Wan teen Bella Swan and her vampire love Edward Cullen are back for their second screen outing, but if you’re not already a fully paid up fan of Stephenie Meyer’s phenomenally successful supernatural romance series, and you’ve been wondering what all the fuss is about, then a viewing of The Twilight Saga: New Moon will leave you none the wiser.
That said, Kristen Stewart’s Bella remains the poster girl for yearning teens and Robert Pattinson’s Edward is every bit the smouldering pin-up, but given that they fell headlong in love in Twilight, the pair’s romance has nowhere to go in New Moon. Therefore, in order to move the story forward, Bella and Edward must succumb to an awkwardly contrived break-up.
Dating a vampire is a perilous business. As you know, Pattinson’s Edward has cheekbones so sharp you could slice open a vein on them. Despite this, it’s a paper cut which undoes Bella. Unwrapping her gifts at her 18th birthday bash, chez the Cullens, she nicks a finger. The drops of blood inflame Edward’s sibling Jasper and he is barely restrained from taking a bite out of her.
Reckoning that being around vampires is dangerous for his beloved, Edward decides that they should part, but he doesn’t reveal the real reason for his departure and Bella is left pining in her room for months on end.
Now the sight of Bella endlessly moping will strike a chord with lovelorn teens everywhere, but incoming director Chris Weitz (taking over from Catherine Hardwicke, who helmed the first instalment) can’t turn listlessness into a gripping narrative.
Fortunately, Bella’s childhood friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is on hand to rouse her from her torpor and viewers may perk up when he starts whipping off his shirt and displaying his buff body at every opportunity. As Twilight fans will understand, this exhibitionism is not gratuitous: the Native American Jacob is secretly a werewolf – as are other young men of the local Quilete tribe.
It doesn’t matter how ripped his abs are, however. Jacob is no substitute for Edward. The filmmakers realise this too and give Bella the ability to conjure up wispy spectral apparitions of Edward in her mind’s eye whenever she is in danger. Realising this, she starts risking her neck on a regular basis. For a moment, it looks as though she’s going to get her Edward fix by turning herself into a biker chick, but it’s not a very convincing development. To tell the truth, for long chunks of the narrative (be warned: the film runs 130 minutes) we’re only filling time until the story can return to the flesh-and-blood Edward.
He’s in Italy, hobnobbing with vampire royalty the Volturi, a clan of Euro-trash dandies headed by Michael Sheen’s Aro. And it’s when the story gets to Italy that the movie at last gains a sense of urgency as Bella races against time to reach a Tuscan hilltop town to prevent Edward from taking a fatal step. Only now, as Bella pushes her way through streets thronged with red-cloaked figures celebrating a local festival, is the viewer’s pulse likely to quicken.
It’s a little late in the day, though. Even Twilight fanatics, I suspect, will find themselves bored. Admittedly, New Moon’s bigger budget means that the CGI (particularly the werewolf transformations) is much better than its predecessor’s ropey special effects, but the first film had a sincerity that somehow made it all work. New Moon isn’t as cheesy as Twilight, but it’s a lot duller.
I know The Twilight Saga deals with the undead, but why does New Moon have to be so lifeless?
On general release from 20th November.
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