NOVEMBER 20, 2009
Has it really been a year since I saw Twilight and wondered what all the fuss was about (prompting me to get Twi-curious and read the book - which I finally finished last night)? Time sure flies when you’re watching legitimate horror movies that don’t draw the ire of every single male in the entire world, as if it’s some sort of sin that there is a franchise that doesn’t “belong” to them. Well, here we are with New Moon (the added “The Twilight Saga” title doesn’t actually appear on-screen), which furthers the non-adventures of vampires and werewolves who spend all their time fawning over a fairly dull girl rather than do vampire or werewolf type things.
If you recall, I had no real problem with the first film (or the book for that matter - it may have taken me a year but that was over a course of maybe 6-7 reading sessions, including the final 150 pages just last night). I am not the target audience for either (not that they are different; Twi-hards may argue otherwise, but there is nothing of actual significance that was changed from the book to the film), and yet I found mild amusement and occasional entertainment (not to mention eye candy for the film version) anyway. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, if something isn’t aimed at me, I can’t slam it if I don’t enjoy it, a distinction I wish people could make as they clog the internet with “Fuck Twilight” type sentiments. But, and this is important, I didn’t feel particularly compelled or engaged by any of it either. Who does Bella end up with? I don’t care. And judging by New Moon, that’s all the series is really about anyway - not vampires and werewolves.
I was hoping that this entry would step it up a few notches, especially with all the werewolves around. But like the vampires in the first film, they don’t really do a hell of a lot. We keep HEARING about potentially exciting things that they (or the vampires) are doing - killing hikers and such - but the film (and I assume the book, if this one is as faithful to the source material as the original was) never expands on these concepts. Even the one legit kill in the entire movie occurs in a quick flashback, as Jacob (the werewolf) just sort of mentions it to Bella later on. “Oh yeah we killed him.” Great, the closest thing the series has had to an actual villain and they give him the same “death scene” granted to Dr. Farthing in Dirty Work. After two movies, I still don’t know why they are vampires and werewolves to begin with - if Edward was just some straight edge dude and Jacob was, I dunno, a rodeo champion, you’d end up with the same exact movie (save for the sparkling).
Plus, the movie is more or less about Bella being torn between Edward (the vampire) and Jacob, and yet when the two suitors finally come head to head, they... do nothing. 130 minutes of pining and longing and moaning and mumbling comes down to two guys standing there (well, one guy and one wolf) glaring at each other. Come on, movie! Even if they don’t actually fight in the book, the movie doesn’t have to follow their lead. See, with a book you have the option of putting it down for a while and finding something more exciting to do. But we can’t leave the theater and watch the rest later - we’ve been sitting patiently for two hrs, you owe us a brawl.
To be fair, there is (slightly) more action than in the original. The highlight is a hilarious (but far too quick) fight between Jaco-wolf and some other wolf, and we are also blessed with the sight of Robert Pattinson being thrown around the chamber of the Volturi, which is sort of like the vampire government or something (they are pissed at him for letting humans know how silly it is to be afraid of vampires since all they do is walk around pouting and sparkle in the sunlight). And since Bella is convinced that if she puts herself in danger that Edward will come rescue her, we get a lot of her riding motorcycles and diving off cliffs and such. Granted, someone driving a motorcycle isn’t really “action”, but it DOES mean that Bella isn’t talking, so it’s an improvement.
Because really, the biggest problem I have with both movies (moreso in this one, though) is that Bella is a thoroughly uninteresting person, and the movie is 100% about her (I think there’s a only single scene in the entire film in which she isn’t present). At least in the first movie we had other characters talking in order to introduce themselves and other characters (Anna Kendrick is sadly given nothing to do in this film - five yard penalty, movie!), but with all of that out of the way, we just get Bella mumbling and whining for just about all of the film’s running time. I began to suspect that the reason Edward and the other vampires cannot hear her thoughts is because she didn’t have any. Now, I understand that her lack of a personality allows all of the devoted fans to see themselves in her, but I can’t see why they can’t at least give her an interest or two. Would it really be so hard to identify with a girl who liked The Beatles if you were more of an Elvis kind of girl? She’s more tolerable in the film’s 2nd act, when she starts hanging out with Jacob and starts to let her sarcastic personality show through a bit, but once he makes his feelings known she’s right back into mopey, helpless mode again, and now it’s even MORE intolerable because we already dealt with her being like that over Edward in the first part of the movie.
