Shirtless werewolves make for nice eye-candy, but ‘New Moon’ wanes
2.5 out of 5 Stars
TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON
Directed by Chris Weitz; with
Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Robert Pattinson.
Opens today in wide release.
As if author Stephenie Meyer had intuited that audiences would be vampired out by two seasons of True Blood and one of The Vampire Diaries by the time the film version of her second novel hit the screen, The Twilight Saga: New Moon gives at least equal time to werewolves.
Or maybe someone thought the Twi-hards, as series fans are known, would like to see more of sunlight shining on shirtless guys than the average vampire saga can credibly accommodate.
Twilight was an unexpected surprise, making the sequel a disappointment. It tries to top the original with more of everything — more intensity (which makes the boring scenes more intensely boring); more pop songs played louder; and more romantic angst for the still-virginal heroine. There seems to be less for the men this time, except eye candy for gay dudes; or maybe there’s less for everyone, despite the effort to provide more.
Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is having bad dreams going into her senior year of high school, but they don’t compare to the bad reality when Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) dumps her. She was ready to have him change her into a vampire so she wouldn’t get old while he stays young, but he tells her his family has to leave town and she can’t come: This is goodbye forever. It’s obvious to us, but not to Bella, that he’s doing it for her own good.
The bad dreams continue, despite the dreamcatcher given Bella by her Native American friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner). He’s put on some weight (mostly muscle) since we last saw him; he dismisses it as "just fillin’ out," but there’s something more sinister at work.
After a joyride makes her bike-curious, she asks Jacob to restore two motorcycles she found at the junkyard. This gives them an excuse to spend a lot of time together, which is cruel on Bella’s part because she knows Jake’s in love with her and she’s just using him. Like its predecessor, this is another movie about red blood and blue balls.
One scene where Jake pulls his shirt off draws the largest collective gasp from an audience since the unmasking of Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera. The guy is halfway to Hulk before we learn it’s because he’s coming out as a werewolf. It’s not a lifestyle choice, he explains to Bella; he was born this way.
In this mythology, werewolves protect humans from vampires, which comes in handy because a couple of pissed-off vampires from the first movie are coming after Bella.
Bella’s journal-like narration is in the form of e-mails she sends to Edward’s sister Alice (Ashley Greene), even though they all bounce back. Alice is the one who returns to Forks, Washington, to set the final phase of the plot in motion. It involves Bella racing to Italy to save Edward, who’s trying to sacrifice himself before the Volturi, the tribunal that has the power to make a vampire un-undead.
Although a romantic triangle has been established with Edward and Jake both loving Bella, there’s never a moment’s doubt whose love she returns so it’s hard to work up suspense about it.
The wolves are the best things about New Moon: the way they look, the way they move and the way they change to and from people. But Stewart portrays depression so well it rubs off on the viewer, and her few happy moments don’t help. Pattinson’s role is much smaller this time, though he is around enough to explain what the screaming’s about. The breakout star is Lautner. He seems to have adjusted well to his new body, though the dramatic demands have him slightly out of his depth.
Twilight almost turned me into a Twi-hard but they lost me this time. If they want to get me back they’ll have to twi harder.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 20, 2009.