Saturday, November 21, 2009

First Impressions: The Twilight Saga: New Moon


So, as those on Facebook with me will have realised, I went to see New Moon last night and let us get this out of the way… the likelihood is that this is going to be the biggest vampire flick (in terms of monies earned) of all time. I arrived just before one screening, which was full but not the one I – with David, my son – were going to see anyway. I decided, after queuing for some considerable time, to get tickets for two screenings on… it was already sold out… however the next screening still had tickets. By the time we got in the theatre that had sold out too.

This is a rare phenomenon for me. Probably the fullest a cinema has been in my recent viewings was Star Trek and even then the cinema wasn’t filled to capacity. There was a difference between the two screenings (Star Trek and New Moon). Whilst the cross section of audience was more varied for Star Trek, New Moon mainly being teen girls and emo boys, Star Trek got applause and cheers at its conclusion. There might have been one or two uninitiated gasps at the cliff-hanger that ended New Moon – we’ll get to that eventually – but mainly the audience was subdued and filed out almost in silence… probably because, whether they wanted to admit it or not, they had just been witness to a rather boring 2+ hours of cinema.

sparkle boy and whinger girlWe are, of course, in the world of Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella (Kristen Stewart), which in a cinema sense began with the movie Twilight. Edward is a vampire, and if you don’t know that he is a defanged vampire who sparkles like teeny lip-gloss in the sun, then you have probably been living under a rock. However, this is not my complaint with the movie (to a degree, at least, as you’ll see). This is clearly a teen romance and should be viewed as such.

dreams of decrepitudeIt is Bella’s birthday and she is having anxiety dreams about aging, mainly because Edward will not age. Okay, I can live with that but what is with the prophetic nature of her dreams… Bella does have a passive super power, as such, in that she is unaffected by most of the vampire’s powers – the invasive ones. She is not immune to Alice (Ashley Greene) reading her future or Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) effecting her moods positively but Edward is unable to read her mind, for instance. Yet suddenly her dreams foreshadow what will happen later in the film.

holding back JasperThe thing is Kristen Stewart is not a good actress. In this entire section (before she gets unceremoniously dumped) she only projects whinging and annoying. When she gets dumped she projects… yup, you’ve guessed it… whinging and annoying. Later, when they get back together she projects… answers on a postcard to the “Kristen portrays Bella as Whinging and Annoying Competition”. As for Robert Pattinson, well he doesn’t get to do much in this episode (indeed he’s barely in it) but his performance has gone downhill – he spent the entire time looking as though he was ten seconds away from vomiting but that might have been a reaction to either 1) the script or 2) Stewart’s performance.

domestic abuseSo, after a moment of domestic violence… To explain; Bella, at a party Alice tricks her into, gets a paper cut and Jasper goes all ‘wanting to suck her blood’. Despite a room full of vampires to stop him, Edward feels the need to bodily fling her (for her own safety) across the room and thus cut her arm so badly she needs stitches. I can’t actually recall an apology for doing this… Edward feels the need to dump Bella. The trouble was that the script is so superficial that the reason why is not adequately revealed. Those who read the books will understand but, much like the first film failing to make us believe that they would fall in love, this film fails to make us believe in the relationship.

We don’t believe in Bella and Edward’s endless love, thus we don’t buy into why he might dump her (for her own good). It fails to show how he utterly eradicated (in his creepy, stalker style) any trace of himself from her life. We don’t understand, when they get back together, why the Cullen’s all seem to love her so much, as they all buggered off too. This is all scripting problems.

mad as a hatter, Bella sees a sparkly Jiminy CricketBella ends up a screaming moron, literally. Months go by when she just stares out of windows, she ignore her friends (on a positive note this means her friends’ screen time is limited) and she has night terrors. Get a grip, I don’t buy it, because I don’t buy the love in the first instance. The entire parenting input seems to be one line of, go back to your mother, after which a promise to go shopping with a girlfriend ends the concern (indeed, Billy Burke's screen time as Bella's father is severely curtailed. Punishment for actually acting in the first film and thus upstaging the leads?). Said shopping trip morphs into a cinema trip and, after a brush with some bad boys that causes Bella to see Edward warning her from danger like a sparkly Jiminy Cricket, Bella becomes an adrenaline junky.

Jake and BellaTo get her kicks (and thus make Edward appear ghost like before her) she gets Jacob (Taylor Lautner) to fix up some motorbikes for her. Of course he has the hots for her and there is the danger of a love triangle that fails to materialise because, again, the script and the performances fail to build a believable relationship. They seem a bit like friends, not even best friends.

wolfNext problem. Jacob is bulking out and his erstwhile friends are behaving oddly and superior. He is becoming a werewolf (or not, they are wolf based shapeshifters and not werewolves, the book series does make that distinction). None of the big shapes in the woods, killed hikers (killed by vampires, not wolves) or the paranoia of his friends drifting to (actually the pack alpha) Sam (Chaske Spenser) is explored properly. The fact that bad vampire Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre) is trying to get to Bella is not exploited. There is an entire level of supernatural peril that was in the book but may as well have not been in the film for all the good it did. This was bad direction on Chris Weitz part, whilst the integration of effects into the movie worked better – and his work on the Golden Compass stood him in good stead for the wolves – he makes a film that is boring and superficial.

