Twilight: New Moon
directed by Chris Weitz
(Summit, 2009)

I love you.
I will now leave you to face danger alone.
I will resent the person who protects you in my absence.
And, if I lose you, I will kill myself.

- Edward Cullen, paraphrased

I avoided the Twilight frenzy through all the books and first movie. But when New Moon, the second film in the four-film series, came out, there was a birthday wish that needed granting. And so, despite my firm bias against vampires who sparkle in the sunshine, I find myself sitting just three rows from the big screen with Molly, my broadly grinning 11-year-old daughter.

So, let's look at this first from an adult's point of view. It was telling that the packed theater had relatively few adults in the seats, and a few at least were quietly texting rather than watching the screen.

But, when I wasn't watching my daughter, I kept my attention on the movie. It wasn't great theater, but it also wasn't all that bad.

And still, I have issues.

One is the main character, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), who is a normal 18-year-old high school senior who just happens to love and be loved by two monsters. The way she hangs all of her feelings on the romance of the moment -- and is willing to give up her life and soul at such a tender age for "love," when she's not even old enough yet to know what love is -- is certainly not the example I want young girls to be following. She makes Shakespeare's Juliet look like a tower of emotional strength, and that's just sad.

But the worst part of the movie for me is the same part 'tween and teenage girls were screaming about: Edward Cullen, the pale-skinned, heavily-lipsticked vampire who stole Bella's heart. Edward (Robert Pattinson) is so full of overwrought self-loathing it's almost painful to watch. You'd think in 109 years he'd have grown a little spine, a little strength of character. But, like Bella, give the boy a bad romantic turn and he's ready to kill himself for love. Give the boy an "I am Angst Incarnate" t-shirt and be done with it.

Jacob Black, on the other hand, is pretty cool. Despite being a werewolf, Jacob (Taylor Lautner) proves himself to be a true and loyal friend to Bella when Edward coldly abandons her to her fate. He's a guy you can respect; Jacob actually works to earn her love, while Edward just stands around being pale and whiny. So of course you know Bella will go with Edward. Ick.

There are, fortunately, some pretty cool vampires in this cinematic soap opera, from Edward's perky sister Alice (Ashley Greene) to the evil Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre) and the just-doing-his-job Laurent (Edi Gathegi). The vampire council also makes for good theater. But the highest marks for special effects and character development in New Moon go to the werewolves, hands down.

This being marketed for young girls, alas, the potentially cool special effects and fight scenes are watered down to almost nothing. You know a major battle occurred in the woods between Jacob's pack and a killer vamp, but all we get is about two seconds in slow motion. A lot more screen time is devoted to topless boys.

But at the end of the night, it wasn't how the movie entertained me that mattered. My daughter Molly was smiling so big that her face seemed ready to split in half, and her eyes were dancing with absolute joy. That alone makes this one of the best movie tickets I ever bought.

review by
Tom Knapp

28 November 2009

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