Exacerbating this is the fact that I am actually kind of intrigued by most of the other characters, and yet they are kept on the sidelines for the entire movie. With the exception of Alice (and thank you, various authors and casting people, for putting Ashley Greene in a central role for the film’s otherwise interminable third act), the Cullen family has a total of maybe 90 seconds in the film, even though the plot’s kick-off point involves Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) going apeshit when Bella gets a paper cut. Where do they all go? How do they cure Jasper’s bloodlust? How does Edward feel about his brother trying to eat his woman? These questions are not only unanswered - they’re barely even asked. But if you want to know what Bella does from the months of October-December, the movie gives you that (in the film’s most idiotic scene, she sits by her window as the months go by in montage - and despite tell-tale signs like falling leaves, Halloween decorations, and snow, we still get on-screen titles telling us what month it is. Thanks, I couldn’t tell for myself).
They also don’t really develop any of the werewolf folk, who are again, far more interesting (theoretically) than Bella. I couldn’t even tell if Jacob was turned into a werewolf in this film or if he already was one, and there’s some nonsense about thrill-seeking werewolves that he doesn’t get along with that, again, goes nowhere. And poor Graham Greene pops up as a guy who is seemingly human but knows about the wolves and tries to help keep their existence under wraps, but the movie never bothers to explain that or give him any sort of back-story. Instead, he just covers a wolf-print in the woods before he falls down a hill and dies of a heart attack (a plot contrivance to help the “Edward thinks Bella died” subplot move along).
But for all of these problems, it’s no worse than the first one, in my opinion. For every problem, there is something that is improved (more action, more Charlie, less school). And while I missed Carter Burwell’s quite good “Lullaby” and other themes, the new score by Alexandre Desplat is quite good (at least, when you can hear it - they were seemingly hellbent on making sure every song on the soundtrack was featured prominently in the film). And even though it’s kept to a minimum, I still enjoy how welcoming the Cullens are toward Bella, as it’s far more interesting than the usual “She’s not one of us so we hate her” type relationship you might expect. Plus, the subject matter means that when Bella puts herself in danger, there actually IS a chance she can get seriously hurt or killed, because we know she can be brought back to life via vampirism (and if she was a more interesting character, this would mean the film would have genuine suspense at times; alas, I’m sure she’d be just as dull as a vampire as she is as a human). So there’s something.
Also, I would be a very happy boy if Face Punch was turned into a real movie. One could balk that the biggest action scene in a vampire/werewolf film occurs on a theater screen (actually off, we just hear it while we watch Jacob and Mike both attempt to hold Bella’s hand), but that one snippet is so over the top and ridiculous, I couldn’t help but wonder what the entire thing would be like. I also like all of the fake posters (one movie appears to be about a killer parking meter), though I swear I saw Pontypool thrown in there for good measure.
Speaking of being ridiculous, I must apologize to my fellow movie goers for laughing at “inappropriate” moments. Surprisingly, the mostly full crowd of mostly teenage girls was pretty tame for this 10 am opening day screening - a few gasps at a shirtless Jacob were about as loud as they got (compared to my crowd for the first film, who cheered every time Pattinson appeared on-screen, and sometimes even before if they knew he was coming). I, on the other hand, laughed for about ten minutes straight when Jacob instantly pulled off his shirt (one of only two he wears in the entire film - even Victor Salva would get uncomfortable after a while) to use as a bandage for Bella. I also chuckled heartily at every shot of Pattinson walking, as every single one of them is in slo-mo, to the extent where I began to wonder if he was just a slow walker.
So there you have it. I am no more (or less) interested in this saga than I was after I saw the first film, but since I paid to see it this time, I feel a bit disappointed (as disappointed as I can be when a movie I don’t really care about fails to make me care about it). Since I do think that Stephenie Meyer has created a few interesting characters (the Cullens, the Blacks, and hell, even poor Mike, the sod who for some reason wants Bella over Jessica), I can’t help but wonder how much better the films would be if the filmmakers weren’t so faithful to her novels, and instead used them as a springboard to tell more interesting stories that make good use out of all of the characters, instead of keeping them on the sidelines while the focus remains on her weakest creation (it’s sort of like Juno in that regard - I liked everyone else, but I don’t like Juno the film because I didn’t like Juno the character). Luckily, they are popular novels, and if Dracula, Frankenstein, etc are any indication, it’s possible that in 20 years or so, someone will find a way to make "Twilight" as compelling to everyone else as it inexplicably is to its hardcore fans. Til then - see you all at Eclipse, next summer!
What say you?