It is a generally agreed-upon fact that Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novels are absolutely god-awful. Through the character of Bella Swan (She’s a totally average girl! Really! Except that everybody in Forks automatically falls in love with her even if all she does is mope and get all googly-eyed over Edward. Oh, and she randomly falls over all the time. Like Ally McBeal. And somehow this is endearing to pedophiliac men wearing lots of white powder and red lipstick), Meyer manages to single-handedly strangle the entire Feminist movement. Bella is incapable of doing anything without a hunky supernatural boy’s help.
When Edward dumps her, she stops eating, stops talking and loses what glimmer of personality she once had. This sequence also happens to feature the best acting of Kristen Stewart’s entire career. (Zing!) She’s unreachable, until Jacob and his new-found muscles roll into town. (Note: I am now taking applications for a personal wolf-boy servant. Impeccable pecs required). At one point, Edward literally says, “Get behind me [woman], it’s dangerous.” Somehow, I’m supposed to find this charming and romantic. The only time I actually sympathized with Bella was when she was annoyed by Edward’s refusal to turn her into a vampire. You’re gong to show me all your fancy pretty powers and then not give me them? Come on! But if you can concentrate really hard and ignore the utter banality of the source material, the film does have its redeeming marks.
Director Chris Weitz (“American Pie,” “About a Boy”) is a vast improvement from “Twilight”‘s Catherine Hardwicke. While the first film was blue, diffused and styleless, some thought actually went into the making of “New Moon.” Static textbook-style compositions are replaced by actual direction; my favorite shot takes a short reflexive moment by having the camera get knocked to the ground during a particularly violent wolf fight. The speed of vampires and werewolves fighting was well conveyed by the dramatic use of slow motion and blur. Everybody is rather gorgeous and the vampires are beautifully dressed in lush cold-weather clothes (double feast for the eyes!).
The supporting cast by far out-acts the main love triangle; while Bella, Edward and Jacob are busy pouting and whining, Anna Kendrick puts in a fun performance as the self-absorbed mean girl, and Ashley Greene is just way too cute as the fae-like Alice Cullen. Unfortunately, Dakota Fanning and Cameron Bright – two legitimately creepy, naturally pale children – are completely wasted as Jane and Alec with a combined on-screen time of five minutes. And thanks to screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, there are some well-crafted comedic moments that speak to high school (ugh) and growing up in the classic sweet-but-not-too-sweet John Hughes way (R.I.P., bro).
Small moments of joy aside, this film is weighted down with way too much talking (or monotone mumbling). I do not need 100 minutes of Bella (unconvincingly!) swooning over Edward’s perfectly cold, ancient penis flesh, and I’m pretty sure that the 12-year-old girls didn’t come to ogle Bella (but if you did, little lezzie, more power to ya!) Just flex them werewolf abs (or as Bella puts it, “Hello, biceps!”) and keep the mild violence coming.
“New Moon” is really, really pretty bad, but it holds two major advantages over Meyer’s novel. It’s much shorter, and you don’t have to read the word “glowering” fifty thousand times.