I’ve never read any of the Twilight novels. That fact didn’t matter much when experiencing the first Twilight movie — like the rest of the book series’ hardcore devotees, I got swept up in the love story of an emotionally fragile teenage girl, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), and a moody, uncommonly restrained vampire, Edward (Robert Pattinson). And while Twilight’s final third failed due to lame special effects and numerous unconvincing leaps of logistical faith, the duo’s inevitable bond and central dilemma (they can’t consummate their relationship physically for fear that Edward would lose control and suck the life out of her) was conveyed with an undeniable, emo-drenched intensity.
The unexpected box-office success of Catherine Hardwicke’s first installment led to the quick green light of the second of Stephanie Meyer’s source novels, New Moon. Ironically, the latest movie flips the formula of the first: Its elaborate special effects, seamlessly guided by new director Chris Weitz, trump its inert, often incoherent story — a guilt-ridden love triangle between Bella, Jacob (a buffed-up Taylor Lautner who shape-shifts into a wolf when he gets pissed) and Edward, who abruptly leaves his beloved for reasons not satisfyingly conveyed.
I saw New Moon with my 56-year-old aunt, a Twilight aficionado who has read all the books and saw the first movie multiple times. The following snippet from our post-screening conversation gets to New Moon’s inherent problems, none of which will likely matter much to the lovelorn teenager girls (and apparently aunts) who will geek out on every cheesy “I can’t live without you” line and swoon over the sight of the film’s various hunky, bare-chested dudes.
Me: “The narrative doesn’t effectively convey or justify to the audience why Edward would leave Bella so abruptly.”
Aunt: “Well, because I’ve read the books, I know what he’s thinking when he leaves her.”
Me: “And later, when Bella says that Jacob is her best friend, I was like, ‘Huh?’ The film doesn’t convey the depth of their friendship in a way that’s believable, which undermines the whole story.”
Aunt: “They can’t cram an entire book into a two-hour movie.”
Uh, no, they can’t. Grade: C
Opens Nov 20. Check out theaters and show times, see more photos from the film and get theater details here.