If there’s one thing good I can say about The Twilight Saga: New Moon, it’s that it was slightly better than Twilight. Of course, that’s like saying catching your hand in a meat grinder is slightly better than catching your hand in a wood chipper, but hey, it’s an improvement. Well, I guess it’s an improvement, anyway.
Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is back and mopier than ever. You see, after a paper cut on her 18th birthday causes Bella to nearly become a plate of Cullen crullers, her emaciated and pasty boyfriend Edward (Robert Pattinson) comes to a decision. It’s time for him and the rest of his incestuous breed of bloodsucking ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ to pack up their industrial sized tubs of pancake makeup, hair gel, and their bulk, shared lipstick tubes and head for… well, the movie never says where they go, it just says that they’re gone. Apparently, you can only be a 23-year-old high school student for so long before people get wise.
With the Cullens gone, the movie instantly improves.
I’d be thankful for this, but helpfully, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) and his band of shirtless, glistening, slow-motion-running Indian buddies show up to fill in the incest gap with a little sub-frat-house boys clubbing.
If you smell something, that’s not wet dog or chest grease, it’s an upcoming looove triangle. Or it would be a love triangle, if Bella could stop screeching into her blankets and overacting long enough to realize that her corpse boyfriend threw her to the dogs, so to speak.
Apparently, part of being a werewolf is running around in the rain and never wearing a shirt, because no member of Jacob’s tribe of Bowflex Indians has a freaking sweatshirt they can put on; however, there is a never-ending supply of trainers and mesh shorts.
If you think I’m beating these werewolf puns to death, just wait until you see New Moon. Every other comment is a dog joke, a joke about how beefy Jacob has become, or a joke about how Bella is so much fun to be around, what with the locking herself in her room for a three month montage and then deciding that nearly killing herself to see Obi-Wan Kenobi-style ghost images of Edward is a good idea.
That’s right, girls; if your boyfriend dumps you, there’s only one solution. You have to constantly risk death so you can hallucinate a constipated ghost with stupid hair. When that doesn’t work, then it’s time to start stringing along the only relatively nice boy in town who isn’t already paired off. That’s right, girls. You can string boys along and they’ll do anything for you, from hand-building you a couple of dirt bikes to becoming a werewolf and fighting off the super-powerful vampire woman who wants to kill you because your now ex-boyfriend blew town. Then you can reward Jacob’s loyalty by dumping him the moment Edward comes back into town! Yay!
There’s one thing I can say for director Chris Weitz He manages to cut out a lot of the awkward staring that dominated the first Twilight. There’s a lot. Less. Of. The. Strained. Delivery. This time around.
Of course, they traded the very awkward dialog for near-constant mumbling as Edward, Bella, and Jacob try to deliver their lines without getting lipstick on their teeth. In order to stretch the movie out to its 100-minute run time, they replace the slow talking with slow-motion walking, often with shirts flapping in the wind. Apparently, Chris Weitz and Zack Snyder were in the same Film Padding 101 class at the Roger Corman School Of The Cinematic Arts.
Also, he doesn’t learn from Catherine Hardwicke’s mistakes. In the first film, the vampire on vampire combat was marred by too much shaky cam action. Hell, the whole of Twilight was entirely too jiggly. While Chris Weitz does bust out the Steadicam rig (thank God) and does manage to lighten up the perpetually gloomy Forks just slightly, he doesn’t drop the shaky cam when it’s time to hide the bad CGI.
Given that there are werewolves in this movie, there’s a lot of badly-done CGI. When the cartoony werewolves fight the cartoony vampires, the only person who really gets punished is the viewer. There’s even an egregious fourth-wall-shattering moment when a rampaging werewolf knocks over the camera.
Come to think of it, there’s a lot of fourth-wall assault going on in New Moon thanks to Melissa Rosenberg’s second trip through Forks. Aside from that particularly bad moment mentioned above, there’s also a lot of commentary about how Taylor Lautner had to hit the gym to keep his role as Jacob and the corresponding body mass he put on, and even some discussion of horror movie meta text.
Of course, none of this makes the story any good. If anything, it seems to emphasize just how bad this movie’s plot is, and how Rosenberg realizes that this tripe is what she’s going to be known for for the rest of her career. I suppose this is her attempt at subtly undercutting the general stupidity that infests her genre like fleas in Jacob’s new metrosexual haircut.
As for the acting, there’s not much good to be said. If anything, Taylor Lautner is the stand-out simply because he’s the one in the movie that’s actually doing more than two facial expressions (apparently, he managed to sneak in time at the gym and acting lessons).
Robert Pattinson is a particularly bad offender in his limited screen time, as his attempts at emoting look as if he’s dropping a load of brownies in his breeches. During one particularly emotional speech to Bella, I had to leave the theater because I was laughing so hard. Pattinson’s partner in crime and not-so-secret girlfriend Kristen Stewart added mumbling to her resume of angry and confused angry facial expressions.
Even the much vaunted Volturi presence, in the form of Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning, aren’t able to add much to the proceedings, even if the Volturi are the only interesting vampires in the Twilight universe.
As a longtime werewolf fan boy, they deserve better than this movie. Even if New Moon does attempt to install the werewolf as a hunky alternative to the pasty cracker vampire, it ruins any good will it might have engendered by making the werewolf transformation a midair explosion of clothing bits, and by making the werewolves just giant wolves, rather than manwolf monsters like they ought to be.
Being a werewolf should be about more than just running a fever, stalking a townie, overreacting to insults, and wearing jorts (jean shorts).
At least there’s only a couple more of these movies left, right?US correspondent Ron Hogan would like the number of Taylor Lautner’s personal trainer/steroids dealer. Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at PopFi and Shaktronics.
Catch our first take on the film here.