Ashley Greene as AliceAlice turns up because Bella jumped from a cliff (and she didn’t see her survive). Why she was so close and why she had failed to make contact with someone she must have cared about is not explored. Edward gets the impression that Bella is dead and goes to the Volturi – vampire royalty – to beg to die. They refuse because of his mind reading gift and so he decides to try and kill himself by making a public spectacle and forcing them to kill him. Again we have a ready made scene for supernatural peril and against the clock thrills… again the script and direction fails to take advantage of the opportunity. EDIT: Ashley Greene I salute your efforts, by the way, you actually did act and - having rewatched the film on DVD - your acting was very good and your character is the only thing worth watching the film for in my humble opinion.

the VolturiAs for the Volturi, well let us concentrate on leader Aro (Michael Sheen). Mr Sheen, you were fantastic in Underworld, why you would offer such a camp, almost pantomime, performance in this… The entire chance to have something sinister was lost. Even the hinted mass feeding on tourists failed to impress, what with it being only a comment heard, a group walked to the Volturi and the sounds of a few screams. Perhaps a full on blood bath might have been going too far for this film but more of a glimpse could have been offered.

As for the cliff-hanger I mentioned. Edward asks Bella to marry him and the film ends, without an answer… oh gosh, like 90% of the film’s audience will not already know the answer and how the relationship pans out. It was cheap script chicanery that most of the audience could see through.

Getting to David and his insightful reactions – he is more the age the film is set for, though clearly of the opposite gender – he said it was ‘a bit alright’ there were ‘some funny bits’ and ‘some action bits’ but mainly ‘it was boring… but better than Twilight’ (I should say, when he says it was boring, he was audibly yawning towards the end!).

I disagree that this was better than Twilight. David, I believe, liked the wolves being there but I think they played the entire movie safer than Twilight (if you can believe that) and so ratcheted it down a notch whilst turning the boredom factor up. When it came to the supernatural, they needed to put fear in the woods and they needed to put sinister into the vampire coven. We perhaps needed some blood on display and victims, we had victims in the first film. When it came to the romance it needed leads that could/wanted to act, could display a range of emotions and a script that made the relationship believable. This was no Scarlet and Rhett, this was damp squib. After saying all that, clearly no one will listen to me and (as I said at the beginning) we will find this topping the charts as the most profitable vampire movie of all time (until the next installment).

more domestic abuseEDIT: Having rewatched the film on DVD I really couldn't be bothered to review the film afresh. I said 99% of what I wanted to say in this. I might have added in the fact that, beyond Edward at the birthday party, this film seemed to celebrate domestic abuse. Sam having nearly sliced his fiance's face off, which lead to baking muffins, love and Bela feels the need to apologise to Jake for bleeding, the perverse reaction of the abused. So, rather than rewrite the article I have taken the lazy-man approach and added screenshots and a couple of edits. I will also add a score in. 2.5 out of 10 - and most of that is for Ashley Greene as Alice.

The imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

More boring than the first that even possible?

Gabriel said...

What no score out of ten?

Firstly I'm surprised that this series has sold 85 million books. That's a helluva lot of books!

I guess it's all about the teen love, and as I have read the books out of curiosity, I too didn't believe in the forced love story, let alone wanted to smack Bella one all the way through as she's pretty damned shallow and selfish.

But anyways, I read an article recently on how this movie has brought about a double standard. You have female teens and upward purring over Edward and Jacob, who sickening enough are 17 year old characters (Taylor is actually 17), and by upward I meant 30+ women.

Now, if the roles were to be reversed and the cinema and internet forums were filled with 30+ year old men fawning over a 17 (underage) year old FEMALE vampire and FEMALE werewolf who were fighting over a male human like a prize, what do you think would be said about us?

I'm not even going to go into how f***ed up Stephanie Meyer must be to come up with this **** in the first place, and how a male author wouldn't get away with writing this dross either. But there you go!

But of course there is always LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Simon... yes

Gabe, I never score a first impression as I wasn't sat making notes etc as I do when I watch a DVD

Derek Tatum said...

Sounds horrendous. You know my feelings towards the whole "Twilight" thing (for the others - I despise the series itself, but like the attention and sales it is bringing to the genre as a whole). People have told me that I would like the Volturi characters, but this made me care even less.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

The Volturi were rather interesting in the book, alas in this film, they were rather badly drawn. Strange as they did have some good actors playing them.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I should say, kudos to the group of 7 or so teenage boys in the row in front who, when Bella was being dumped and Edward declares "Bella, I don't want you to come." all started giggling... you put a wry old smile on my face.

