November 19, 2009

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

The excitement level 2 hours into watching New Moon

Grade: C –

Director: Chris Weitz

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, and Billy Burke

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Earlier this month, Taylor Swift starred in a Saturday Night Live spoof of Twilight entitled Firelight. Perfectly mimicking actress Kristen Stewart’s mannerisms, Swift’s Bella Swan doppelganger struggled to cope with her star-crossed love for a young Frankenstein and friendship with his rival, a teenage mummy. The sketch was meant to be farcical, but what actually made it so funny was how close it hit the mark. Vampires and werewolves; Frankensteins and mummies – what’s the real difference?

In other words, with its monster motif and twice-baked teenage angst, the film adaptations of Twilight and now its highly-anticipated follow-up, New Moon, have passed a point of self-parody. Think of it as One Tree Hill with fangs. Chris Weitz assumes the directorial reigns from Catherine Hardwicke, but he remains saddled with Melissa Rosenberg’s insipid screenplays adapting Stephenie Meyer’s book series.

Here, a three-sentence plot gets bled over two hours and 10 minutes – if Bella really wants to experience immortality, she should just watch this film because it seems like it’s never going to end. The entire narrative is a series of near-misses and near-kisses, breakups and breakdowns, with a clumsily shoehorning Romeo & Juliet premise for good measure.

Bella (Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) remain madly in love until Edward suddenly skips out of Forks, Wash. to protect her from encroaching evildoers and his urge to accommodate her ongoing desire to join the undead. Bella’s already crippling – and annoying – neuroses spiral into a tailspin until Jacob (Taylor Lautner) seizes the opportunity to strip off his shirt, flashes his pecs, and make his move on Bella…until he, too, gives her the high-hat in order to (you guessed it) protect her. Bella saves Edward, Edward wants back with Bella, Jacob wants back with Bella…on and on it goes, each trying to eventually be the first to pop Bella’s supernatural cherry.

At least the squeals of delight from pubescent fans might drown out dialogue that fluctuates between the monotonous – “So, you’re a werewolf?” “Yeah, last time I checked.” – and the risible – “I just couldn’t live in a world where you don’t exist.” And, the sparse satisfactory acting talent involved is wasted in supporting roles. Anna Kendrick remains relegated to the nothing role of Bella’s gal pal, Jessica. Dakota Fanning’s ballyhooed casting turns out to be a glorified cameo. At least there’s a guilty pleasure in seeing the terrific Michael Sheen, who played the Lycan leader in the Underworld films, cast as the Grand Poobah of a vampire conclave (stationed in Italy, no less).

Otherwise, New Moon is just more of the humdrum, hormonal same. You’d hope for plenty of sucking in a movie about blood-thirsty vampires…just not the figurative kind.

Neil Morris

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