly for being dramatic) are forced apart by Edward’s conscience. He doesn’t want to see Bella get hurt, so he decides to leaves Forks, and her, forever. She is torn up by his abandonment, and in what may be the films worst scene, spends months in her room simply staring out the window. Then she discovers that is she does something stupid or self destructive, she can bring Edward back – not really, but she sees him in her mind telling her not to do it. This leads her to do more and more stupid things. She rescues a couple of motorcycles for the dump, and takes them to her old friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner), on the Native Reservation, because he is a good mechanic. The two of them become close over the months, and although Bella knows that Jacob is in love with her, she doesn’t give in. She is in love with Edward, and always will be. But then Jacob pulls away for reasons she doesn’t understand. We of course, figure out long before she does, that he has become a werewolf. But much like the Cullens, Jacob’s werewolf pack are not really “monsters”, but kind and benevolent werewolves. They are just there to protect their people, and the people from Forks, for the vampire horde descending on them. Much like Sunnydale, the city in which Buffy the Vampire Slayer takes place, Forks seems to be a magnet for monsters.

For a series that contains vampires, and now werewolves, Twilight is rather bloodless. Bella is seen to be in constant danger, and yet nothing ever really happens to her. She wanders around depressed, is put under threat for a few moments, but really, she is not in danger. There are too many monsters in love with her for that to happen.

I suppose that a series like Twilight could work, if the writing was better. The screenwriter is Melissa Rosenberg, who does great work season after season on Dexter, but here her hands are tied by the terribly written novels by Stephanie Meyer. Because teenage fans have eaten up the novels in record numbers, they don’t really change anything for the movie versions. The same lame dialogue has to be delivered, the same false dramatic episodes, the same lame characters. Because of their success, the movies have drawn some big name talent to star in the movies – not only Stewart, who will recover and return to doing great work after this series is over I hope, but now Dakota Fanning and Michael Sheen as two members of the “Volturi”, vampire royalty who make the rules that all vampires must live by. They try hard to be dramatic and evil, but they cannot pull it off.

I am under no delusions that anything I write here will have the slightest bit of impact. The movie just made $141 million in its opening weekend, which is the highest three day total of the year. Sad really that teenagers are flocking to this series, but whatever. They like what they like. When they grow up a little bit though, I wonder if they’ll look back at their Twilight love with nostalgia or embarrassment.

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