Saturday, December 12, 2009

“New Moon” – Puppy love.

I’ve held off a little while to write this review. It’s now been two weeks since I saw the film and I wanted to make sure I knew how I wanted to approach it. The last time we visited Stephenie Meyer’s work, I tried to figure out why women over the age of twelve were as obsessed with this film/book as their ‘tween daughters. My conclusion was that it was definitely not the film, but rather the story in the book that made all these women go temporarily insane. I also mused that I hoped “Twilight” was just a prologue to the real story, whatever that may be. “New Moon” threatened to be just an extension of that prologue for most of its entirety, but finally became interesting at the end.

My problem with stories like this is the same problem I have with a lot of television shows. They are interesting on the surface for a little while, hint at a bigger story that we’re going to learn about, but fail to give us enough about that story to keep us watching. “Dollhouse” is a great example of a show that was a victim of its own lacklusterness (I think I just made up that word, but I like it). It was about a mysterious organization that can program people to be whatever they want. Unfortunately, it turned out to be just a really expensive whore house. Nearly two seasons in, they realized (too late, as it has now been cancelled) that it was uninteresting and tried to introduce the Dollhouse as just a piece of a bigger story.

The Twilight Saga came really close to committing the same mistake. Don’t let all of the success fool you; just because something makes a lot of money doesn’t mean that it’s any good (ahem, “Transformers 2” – no, I will never let that go). For the first hour and a half, it was basically “Twilight” all over again. Just replace weird looking vampire guy (Edward) with ridiculously-haired werewolf guy (Jacob) and instead of forbidden vampire love, you have forbidden werewolf love. The only difference is that Bella doesn’t want to grab a handful of Jacob’s hair and make him howl at the moon.

As much as I joke, I’m not kidding about the plot. During that first hour and a half, Jacob rescues Bella (Kristen Stewart) multiple times, tells her he’ll never hurt her, then pushes her away when he realizes he’s a werewolf. Replace Jacob with Edward, and that was “Twilight.” Knowing that Edward was going to come back at some point, I spent much of this time in “New Moon” wondering if anyone was ever going to tell Stewart that acting involves more than just chewing on your lips, sighing, and shaking your head while you talk. It’s almost as if she’s disagreeing with everything her character says and nervous that the entire audience is going to realize that they’ve paid for the same movie twice (and that she has no idea how to act). That was the other thought replaying through my head (over and over and over) during those maddeningly dull ninety minutes.

As further proof, those ninety minutes are assembled more like a recap than a story and are ultimately unimportant to the overarching story (that we still don’t know). They show Bella just staring out the window as the months fly by, continually scaring the crap out of her dad with blood-curdling shrieks while she’s sleeping, and series of spliced together scenes of Bella and Jacob rebuilding some motorcycles. I’ve never found the lenses of my glasses so fascinating.

And just when I was about to fall into a coma, Alice showed up. I mentioned in the last review that Alice is who all of the women should really want to be. She’s also the only reason why any men would stay awake during these movies (Note: she’s on the cover of Maxim magazine this month, Dec. 2009. The date is for all you guys that read this in the future; you’ll thank me later). Aside from her gorgeous self bringing me out of my stupor, this is where we finally get more to the story than just supernatural lust.

Alice tells Bella that Edward is going to kill himself and wants to help Bella save him. They race to Italy and have to confront the Volturi, the leaders of the vampires. The head vampire, Aro, realizes that, in addition to simply knowing about vampires, Bella is immune to their special powers (mind-reading, inducing psychic pain, etc.) and decides that she either be killed or transformed into a vampire. This leads to the inevitable fight scene, but she is allowed to leave when Alice tells Aro that Bella will be transformed. When they get back home, the story digresses back to the boring love triangle when Jacob warns Bella that if she becomes a vampire, the truce between his family and Edward’s family will be over.

While the triangular adolescent love story makes me want to pull off my fingernails, the threat of battle and the history between the families is something that interests me. Add in the threat of the Volturi, Alice’s premonition, and the special powers that some of them possess and the Twilight Saga has finally become something more than what you’d find in a book with Fabio on the cover. It’s also managed to avoid people losing interest, while possibly gaining more audience in men, avoiding the fate that “Dollhouse” suffered. Now all they need to do is get Stewart to some acting classes before she realizes the end is near.

Rating: I told you to ask for seven dollars back for “Twilight,” so you should ask for six dollars back for “New Moon.” They were basically the same movie, but at least “New Moon” got past the puppy love.

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