Monday, November 23, 2009

New Moon: Or, when puberty attacks...

Oh, God. Occasional Professor Tom was right.

Any full-grown man who makes the decision to watch Twilight sequel New Moon should know this beforehand: You are legally required to surrender your testicles as a result.

For a start, I was the only man in the audience (and Mummy Militant and I were the only people over the age of 17.) That made me feel deeply uncomfortable.

This feeling wasn't helped by the lower half of the auditorium simultaneously hitting puberty at the exact point teen heartthrob Taylor Lautner removed his shirt.

The collective moan of "Whoooo!" was almost drowned out by the sound of sixty pairs of knicker elastic all snapping at one.

Nevertheless, Mummy Militant and I bravely ploughed our way through two hours of vampy melodrama last night and the verdict was ultimately:


To give director Chris Weitz the benefit of the doubt, New Moon was a visually stunning film. In fact, if you'd have ditched moping vampire Edward entirely and given whiny leading lady Bella a sound spanking beforehand ("Act like a flipping grown up, you silly twit") there were the workings of a pretty entertaining werewolf love story mixed up in there.

Washington? Beautiful. Old cars? Awesome. Animated werewolves? Brilliant.

But the problem was the script; tied slavishly to Stephanie Meyer's original novel. It just bogged the entire movie down throughout - and no amount of beautifully animated werewolves or gorgeous redheaded vampires could make up for the wilted romantic tosh.

The plot of New Moon sees beautiful Bella (a neatly anonymous stand-in for every single teenage girl to imagine herself in the place of) coming to terms with the fact that it's not easy dating a hundred-year-old vampire - especially not when his family try to eat you if you get so much as a paper-cut in front of them.

After a disturbing scene at Bella's eighteenth birthday party - when Edward bravely 'defends' her from his bloodthirsty brother by hurling her across the room and through a plate glass cabinet - he and his vampire brethren decide to ditch town to prevent any more 'accidents' like that one.

Giving Bella the old: "I don't want to be with you - but secretly I do, sniff sniff" farewell speech, Edward and his menacingly Aryan family depart and the entire movie becomes 200% better as a result.

But when Edward leaves, you have to start wondering what kind of message a movie like New Moon gives to its teenage audience. As far as she's concerned, Bella's life 'ends' when Edward leaves.

First, she curls up in a ball in the middle of the forest and is so incapacitated by grief that local Native American Sam Uley has to scoop her up and bring her home. Then, she sits in her room in an almost catatonic state for three months, only taking time out to mope her way to school or wake up the middle of the night, screaming.

Her dad, a local cop, has to rush in to her bedroom to brush her hair out of her eyes and utter soothing platitudes like 'there, there, Bella.'

(Seriously, after a week of that shit, I'd have smothered her with a pillow before the neighbours could call in a sound complaint.)

This pathetic behaviour is just the tip of the iceberg, though - because when Bella accidentally discovers that she can 'see' hallucinations of Edward when she's in physical peril, she starts to become something of an Adrenalin junkie - doing whatever it takes to 'bliss out' to images of her departed boyfriend.

This includes ditching a friend in the middle of town to take a ride on the back of some sleazy guy's motorcycle (the same sleazy guy who tried to rape her in the previous movie.)

This was the point when I realised that the script left Bella as a totally self-obsessed narcissist - and a pretty lousy friend to boot. Suggesting to teenage girls that it's in any way acceptable to leave your friend alone and vulnerable in a dangerous part of town is just offensive.

(Also, riding on the back of the motorcycle of a guy who previously tried to rape you is not smart.)

However, as is appropriate for a movie that's little more than teenage wish-fulfillment, there are no consequences for Bella's disgustingly selfish behavior. Instead, she follows it up by buying a couple of motorbikes - and flutters her eyelashes at doting friend Jacob (the doe-eyed Taylor Lautner) so he'll fix them up for her.

Another important message for teenage girls; it's entirely acceptable to manipulate the feelings of lovesick boys as long as you get something out of it. In Bella's defense, she pretty much admits to Jacob that she only sees him as 'a friend' - yet continues to give him just enough 'sugar' (and free pizza) to get what she wants out of the bargain.

(Just for the record, I'm not saying that boys should 'expect' anything from girls when they do stuff for them. I'm just saying that if you're motivation is unrequited love, then the girl who's plucking at your heartstrings is a pretty shitty friend. But since she also ditches her gal pals in a rough part of town to take a spin on the back of a rapist's motorcycle, the 'shitty friend' part has already been firmly established.)

There are further parts I have problems with - like how Sam 'wolfed out' and mutilated his fiancee, which serves as a rather blunt metaphor for abusive relationships (and how the mixed up 'moral' of the story is that it's okay to stay with a dangerous partner, just don't get him angry.) I also groaned when Jacob asked what possible motivation evil vampire Victoria might have for returning to Forks:

"She's after me," Bella breathily reveals.

I yelled out in the theater - and got some teeny-bopper death glares as a result: "For Christ's sake, it's not always about you, Bella!"

And finally, the bit that almost made me throw up in my mouth a little was the ending, in which Edward triumphantly returns and promises to 'turn' Bella - transform her into a vampire like himself. He'll only do it on one condition: "Marry me."

Stephanie Meyer might as well have painted 'abstinence until marriage' on a wooden board and clocked us around the face with it. It's not that I object to blatant moralising in movies - it's just that this abstinence message seems so out-of-place in a movie that spends two hours condoning every kind of self-obsessed, self-destructive, abusive and manipulative behavior teenagers might be prone to.

In real life, Bella's stupid behavior would have ended up with her committed, drowned, murdered, run over or eaten by vampires. All of those risks were worthwhile, though (according to the script, at least) as long as she didn't make the worst mistake of all: Open her legs.



Coffee Bean said...

My Dear Roland...

Have you read all four books? I've read them all because my middle daughter loves them (a fact for which she is mercilessly teased for by me). I'd sooooooo loooooooove your response to the last book. Really... you should go read them and get back to me. I would really get a kick out of your response.

And... I'm sure I'll be dragged to this movie over Christmas break. I'm sure I'll be remembering what you said here and sniggering to myself.

You know... what alarms me though is how many women are totally into these books. Like... grown ups. Furrr reals. Yikes!

bingoboat fan said...

You give fair comparison towards the movie and the book. Their screenwriter was the same with the first movie...

Anonymous said...

Your Twilight New Moon review is HYSTERICAL and spot on. You have a way with words Roland. - Quinn

Joanna Cake said...

Loving this! A lot of teenage girls really are that self-obsessed though and this mindset is only encouraged by this type of literary and media influence.

I shall quiz my own offspring as to her view of this film and its predecessor. What I do know is that we both love True Blood. Have you watched any of that series?

Roland Hulme said...

Hey Joanna! I haven't seen True Blood, or the books it's based on, but I've heard good things about them, so may have to check them out.