Moncherion said...

It looks amazing!

Derek Tatum said...

I have to wonder how many of those boys got dumped by their dates immediately afterward? ;)

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Moncherion, each to their own, but lookscan be deceiving.

Derek, they appeared to be there on their own (as a group of lads).

Anonymous said...

I think I'm the first female to comment on this, and I'll start start by stating the obvious, that the series appeals mainly to anyone who is or has ever been a teenage girl. The whole 'he loves me for the beauty he sees inside me, and that makes him want to change his bad-boy ways and be good' is a female fantasy, and Twilight does it perfectly.

I have to say that I actually enjoyed the movie and was surprised that the 2 hours, 10 minutes didn't seem to drag. I'll be posting more on my blog on Monday, but suffice it to say that you forgot to mention what a great set of pecs and abs Taylor Lautner had, Taliesin ;)

And your statement reminds me of something said by the ratings boards in the USA way back when Fast Times At Rigdgemont High was to be released, and they were debating over the ratings as it contained full frontal female and male nudity. They ratings board deemed the female nudity okay for an R rating, but the male full frontal was 'too agressive' to warrant anything less than an X rating. Perhaps its the same with the Twilight fans? Hoards of screaming women aren't as threatening as legions of lusty males?

There was also recently a debate as to why Miley Cyrus got flack over showing a bare back on the cover of a magazine, but Taylor Lautner and co. don't seem to be chastized for showing their skin. Sadly, double standards abound, for both sexes. ;)

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Nicole, thanks for your input. I think my biggest problem is that the books, to a certain degree, allowed me "to contact my inner teen girl" but the films are, in my opinion poor.

The comment re scarlet and Rhett is meant to underline this. Gone with the Wind is not my sort of movie but I recognise good film making and acting when I see it - even if the actual film isn't my thing. This, to me, was neither well acted or good film making.

re the statement and ratings, and double standards, am I right in thinking that you are addressing Gabriel's comment.

It is an interesting debate but when it comes to the actual rating the film, something did strike me. The film was a 12A in the UK - children under 12 can attend with a parent. That was the same rating Dark Knight got. I agreed with the rating for Dark Knight, whilst aspects were disturbing it was (and should be) down to me as a parent to decide if my child sees it.

I thought it was rated too highly in this case. There was nothing within this film that I would have classed remotely above PG. Even the kills we saw (vampires) were bloodless and for the most part there was no suspense and absolutely no terror or bad language. This shouldn't have rated higher than PG (Parental Guidance).

I'll look forward to your post, it sounds as though it will be much more positive - and such debate/and differences in taste make the world go round.

Anonymous said...

Yes, sorry -- my comment starting with "And your statement" was meant as a response (of sorts) to Gabriel -- sorry about the confusion, it came out alright in my head but not on the screen. Apologies. I was agreeing with Gabriel in that there would certainly be a double standard if the genders were flipped, and while Twilight does appeal to my 14 year-old-self, I also think it presents females as helpless victims (look at how Jacob and Edward both make decisions for Bella in regards to their "you can't be around me anymore"). But I'll save the rest of my thoughts on that for my blog ;)

I do think you reviewed it well as a film, in and of itself. I went to see it with a group of ladies and we did it for the purpose of being teenagers again, so I viewed it with a different eye. I didn't even notice what it was rated over here, but it was certainly a PG-rated film; there wasn't even any cursing!

Suzi Q said...

I liked the movie better than the book - but that isn't saying much because I hated the book. :P

Zahir Blue said...

I've got a free movie pass and will be going with some friends to see in the flick in a week or two.

Mind you, I'm not rabidly anti-Twilight. My comparison is that if LTROI is a really superb boef bouginon, then Twilight is a good hamburger. I enjoyed the books. The first movie was okay.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cheers Suzi.

Nicole, I'm pleased it allowed a brief return to your inner 14 year old and, as I said, I am looking forward to your blog piece.

Zahir... nice comparison, to which I would agree iro the Twilight books. However I have to say that I find the films more live the microwave in 90 second variety of beefburger....

That said I am interested to see how David Slade is going to tackle the third film…

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I'm putting a comment here that was left by "Surrey". The comment seemed odd (contradictory" and the link in the name was to a business.

I assume it was spam, but in case I have done a disservice the full text was "Great review last night i saw it and its really lovely.."

Bill Dan Courtney said...


Got your commet at Myspace but I seldom use that. I will try to add you too Facebook. Myspace for me has some problems, some functions will not work. I put a lot of work into the page but I cannot even reply to comments on my profile page. I do not know what I did wrong at MS.

