I’m one of those people who’s been perplexed by the obsession with the world of vampires and wolves sprung from Stephenie Meyer’s imagination. I’ve read the books. I’ve seen Twilight and, more recently, New Moon, and I’m still struggling to understand the passionate response to the novels and their screen adaptations.
Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed Twilight. It was a guilty pleasure that I indulged in again and again while marvelling at director Catherine Hardwicke’s sensitive portrayal of the fiery intensity of first – and in this case, forbidden – love. I saw the chemistry between clumsy Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), but I didn’t really think of Twilight as anything more than a decent chick flick to discuss with my girlfriends. My husband laughed at me more than once, especially when I declared that Pattinson was going to set hearts ablaze around the world. He saw a scruffy Brit with an aversion to shampoo and an inflated ego.
Apart from the plot, I didn’t know what to expect from New Moon. The book is widely regarded as the awkward middle child in Meyer’s series. I figured the multi-layered back story and mythology would provide plenty of fodder for Melissa Rosenberg’s screenplay – perhaps even too much – but I was keen to see how the story unfolded on camera. And with a fresh face at the helm, in the form of Chris Weitz (About A Boy, The Golden Compass), New Moon was bound to move in a different direction than Twilight.
And move it did. New Moon is darker, sexier, more edgy and more action-packed than Twilight ever was. The story picks up with vampire Edward Cullen (Pattinson) and his human girlfriend Bella Swan (Stewart) making the most of their newfound intimacy after a close encounter with a pack of wandering blood-drinkers that ended with Bella in hospital. Their romance is interrupted by a bloody turn of events at Bella’s 18th birthday party. Edward is forced to reconsider the impact of Bella’s association with his kind and decides that she would be better off alone. He breaks up with her and leaves the town of Forks with his family – Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), Esme (Elizabeth Reaser), Rosalie (Nikki Reed), Emmett (Kellan Lutz), Alice (Ashley Greene) and Jasper (Jackson Rathbone). Bella falls into a deep depression and moves through her year of high school in a daze. Her childhood friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) becomes her confidante and helps ease some of her pain, but their relationship is put in jeopardy when he learns of his own supernatural secret.
Edward left me cold
At the risk of enraging Team Edward fans everywhere, I am going to be brutally honest and say that Robert Pattinson fails to inspire me this time around. It might have something to do with the fact that he has so little screen time – a plot necessity in line with the book, but a major letdown for those who have come to think of the brooding Brit as the franchise’s most bankable star.
Kristen Stewart annoyed me from the start. Bella’s downward spiral after Edward’s sudden departure is documented extensively by Meyer, and in New Moon, Weitz has tried to convey her depression with long sequences that show her staring into the distance or screaming in her sleep, her mood echoed in the weather and on the faces of those around her. It gets old really quickly.
New Moon, I believe, is saved by Taylor Lautner, who has matured in leaps and bounds since Twilight. And I don’t mean physically – although his bronze torso is hard to ignore. Weitz and cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe (Vicky Christina Barcelona, The Road) have given him plenty of room to show off the abs he carved during his quest to prove that he deserved the role of shape-shifter Jacob Black. In the novels, Jacob is semi-naked much of the time as his feral genes keep his core temperature way above normal. But Aguirresarobe has cashed in on the plot and provided plenty of eye candy for the fairer sex. Not that Lautner seemed to mind – he looked perfectly comfortable walking around in only tattered jeans for the bulk of the movie! And I didn’t hear anything except lusty sighs and muttered exclamations of “Oh, God!” while in the theatre.
Jacob thawed Bella’s heart
Yes, Lautner has developed a beautiful body, but I think his strength in New Moon lies in his ability to show every nuance of Jacob’s emotions in his eyes, in his face. As the Quileute adolescent struggling to come to terms with his supernatural secret, he gives us emotional turmoil; as the fiery young wolf trying to conquer his inner animal, he gives us rugged determination; and as the best friend and would-be lover of Bella Swan, he gives us compassionate tenderness laced with heartbreak. It’s enough to make even the most zealous Team Edward fans consider cheering for the underdog, or underwolf, in this case.
Twilight was about the enchantment of first love, but New Moon is about its trials and tribulations and the “after” that is inevitable when rose-coloured glasses have been tainted by pain and loss.
Favourite quotes from the film
“Bella, you gave me everything just by breathing.”
“Every second that I’m with you is about restraint – and you’re too fragile.”
“Leaving you was the hardest thing I’ve done in 100 years.”
“It’s not a lifestyle choice, Bella.”
“Age is just a number baby. What are you now, like 40?”
“Please stay here… For Charlie… For me…”
“You promised it would be as if you never existed. You lied.”
“Please don’t make me choose. Because it will be him, every time.”
“You can’t really run with vampires.”