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on May 16, 2010
Teen Romance = True Luv. Breaking up with your True Luv is a fate worse than death. Months-long depression and suicide are valid responses to being dumped.
At least that seems to be the underlying message of the second Twilight Saga movie, "New Moon," which is effectively a teen-angst version of "Romeo and Juliet," but with more werewolves and less suicide. It's also a flabby adaptation that leaves you wishing that something unpredictable and un-teen-angsty would happen... but it never does.
Bella's (Kristen Stewart) eighteenth birthday party is wrecked when she cuts herself. Jasper goes into a feeding frenzy, and the Cullens realize that she's too tasty to be safe around them. Edward (Robert Pattinson) dumps Bella, and the clan leaves town permanently. Cue emo music, for Bella's life is empty and worthless without Edward. Seriously. We have a fadefest in which we see how empty and lifeless life is without her Hot Rich Sparkly Coverboy.
But after Bella puts herself in danger, she hears Edward ordering her to stop -- so of course she gets a motorcycle and takes up cliff-diving. She also starts palling around with Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), an Indian lad who has a supernatural secret of his own (I'll just say it: he's a werewolf) -- and this comes in handy when some Evil Vampires come around hungry for her oh-so-tasty blood. But her daredevil antics have led Edward to believe her dead... and he's going to take drastic action unless she stops him.
"New Moon" is one of those movies that is essentially the book splattered on the big screen, and not much more. Stephenie Meyers' fans will devour it like so many sparkly vampires, but the rest of the population will probably start wishing that the Volturi would wipe out all of Forks. Where are some brief moments of action and excitement, but most of it is Bella endlessly moping about her Edwardless state, while the world's smallest violin plays.
The biggest problem with "New Moon" is that it's tediously devoid of any tension: it's pretty obvious from the start how the vampiric "damnation" angst, the clashes with the Volturi and werewolves, and even the central love triangle will turn out. Does Bella continue to mope after the brooding, tortured "goth" Edward, or does she cut her losses and go with buff, caring "jock" Jacob? But there's never a shred of doubt who she'll select... which makes the whole triangle rather pointless.
I'll give Chris Weitz credit -- he does try to spice up this bland affair with action scenes and CGI werewolf battles. Unfortunately he also doesn't seem to have cut anything from the storyline, which makes the whole movie feel flabby and overstuffed. And despite the drippy cheesiness of the script ("Bella you give me everything just by breathing!"), the movie also takes itself deadly seriously, without a trickle of humor or self-deprecation.
Playing a tragic, lovelorn heroine is difficult, but it stretches Stewart far beyond her limits -- she conveys Bella's emotional states entirely through blank staring and constipated twitches. Bella's aging wangst because she's turning eighteen (so elderly) is pretty contrived, and it's disturbing that our "heroine" deals with her post-breakup blues by almost killing herself over and over. Great message to send young girls.
Pattinson is mostly absent except for some ghostly visions Bella has, and while he's far more skilled than Stewart, he frankly seems bored by his small role. Lautner and his buff pectorals are a more vibrant presence as Jacob, and he spends most of the movie being heroic and extremely caring. Why is he supposed to be inferior to Edward again?
"New Moon" is one of those movies aimed at pleasing the fans of a particular book. Standing alone, it's a tepid, suspenseless affair that devotes itself to teen wangst, and left me hoping for a Volturi bloodbath.