I recently did a post, not review, on Twilight at Necrotic Cinema, which is active again:

I seem to like that film and have a feeling I will like the new one. I seem to be in a minority as far as horror bloggers go on this one.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hiyah Bill, will check the post out soonest... To a degree I envy you, it is great to be in the minority but, seriously, if you are enjoying the films, good for you.

I don't dislike this because of the way it does horror or portrays vampires (and bear in mind that I didn't hate Twilight, just felt it was below average and a bit boring as a film) because it is a tween love story.

I dislike this part because I thought it a poorly made film with poor acting generally - though I haven't actually said what a joy Ashley Greene was and how good her performance was - credit where it is due.

Great to hear from you, as always

Bill Dan Courtney said...

Ashely Greene was my favorite vamp as well. Anyway, not a super stellar flick but not a waste of an evening in my view. If you get around to my post I think my amazement is with the amount of energy detractors put into lambasting the franchise. I am nonplussed at why it generates such a violent reaction. Hell, it was better than Wrong Turn and I even enjoyed that.

Not a vamp flick but a blood sucker flick, the camp classic The Horror of Party Beach. Did not check if you had already covered it, but it can fall under the vamp or not category.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Bill, I'll certainly be putting a comment up on your blog as you raise an interesting point that fits in with some other debates going on round the net.

Re: The Horror of Party Beach I'll keep an eye out as it isn't one I am aware of.

Gabriel said...

This is to Uranium Willy.

How's it going?

I guess the reason why detractors put so much effort into their 'venom' of this franchise is that they do not like the changes to the vampire genre, how it's almost the flipside, and how all this paranormal romance (which is a fill in for horror these days) and targeting female audiences and the boys are getting left out.

No sunlight weakness, no crypts, coffins, once again vamp protags who drink animal blood (sigh), the amount of whining and self-loathing that the main vampire has and so forth.

For myself who grew up on Count Yorga, Count Dracula (Chris Lee), Lost Boys, and more recently Radu Vladislas from Subspecies, I see a total mutilation of a genre I have been a fan of for over 25 yrs.

What is the hope for future vampire authors who want vampire stories published that are for adults with vampires that don't want to rip bodices and/or sparkle?

I can just see an editor saying "This is lovely but you think you could re-write so it a bit more like Twilight?"

evilolive said...

Despite being a huge vampire fan, I had absolutely no interested in seeing Twilight, but was dragged to the first movie with my niece. The first thing I thought was that I was absolutely amazed that it was a theatrical release. The acting was terrible, and the special effects were laughable. The bad wig that the Jacob character was wearing was so damn distracting, I couldn't notice anything else but that during his scenes. Couldn't they have spent a little extra money on some decent wigs? The special effects were not much better than a SyFy channel made for TV movie. I hope they hired a better SFX company for New Moon, although I have no intention of seeing it unless perhaps it comes on TV for free...or my niece begs me to take her again. I am, however, anxiously awaiting the release of Daybreakers. :)

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Evilolive - welcome to the blog, like yourself I eagerly anticipate Daybreakers.

I will say that the effects were better done in this (though a prediction scene of Edward and Bella in the future, as vampires, running and sparkling was so pathetic as to illicit giggles from the audience). The acting, unfortunately, was worse - in the main, Ashley Greene I salute your efforts (I have to keep repeating this as I am a little embarrassed that I missed praising her performance in the main piece).

Christine said...

Despite sexually frustrated misogynists writing pottymouthed hate rants and moronic moaning over vampires who do not burn in sunlight (vampires of folklore and classic literature like Dracula and Carmilla walked in sunlight before 1922 Nosferatu), I agree with you. This is rather boring stuff. I have no problem with "abusive" relationship - mad love which do not care about conventional right and wrong is classic theme and I really enjoyed Gautier´s Clarimonde - and I´m all for women having their own franchise, but this has all lush, otherwordly quality of yours truly making coffee.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Christine - absolutely, that is my issue. I quite like the books, can live with the lore changes but the films are boring.

OllieMugwump said...

I've many issues against this franchise; glorifying abusive relationships, objectification of men, sheer shallowness etc.

True if SMeyer, along with Cicely Von Ziegesar (Gossip Girl) and Candace Bushnell (Sex and the City) were all men; some Valerie Solanas-type would've shot them by now ;-) speaking as someone who grew up surrounded by angry feminists (who are all hypocrites themselves, shagging novelty boy-toys)

'Twilight' to me, is the ultimate manifestation of this Western, definately American, cultural attitude that 'Good' is rich, beautiful and sexy. Imagine how it is for me; a 24-year-old virgin, who feels inadeqate enough, reading about Edward Cullen's so-called 'perfection' which amounts purely to looks, money and ego.

End of rant (for the time being).

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Ollie - nothing I can add to that