Before we start, there are going to be some spoiler-type things in this review, though since there is little surprising about the film itself, and most fans will already know what’s going to happen, it shouldn’t be a problem. If you like Twilight go and see the film then come back and read this, if you don’t, don’t bother with the film but read this so that you have a rough idea of what’s going on in New Moon.
New Moon is full of subtle deconstructions of preconceived assumptions people have about vampires, werewolves, the series itself and indeed pop culture. Having been angered by the first film’s pseudo-religious message of abstinence and its regressive look at gender roles (which we’ll come to in a bit) I was ready to find the same themes and conflicts stretched out across another two hours. And that is exactly what I got. But I also found myself thoroughly remonstrated by a couple of key scenes which effectively put people with my ideals* in place. Keep reading, I promise I’ll explain.
In the opening section Bella awakes from a nightmare, and we see her lying next to a copy of Romeo and Juliette on her pillow. At this point I had been inhaling for a good ten minutes in preparation for letting out an extended, pompous sigh for the duration of the film. I decided to hold my breath instead. Edward read a little from R&J soon after, captivating the class and hinting at the fact that the plot of the film may well have a little to do with Shakespeare’s early tragedy. But of course Stephenie Meyer had the sense to avoid killing off her leads so early in a clearly lucrative series. I appreciated the fact that the film was willing to acknowledge the source of its basic plot which it ‘borrows’ from heavily.
A little later, after Edward has left Bella, she sits in her room overlooking her garden, and the camera spins around her. Each time we see the window it is clearly a different season, and if that wasn’t enough it also tells us which month it is onscreen. Perhaps this wasn’t supposed to be funny, but it is such an obvious and frequently used device acted out in an obvious and over the top manner that it’s impossible to discount the idea that the filmmakers were playing with the formula for fun. Obviousness is embraced rather than denied, which is again a bit of light relief.
About a third of the way in Bella visits the cinema with the normal guy from her friendship group and Jacob in his new hilariously hulky form. The film they are seeing is called Face Punch, and it is the funniest portion of the film, but also the one which made me reassess my reaction to New Moon ever so slightly. By this point I had become annoyed with Bella’s deliberate misuse of Jacob’s affections, and also by her reclusive, morose, lifeless character which for some reason is the focus of universal male attention and sexual frustration. I was just in the middle of thinking about how predictable and repetitive the needs of the female psyche can be when Face Punch began. And it sounded like the kind of film I would enjoy.
Mindless action and violence. I could probably forgive Face Punch for its excessive machismo, chauvinism and idiotic plot because of its awesome stunts and snappy one-liners. If it was a real film. I like to think I have massively broad tastes, but my appreciation of absolutely stupid films is as expansive and the next man’s. Unless that next man is a woman, in which case she will probably be enthralled in the trashy, traditional, angst-ridden world of the Twilight Saga. Thus New Moon was able to say to people like me in the audience “Look at yourself, you enjoy crappy films that many women would hate or find plain offensive. It’s not often that the shoe is on the other foot, so shut up and take your medicine”. So I did.
Anyway, that’s my selection of mini revelations out of the way. There are plenty of other strange and over the top sections which I found funny, and there is virtually nothing original about the plot, characterisation or cinematography. But then it is the familiarity of the relationships and events that will ensure massive box office takings. Most of the fans will already have read the books, and those that haven’t will be able to guess what’s about to happen through intuition or the echoes of classic narratives which ring loud throughout.
Now, gender roles. I will ask only this: why is Bella never allowed to drive her own truck when there is a man around? She’ll drive it to see either Jacob or Edward, and then they will drive her home again. In her own truck. Then they have to walk away. I know they’re magic, but it’s still mental. Can anyone explain why this is?**
New Moon is packed full of conflicting, confusing and inconsistent messages, scenes, relationships and sub-plots. I’m sure essays and book length studies will be written about it in the future, but I suppose it strikes a chord with a female audience because it somehow emulates the experience of being a teenage girl. It’s wrong to be so reductive, but then Twilight is about simplification and absolutes. This is another irritating film that manages to be less broken and more thought-provoking than the first despite its many flaws. Hopefully this broken and incomplete response will be just as irritating and interesting in its way.
*I think ‘prejudices’ would be a little strong
**Also, did anyone think that Robert Pattinson had odd nipples? I couldn’t work out if it was due to one being erect whilst the other wasn’t, or whether he had an innie and and outie.