Mr. Beaks Feels Like He Has To Say Something About NEW MOON!
Published at: Nov. 20, 2009, 2:06 a.m. CST by mrbeaks
TWILIGHT: NEW MOON is expected to open to $100 million this weekend, and I refuse to believe that anyone who pays to see this non-movie will enjoy it as anything other than a shameless melange of pasty skin, chiseled abs and tween-emo longing. It's garbage. And while I'm aware there are people who mistake the torpidity of these films for tragic depth, it's my hope that many of them will soon be exposed to Jane Austen as more than a cheap allusion, at which point they'll realize - with horror-struck remorse - the ignorant error of their youth.
If producers Wyck Godfrey and Karen Rosenfelt weren't beholden to millions of squealing Twi-hards, perhaps they'd be open to the idea of bringing in a gothic stylist like Neil Jordan to find/invent erotic undercurrents in Stephenie Meyer's queasily chaste narrative. Perhaps he'd imbue actual danger into the puppy-love attraction between Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, and at least entertain the possibility that these two might give in to their trouser-chafing desires. And maybe, just maybe he'd give these movies a reason to exist beyond the obvious cash-grab rationale that currently has studios bidding up the rights to vintage board games.
Anything would be preferable to the plodding inanity of Chris Weitz's NEW MOON, which abandons the rough (if borderline incompetent) edges of Catherine Hardwick's first installment in favor of a slick studio veneer that drains the picture of all vitality. The story once again centers on the impossible romance between Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella (Kristen Stewart), which goes torturously long-distance when the Cullen clan skips town - and goes completely off the grid - for plot-convenient purposes. Suddenly, Edward's email account starts bouncing back all of Bella's sad missives, which leaves her staring sad-eyed out the window for the next several months like a love-lorn Christopher Reeve (sans this). After a while, Bella takes to her bed and howls for nights on end, but she pulls out of her depression a few minutes later (film time) when she convinces a Native American kid to repair of couple of broken-down dirt bikes for free - because exploiting Indians is the cure for the white girl blues.
The savage in question is Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), raven-haired sixteen-year-old and proud descendent of the Washboard Tummy Tribe. Like most Hollywood natives, Jacob spends most of the film running around the great outdoors without much in the way of clothes on - which must've sucked for Lautner given that NEW MOON was shot in Vancouver during the cold-as-balls season. But Jacob's just what the lust doctor ordered for Bella because he's hotter than Edward, has abs for fucking days, and turns into a werewolf when yon delicate paleface is harassed by a dreadlocked black man (thankfully, he gets torn to shreds).
If this weren't the most empty-headed studio movie I've sat through since PURE LUCK, I might be concerned about its racial politics. Instead, I'm delighted by its persistent reinforcement of stereotypes. Anything to tamp the dirt down more firmly.
The TWILIGHT franchise probably won't be viewed as a massive pop cultural oopsy-daisy for another few years (these things take time to run their course), but when we're finally able to treat it like the New-Kids-on-the-Block joke that it is, I think we'll be most amazed that a series with so little story (at least as far as the films go) captivated such a wide audience. Seriously, there's as much going on in NEW MOON as there is in L'AVVENTURA: aside from a laughably ineffective subplot involving a series of mysterious maulings in the Oregon wilderness (which, strangely enough, coincides with the introduction of the sexy werewolf crew), the movie is basically about keeping Bella and Edward apart until the third act - when Edward goes before the Volturi (the Italy-based vampire counsel headed up by Michael Sheen - who strikes the right note with his overripe line readings) and asks permission to commit suicide. His request is denied, so he decides to reveal himself to non-vampires with his sun-sparkly skin - a huge no-no punishable by execution. Suddenly, but for only about two minutes, we get some ticking-clock suspense as Bella hits town and scampers about trying to locate the soon-to-be-outed Edward. Yay, tension! It makes you yearn for everything from Rudolph Maté's D.O.A. to that scene in THE SWARM where Henry Fonda injects himself with killer bee venom! But then it's over and you remember you're watching a huge fucking mistake of a movie.
I've a theory that Chris Weitz, who's got one really good movie under his belt (ABOUT A BOY), made a private bet with himself prior to the shooting of NEW MOON that he could get away with damn near anything as long as he delivered one money shot (i.e. male abs) every five or ten minutes. It's either that or he drank like Peckinpah throughout this shoot, because no one with the ability to operate a Speak & Spell could spend a year on a film like this sober without mounting the scaffold.
Lots of invective will be hurled the cast's way, but they're not to blame here. With his sickly alabaster skin and ruby red lips, Pattinson is done up like a clown for most of the film, and directed to emote like a walking My Chemical Romance single; I don't mean to compare the two in terms of talent, but I guarantee you this is what Hollywood would do to James Dean if he were coming of age today. Stewart, a fine actress who struggled through most of TWILIGHT, fares better in this film, but it still looks like she's counting the days until wrap (can't wait for her Joan Jett in THE RUNAWAYS). Lautner has the most thankless role as the musclebound Jacob, but he at least runs convincingly. And while I still have no idea if Ashley Greene can act, I sincerely hope filmmakers keep giving her opportunities to prove herself.
David Slade's up next with ECLIPSE. Apparently, there'll be more action in this one. Enjoy. I've waded in as far as I'm willing to go.