Movie News & Reviews

'Twilight Saga: New Moon': More cultural benchmark than movie

It feels like missing the point to talk about The Twilight Saga: New Moon as a movie. This is a pop culture phenomenon, some weird early-21st-century aberration, our equivalent of the hula hoop or dancing the Charleston on a biplane's wing. In the future, people will watch this second installment of The Twilight Saga and think, "What was that?" without realizing that this movie is not really a movie. It's an excuse for a lot of people to dream.

So expect this film to satisfy its fans. Everybody else, get ready for a bizarre soap opera/pageant, consisting of a succession of static scenes with characters loping into the frame to announce exactly what they're thinking. Then they spell out their personalities for us. Here is an emotionally tortured vampire. Here is a perky, friendly vampire. And don't forget the vampire who is a dedicated physician.

Meanwhile, every so often, one of the characters makes a point of telling the perfectly nice, perfectly average teenage protagonist (Kristen Stewart) that she is the greatest thing on earth. Sometimes it's Dad who tells her. Sometimes it's an enemy, who recognizes our heroine's amazing power. Most of the time, it's some ridiculously handsome teenage boy. And each time that happens, 500 girls in the audience scream.

Let's just say it: It's great that there's a movie that makes teen girls scream. Half the movies Hollywood makes are designed to make teenage boys scream, and those boy movies are just as ridiculous and a lot nastier than New Moon.

Still, when you come face to face with the instigator of all of the screaming, it's hard not to laugh. We get the teenage vampire named Edward (Robert Pattinson), who adores Bella (Stewart). But he can't kiss her without moaning, because if he loses control he might open up one of her veins. Edward has been a teenager for almost a hundred years, and he's still no good at it.

Then there's Jacob (Taylor Lautner), an American Indian with a body-builder's physique. He's more of a pal, but at several points he wants to kiss her, too. Ah, but he can't let himself go, either, for other reasons. First-kiss anxiety looms great in this film.

Based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer, New Moon gets off to a quiet start, but the general direction of the story reveals itself when Edward breaks up with Bella. To any outsider, this seems like the best solution to a ridiculous situation, but poor Bella. She's miserable, and what's worse, once you date a vampire, it's apparently like joining the Mafia. They don't just let you quit. So most of the movie is about Bella's getting over the relationship, as she establishes a deeper friendship with Jacob, wards off nightmares and prepares herself for the inevitable onslaught of evil vampires, who want to kill her if only because she is apparently so, so amazing.

In places, especially at the beginning, New Moon has the feeling of a retread, but to its credit, it's never an unpleasant experience, and at more than two hours, it's never really boring, either, just intermittently ridiculous: "You give me everything by breathing!" Edward tells Bella.

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