Friday, 11 June 2010

New Moon, through an outsider's eyes

New Moon (2009) Dir: Chris Weitz

It seems pretty much all the females I know have succumbed to this Twilight thing, regardless of age. Menfolk seem curiously silent about it all.

I've somehow managed to avoid seeing either movie so far, or reading any of the books, even though both types of Twilight media exist in my home. (Books are easier to ignore, but films have a habit of being on even if you don't want them to be.)

But last night, New Moon hit the DVD player - and I decided to watch. I thought it might make for interesting viewing, going in blind to what is a sequel, or at least part of a continuing cycle. The way I saw it, any film should stand on it's own merits; the skill of the film-makers (as I see it) is to ask 'just how much back-story do we give?'

Pretty much none in this case, it turns out. This movie was made for the fans. If you don't get what's going on, that's your tough luck. You're expected to know.

This is the prologue sequence - a (relatively) complex narrative rather spoiled by Edward crashing in, replete with tittersome sartorial elegance and  half a tub of modelling gel in his hair.
(Question: how does he do that, given he can't see himself in a mirror?)

Regardless, I kind of got what was going on, but the thing that took my by surprise was just how irrelevant plot was to proceedings. There's very little sense of peril; in fact, the supernatural elements (vampirism/lycanthropy) are almost subtext to what is chiefly an examination of teen angst and nihilism.

There's some surprising directorial choices, especially when we're given a raven-eye view of events. Passages of time are shown with clever, tricksy montages and tracking shots.

I found it all strangely engaging, up to a point. I didn't care that I didn't know the characters wheeled out, and I turned off all the questions that started to fire in my mind (things like 'where is Bella's Mum?', which I'm sure would be answered if I'd seen the first movie).

 This is one of several dream sequences in the movie. It might also be the worst.

There's a keen ear in the script for teen heartache and confusion. This is also the maddening element - the push/pull, will-she/won't-she that constitutes tease on a massive scale.  Nothing is ever properly resolved; there's just longing then curiously cold-hearted rebuttals as Bella is left by one suitor, then the other, because they would be 'bad for her' (read: will disfigure her, or destroy her soul, or something).

Even those conversations aren't properly resolved later.  Instead, we get dialogue like this:

Bella: Yes... I needed you to see me once. You had to know that I was alive. You didn't need to feel guilty about it. I can let you go now.
Edward: I could never let go of you. I just couldn't live in a world where you didn't exist.
Bella:  [
puzzled] But you said...
Edward: I lied. I had to lie, and you believed me so easily.
Bella: : [
Starts crying] Because it doesn't make sense for you to love me. I'm nothing... Human. Nothing.
Edward: Bella, you're everything to me. Everything.

And so on.

I'm not the target audience for this stuff. I know that. But I happily sat through it without getting cross at it, which means I tolerated it more than Shutter Island for example. This is interesting to me. Because Shutter Island came with high expectations, perhaps? And with New Moon, I admit I'd set the bar very low.

But once we got down to the last 40 minutes or so, I did start to get a bit angry at it. We're packed off to Italy or somewhere, there's a lot of mumbled, hurried exposition, Michael Sheen supremely irritates as a pantomime Vamp (possibly the worst performance in the movie, so camp and theatrical), nothing makes any sense, then there's the hilarious Edward 'suicide' moment. There's a few 'suicide moments' in the film, all not what they seem, it's a cry for attention from the characters and the film-makers.

When Edward gets his turn, it's to be a Grand Reveal, showing the throng of mortals outside who he really is.  Somehow he only manages to muster the attentions of a young girl, even as Bella dashes like a lunatic in his direction. Everyone else ignores him, just like one of those emo kids you see at the shopping mall.

Plot and script seem to take second place to how the film looks. The males, significantly, are fetish objects, shot like they're in a perfume advert. Bella spends longer looking at Jacob's impressive rack than she does his face. 'When did you get so buff?' she asks.  She's a rather shallow girl like that, and tends to overthink things, I decided.  I felt sorry for her Dad.  She's quite a worry, howling at night then vanishing for days.

As I say, it was all a strange experience (and admittedly, rather beguiling at first). A bit like a teen crush.

I'll give it two (non-penetrative) lovebites out of five.

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