Tween drama sucks the hemoglobin out of audiences’ wallets
For better or worse, Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” saga is an unavoidable phenomenon. The film adaptation of “New Moon,” the second installment in the series, opened Friday, Nov. 20 to massive crowds. With $140.7 million earned opening weekend, there’s no dawn in sight for this box-office bloodsucker. Yet the numbers don’t tell the whole story – to get the full picture, you needed to experience the winding lines of screaming tweens all clamoring for a pass into this season’s hottest cinematic attraction.
The main storyline is the love triangle between Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). As evidenced by the scores of “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob” t-shirts within the crowd, each are an appealing choice to Bella and to audiences. Who wouldn’t want to be in her shoes – to be able to choose between Pattinson and the cute-but-still-technically-jailbait Lautner?
To his credit, Lautner and his pack of werewolf buddies remain shirtless throughout most of the movie, and are easy on the eyes to say the least. Pattinson, on the other hand, comes off as pasty and sickly-looking, but a choice selection for a young girl who isn’t so rosy-cheeked to begin with. While the roles of Edward and Jacob are relatively flat, Pattinson and Lautner fill them out nicely. Stewart is somewhat bland, but brings a strength and spunk to the character of Bella that is not found in Meyer’s books. Bella’s clinginess and constant need to be rescued do not come across as strongly in the films, thanks to the combined efforts of director Chris Weitz and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg. Michael Sheen, Jamie Campbell Bower, Christopher Heyerdahl and Dakota Fanning make nice additions to the cast as the Volturi, the venerable rulers of the vampire world.
“New Moon” is one of the weaker books of the saga, merely serving to set up the Bella-Edward-Jacob love triangle and – spoiler alert – Bella’s eventual transformation into a vampire. The film has little substantial plot, and the three main characters spend most of their time pining away and making bedroom eyes at each other. The humor is, for the most part, as corny and painfully awkward as the teenage hormones that run rampant throughout the film.
The screenplay rarely strays from Meyer’s original story. The film opens with Bella’s 18th birthday, an event she marks with some measure of melancholy because the immortal Edward will remain 17 forever. An innocent paper cut at her birthday party sends Edward’s brother Jasper into a blood-thirsty frenzy, and Edward and the Cullens leave town to protect Bella, with Edward denouncing his love for her. Bella is left moping, friendless and – in a nod to the original “Twilight” – hunted by vampires who are seeking revenge on the Cullens.
She finds solace in her friendship with Jacob, but he too becomes distant and tells her to stay away “for her own good,” though she later discovers that he has reluctantly turned into a werewolf. In Edward’s absence, Bella becomes reckless, as she revels in the visions of Edward that she has when in danger. An instance of cliff-jumping causes Alice Cullen to believe that Bella is dead, and Edward, realizing that he can not live without Bella, sets off to Italy to provoke the Volturi, which, as he explains to Bella, is one of the only ways that a vampire can die.
While the literary merit of Meyer’s books is debatable, she certainly knows how to tell a story that will captivate audiences. The draw of the romance novel genre is the reader’s ability to live vicariously through the story’s female protagonist, and Meyer’s books and their film adaptations allow audiences to do just that. Oscar-worthy it is not, but the “Twilight” series, in a whole, makes for a wonderful piece of escapism.
Lindsey Pierce can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org