It’s difficult to be disappointed with a movie that gives you exactly what you expect. Going into New Moon (the second in the highly successful book, now movie, franchise known as The Twilight Saga) it was not surprising that half the movie would be spent on looks between attractive teens prone to longing and melodrama. Not being a 13-year-old girl, I was not interested in how awkward duckling Bella Swan hit some rough patches in her romance with her immortal beloved, Edward Cullen (the vampire) and ended up finding warm-blooded solace in the arms of best friend and teen wolf Jacob Black. Unfortunately, also having already read the book, I had to mentally gloss over the boring romance stuff, waiting for the supernatural fang-y stuff (not to mention the completely ill-fitting trip to Italy). Maybe I’m just jaded, but I doubt that even tween girls heaved their chests over this rather bland portrayal of a supposedly star-cross’d romance (in case you don’t immediately pick it up, there are some heavy-handed mentions of that other classic teen couple to clue you in to the comparison). All in all, this movie shows obvious signs of being “that middle movie” in a series, where we’re just waiting for all the characters to hit their marks, propel the story, and get on with things.
If you’re familiar with the books or the movies, you know that there are some obviously ill-fitting elements to the story. In the first movie, the lame CGI effect of the vampires’ sparkling skin was probably the most-ridiculed. This time (while the sparkling is still there) the imaginary “ghost” of Edward, who appears to Bella whenever she puts herself into physical danger (like a dreamy superego) deserves the brunt of the fun-making. To be fair to director Chris Weitz, Edward’s spectre was conjured by author Stephanie Meyer, but it’s Weitz who’s responsible for his floating around and dissolving in a swirl of dust. The odd element that I do like is the idea that we get to travel to Italy and encounter all sorts of “civilized” vampires. As a fan of fantasy stories, I’ve always enjoyed the idea of a vampire society, with history, rules, and political hierarchy. In this case, Meyer created a kind of triumvirate of ancient vampires whose apparently singular purpose is to execute vampires who break the vampire law. Whatever. The cool part is that we get a little glimpse into another sub-world of stories that don’t involve teenage love triangles or adolescent angst. Alas, that’s not the movie we came to see, so it’s back to Forks, Washington we go.
As I mentioned, I don’t feel strongly enough about New Moon to hate it, or even really dislike it. Unfortunately, while it led the pack after the first movie, the Twilight Saga now seems to be trailing other popular vampire tales such as HBO’s True Blood and CW’s Vampire Diaries. It’s got the bigger budget and the larger following, but the scripting, acting, and everything else just don’t measure up. 3 out of 5