The Twilight Saga: New Moon
A few weeks back, as I was queuing for movie tickets on a typically crowded weekend, I spotted this guy. Looked about 18, very handsome fella, obviously half-Caucasian, totally male model material - only he was very blatantly aping the Robert-Pattinson-as-Edward-Cullen look. He had the exact same hair, the exact same pasty white complexion, and I don't know what he did to his lips to give them that exact same pink hue. Seriously, WTF? Good God, the sheer desperadoness of making yourself look like an idealized romantic figure from a franchise targeted at naive teenage girls!
Oh, who am I trying to kid. Dude probably scores loads of chicks.
Bella's (Kristen Stewart) and Edward's (Robert Pattinson) idyllic relationship is threatened when an incident forces the entire Cullen vampire clan to leave town - and Edward to leave Bella. Devastated, Bella turns to her friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) for comfort, but he has a secret of his own - he is a werewolf, part of a pack that hunts vampires and is protecting her from Victoria (Rachelle LeFevre), the evil vampiress who is out for revenge against her. But despite their growing mutual feelings, Bella still sees visions of Edward in moments of danger, which drives her to suicidal, self-destructive behaviour. And soon, this leads her, Edward and Alice (Ashley Greene), her closest friend among Edward's family, to a confrontation with the Volturi, the ruling clan of the vampire world.
So I wanted to watch this surrounded by its fanbase, to observe their reactions to it. Instead of my friendly neighbourhood TGV Kepong, I went sliiiightly out of my way to Cineleisure Damansara, where there was a bigger crowd. (Not as big as I thought though; tickets weren't hard to get, and 2012 is still packing 'em in.) So I wasn't as annoyed as I would've been by the teenyboppers giggling and chatting all around me, not even by the idiot who kept shining a laser pointer at every scene with a buff shirtless male bod. I just shrugged and thought, I'm in their world. And what did I observe? That every time there was a buff shirtless male bod, there was much squee-ing. So, eye candy for girls then.
(And while I'm at it, let me just get this out of the way: dear Cineleisure Damansara, it's nice that you have a "please do not leave your belongings behind as you exit the cinema" message, but you should not flash it on screen before the end credits even begin. It was just a huge WTF moment for everyone. Also, please do not open the exit doors before the movie ends. The light from the corridor outside is very distracting. kthxbai)
I really hope eye candy is all they're getting out of it though - certainly not that Bella is a suitable role model, or that the romance depicted here is ideal or even appropriate. Our so-called heroine is even more stupid and useless than before; just breaking up with her vampire boyfriend seems to cause her actual physical pain, not to mention night terrors and complete abandonment of her friends at school. Her visions of Edward are never explained - is she in actual telepathic contact with him, or is she just delusional? - and they're a pretty lousy excuse for putting herself in danger, forgetting that she has a father who worries about her. Seriously, she is so thoughtless and self-centered, you just want to smack her like the six-year-old she behaves like, rather than the eighteen-year-old that she is.
Even when her relationship with Jacob deepens, she still can't shake her addiction - and that's really what it is - to the memory of her ex. Not that our werewolf boy doesn't have his own problems; he pulls the same dick move as Edward did, wooing her then dumping her with the excuse that it's for her own protection. (At least he has the excuse that he only just found out that he's a werewolf.) But overall, he has a much, much healthier relationship with her than she did with Mr. Sparklypants - at least he comforts her, eases her pain, and actually makes her happy. And just when it seems both her and Jacob have come to terms with his werewolf nature, off she goes for another Edward fix, making another big strong man rescue her yet again.
Edward himself is off-screen for almost the entire middle hour, which is a relief, because his "romantic" dialogue with Bella is ear-splittingly bad. And once again, their love for each other is made of fail. He's a moron. He knows Victoria is out there, seeking revenge for the death of her mate James in the last movie, yet he leaves her for her protection. And of course Victoria shows up to threaten Bella, leaving the werewolves to fight her off. The climax involves him attempting suicide by provoking the Volturi into sentencing him to death - and he does this by exposing his vampire nature to the world, thus threatening to expose all vampires. It's one thing for a teenage girl to behave like a self-absorbed child, it's another for a 109-year-old to do the same.
So why can't I hate this movie? Seriously, I can't. As much as I want to give these characters two tight slaps each, I still found myself reasonably engaged. Probably because director Chris Weitz is much more adept at a SFX-heavy action scene than Catherine Hardwicke was. There's a werewolf-on-werewolf fight scene and a vampire-on-vampire fight scene, and although the CGI for both is a little rough, they're both reasonably cool. The appearance of the Volturi provide all the vampiric menace and horror that was lacking in the previous installment, and this plus the werewolves gives the sense that the Twilight world is opening up and getting broader. And let's face it, there's an irrevocable coolness to werewolves and vampires that no Mormon author's female submission fantasies can deflate.
Stewart once again does her best with a shitty character - I really wonder if there's anything she could've done to make Bella more likable. Likewise Pattinson, who has stated in interviews that he knows exactly how much of a loser Edward is (and how bad the books are). Lautner does fine, but all the Twi-hards want from him is his rock-hard abs, and he provides plenty of that. Ashley Greene has a more prominent role here; she's cute, but she's far too good at playing perky teenager to also be a believable hundred-year-old vampire. Michael Sheen is deliciously evil as Aro, head of the Volturi. (Oh, and Dakota Fanning plays one of them too, but she's kinda wasted.)
So if the Twilight franchise is all about giving teenage girls shirtless hunks to ogle, that's fine. Boys get Megan Fox in Transformers 2, girls get Lautner and Pattinson - all's fair. But when they start looking to date guys who treat them like Edward treats Bella, that's when I start to fear for the future of humanity. Now, I can be Mr. Objective Film Critic, I'll judge this film on its merits as a film and not as an object lesson on gender roles - so for that, it gets two-and-a-half stars. But that guy I saw, the Edward-wannabe? Seriously, dude - his looks better be the only thing you're aping.
NEXT REVIEW: Jalang
Expectations: I expect a mature, intelligent and even-handed examination of sexual politics and mores. Not.