10/5/09

R097 The Twilight Saga: New Moon

(2009, Romance/Horror, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

This concludes today’s episode of Non-Responsive Theater.

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:

Bella is a stammering, suicidal twat who likes abusive supernatural men.

Summary:

Row of faces poster, you will never disappoint me.  Not any more than you already do, anyway.It’s sequel time, so those not intimately familiar with the mythos of glitter-based undead should head back to my review of the prior film before proceeding. Ready now? Good.

It’s Bella’s birthday, and she’s eighteen years old. That’s one year older than her boyfriend Edward (Robert Pattinson). Of course, he’s been seventeen for ninety-some-odd years and counting, so it’s a gap that will only widen over time. Distressed, Bella (Kristen Stewart) begs him to make her a vampire too. He refuses. As a vampire, he believes he is damned, and finds the thought of damning someone he loves abhorrent. Things come to a head at a vampire family party when it becomes apparent that paper cuts and blood-drinkers don’t mix. One of Edward’s “brothers” gets a little overexcited and has to be restrained. This is too much for Edward. Faced with a choice of either envampirating his beloved or letting her die—of other vampires if not old age—he chooses to leave her. The entire Cullen vampire clan disappears quietly one night.

Bella goes into a near-catatonic depressive state for months until her dad finally threatens to send her back to Arizona to live with her mom. She makes an effort to snap out of it by heading to the movies with one of her schoolmates. Afterwards she meets a bunch of local bikers, and discovers that she can hallucinate a scolding from her boyfriend whenever she does something stupid and reckless. Sure it sounds unhealthy, but hey, “unhealthy” is her thing and has been since this series began. Naturally, she must perform more dangerous stunts to encourage her delusions further.

To this end she rekindles her friendship with a Native American boy named Jacob (Taylor Lautner), a huge, burly teen capable of turning a pair of rusty old wrecks into working motorcycles. This takes a lot of work and semi-romantic banter, but eventually Bella finds, to her delight, that riding too fast without a helmet is a sure-fire ex-boyfriend hallucination trigger.

Hypotenuse of the love triangle.Somewhere about now, Jacob withdraws from their friendship to glower and pout and stand in the rain with his shirt off. Frantic over losing her best distraction from emotional pain... er, friend, Bella stalks him until she figures out his secret. He’s become a werewolf, a vampire-hunting shapeshifter of Native American legend. (You remember those legends, right?) He and his fellow werewolves now hunt the surviving antagonists from the previous film. They’re hell-bent on killing Bella as revenge for certain prior events. Doesn’t really matter what those events were, because it takes only five to ten minutes for the werewolves kill one and chase the other out of the plot entirely.

In the midst of this, Bella still seeks ways to feed her Edward mirage habit. Her recklessness du jour is cliff diving, which she does in bad weather and adverse surf conditions. Jacob happens to be wandering by and drags her unconscious body from the water. He takes her home to find Edward’s precognitive vampire sister Alice (Ashley Greene). Alice saw Bella jump in a vision, and is surprised to find her alive. A distant Edward got wind of it somehow and thinks Bella is dead. Overcome with guilt, he will now commit suicide to join her in the afterlife.

For a vampire, suicide is a tricky proposition. They’re all but indestructible, and it takes werewolves or other vampires to destroy them. So Edward goes to the vampire government in Italy (a.k.a. the Volturi) where he will violate the undead code of secrecy and get himself sentenced to death. Bella and Alice rush to the rescue. They make it to the festival where Edward plans to, uh, expose himself. He sees Bella just in time and steps back into the shadows. But the Volturi haven’t failed to notice the almost-exposure, and now Edward is guilty of another crime. He’s told a human about vampires, and refuses to either kill her or make her a vampire too. Alice promises to transform Bella if Edward doesn’t, and the Volturi let them go home.

Edward and Bella reconcile. Bella and Jacob break up. Edward and Jacob fight. Edward asks Bella to marry him. The end. I haven’t exaggerated the abruptness of it, believe me.

Thoughts:

His name was Atreyu...I’ve seen worse films, but if I had to count them, I wouldn’t run out of fingers. The leading couple remains chemistry-free—the kiss of death for anything that purports to be a vehicle of cinematic romance, but this time Edward’s not even in most of it, except as an occasional gaseous apparition. The shapeless, awkward story doesn’t do the movie any favors either. No climax, no rising action and only the occasional, perfunctory bit of exposition; just an inert and largely uninteresting pattern of events. The characters are all glowering, one-note archetypes and Bella’s inability to finish even the shortest of sentences without stammering, pausing or twitching surely must test the patience of even the most die-hard Twilight fan. I’ve read reviews that say, “At least the cinematography’s good,” but I’m not sure we saw the same movie. Was something lost in the transfer to video? It has decent enough art direction, but the film quality looks like something you’d see in a soap opera rerun. The werewolves are appropriately huge and detailed, but they look more like enormous plush toys than ferocious predators, and never appear to have been anything but rendered, dragged and dropped into their scenes. To call New Moon “half-assed” would be overestimating. I doubt anyone gave more than one tenth of an ass worth of effort to it.

Lots of pauses mean lots of spaces to insert comments, and Mike, Bill and Kevin have our backs here. When the title appears over a shot of the moon, Bill is outraged. “That’s not a new moon,” he says. “I’ve seen that moon dozens of times before.” As Edward sledgehammers his foreshadowing home by discussing possible suicide methods, Kevin has a suggestion of his own. “Climb into a refrigerator box with a rabid badger,” he says. When the discussion moves to the subject of damnation, Mike adds, “Hell’s full. God’s damning people to East Lansing, Michigan now.” On its own, New Moon is a hundred and thirty minutes of twitchy, stammering pain. It’s so bad I spent much of the running time in a semi-permanent cringe. I also spent much of the time laughing out loud at the deftly aimed mockery, forcing me to shut my office door so I wouldn’t wake up the kids. Weigh those last two statements in the balance before deciding whether or not to view it.