New Moon: Who Needs Plot When You Have Abs?

New Moon, the meandering new entry in the Twilight series directed by Chris Weitz, continues the same theme of melodramatic teen passion/symbolism for abstinence. This time, however, we get more than two hours of it, and the basic “plot” of lonely Bella meets a hot guy who it turns out is secretly a monster while other dangerous vampires put her in danger just seems like a re-hash this time around. The budget is bigger and the effects far more lavish, but the dialogue is also more laughable and the logic behind events harder to understand. While trying to place emphasis on a Twilight sequel is ignoring the fact that the overwhelming majority of the audience is only going to fantasize about rubbing Taylor Lautner’s abs, I couldn’t help but notice the lion’s share of folks sitting with me laughing at every attempt at earnest passionate dialogue. Could this be the first hit film that people know going in is going to be bad?

We pick up where we left off… in Forks, Washington, with Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) deeply in love and talking about it often. Bella wants Edward to bite her and make her a vampire, so she can be close to him forever. However, Edward thinks to do that would be to take away her precious soul. (Soul is the symbolic word for virginity in these films.) When an accident causes one of the Cullen clan to attack Bella, Edward decides in order to protect her, he must leave her forever. Enter Jacob (Taylor Lautner), who is the prototype of the “best male friend,” except that he’s a total hunk– and he’s a werewolf. It takes Bella way longer to figure this out than it takes us in the audience. She’s let in on the secret surprisingly easily, and then the natural conflict is clear. Will Edward come back for Bella? Will Bella ever give Jacob a chance? Who will win in the epic werewolf-vampire fight? And will Jacob ever wear a shirt again?

Please don’t leave me hateful comments for my snide remarks regarding the quality of this sequel– as I stated in my Twilight essay, I thought that the first film was decent enough, and that it gets a raw deal in terms of the thrashing it receives at the hands of those who hate the series, or Pattinson, or Stewart, or all of the above. This film does have some noteworthy improvements over the first. The effects are vastly superior… not even in the same ballpark, really. When Jacob jumps into the air and phases into a werewolf in mid-jump, it immediately destroys even the best effects in the last film. The film is also shot with more confidence; while it loses the right-in-the-thick-of-it indie feel that Catherine Hardwicke gave the first film, Chris Weitz shoots this film like an epic action romance, the way it wants to be shot. The score is dramatic, the music indie and emo, and the color palette far more fleshed out.

Also, this film gives opportunities for a few actors to shine. Taylor Lautner is a charming young actor who gives a usually gloomy series some much-needed warmth. He is also in possession of ten to twelve abdominal muscles that would merit a Best Supporting Actor nomination if anyone from this film would. Michael Welch provides humor as Mike, the goofball average joe friend at school who crushes on Bella and clearly stands zero chance (forget Team Edward and Team Jacob– I’m firmly on Team Mike). Billy Burke gets several warm moments as Charlie, Bella’s father, who doesn’t understand Bella but at least tries hard. Ashley Greene is peppy as Edward’s psychic sister Alice, and she provides necessary eye candy for any guy dragged by his girlfriend to see these films. Dakota Fanning appears in a “what is she doing here?” cameo as a powerful vampire who has the ability to torture people… or something– her intensity seems far less forced than many of the other vampiric actors. Finally, there’s Michael Sheen, who chews scenery (and necks) with great gusto as Aro, the leader of the Volturi, a group of ancient vampires in Italy who… well, who they are isn’t really important, just know that they put Edward and Bella in danger. His hammy performance showed me what kind of film this might have been with more capable actors, one where the intensity is fun to watch and the actors seem to be enjoying themselves and the great powerful passion they throw themselves headfirst into.

Unfortunately, many of the problems from the first film linger into the second. Pattinson’s intensity as Edward seems put on and bordering on self-indulgent. He takes his part so seriously that it forces teen girls to stifle giggles at the wooden dialogue he is forced to deliver. Stewart shows a little more life this time around, but she is now stuck with a great dilemma– the audience will clearly find Jacob the more reasonable choice of mate, yet she doesn’t give him the time of the day. In fact, she refuses to even give him one shot. Why? I know, I know, Team Edward followers will tell me how deep their love is, and that’s the reason why she can never be with anyone else. The problem is that the clunky script doesn’t give them any real connection of love, other than moany angsty one-liners. Jacob makes her smile, makes her laugh, and gets her out of the house. Edward never does those things and threatens to take her eternal soul. If Edward was portrayed by a more charming, less moody actor, perhaps this duel would seem more even-handed. Also, the plot mopes along like a raincloud. Aside from Bella experiencing adrenalin rushes to see Edward (in a misty cloud effect that also provokes chuckles nearly every time), there’s very little true action to speak of for a very long stretch of film. When the format is essentially the same as the first, repetition of the first film’s structure is not a good thing at all.

Of course, the set up for the sequel is a doozy. *SLIGHT SPOILER AHEAD* Edward says he’ll only bite her if she agrees to marry him. (Still think the pro-abstinence, bloodlust-as-real-lust metaphor is hokum?) And Edward and Jacob have the beginnings of what I pray will be an epic showdown. Yet cruel tease that the film is (and the one before it), it saves the most fascinating moments for the last five minutes. Naturally, with this movie making serious bank, it comes as no surprise that this film should be seen if only to keep your fingers on the pulse of popular culture. However, and forgive me since I haven’t read the books, if the plot doesn’t pick up for the third film, it will be increasingly difficult for me to motivate myself to donate another two plus hours of my life solely for the purpose of keeping up with the times. On the plus side, it won’t take very much for it to eclipse this entry.

~ by russellhainline on November 23, 2009.

One Response to “New Moon: Who Needs Plot When You Have Abs?”

  1. More abs, less long hair and robert p. please :()

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