The phenomenal success of the Twilight and Harry Potter franchises prove there is great fortune to be found in the arena of high school and adolescent coming of age stories, provided tales of classroom dramas, puberty blues and extra curriculum shenanigans can be mingled with more risqué supplements. Harry Potter brought magic, wizards and witches to the play ground; Twilight brings vampires. Other (better) movies have combined high school settings with concepts like thriller noir (Brick) and politics (Election). Mark my word, it’s just a matter of time until the western genre is revamped with a book/movie series set in cowboy freakin academy, where pubescent six-shooting wannabes go to school to learn the ways of the pistol and, stuffed to the gills with innuendo, the show follows their exploits as they learn how to ride a horse, throw a lasso, refrain from firing their gun too quickly…
And, if a hybrid series comes along, how to kill these pesky new age Twilight-brand vampires who play by their own rules and brazenly dishonour long-held traditions maintained by their vampiric predecessors. They are somewhat revisionist blood-suckers – sunlight doesn’t kill them but it does make them sparkle (sigh) and there is nary a mention of garlic in New Moon – but, if you believe the hype, they are vampires nevertheless.
However, Twilight is not a series about vampires or werewolves (though it features both) – it’s a cheesy soap opera about an angsty chick with a crush. Her name Bella (Kristen Stewart) whose blood (correct me if I’m wrong Twi-hards – I know you will anyway) smells particularly potent, or fruity, or something, so naturally her boyfriend is the town’s sexiest vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) who lusts for her but won’t bite or have sex with her. At least not until installment #3 or #4. He is 109 years old but has the bod of 19-year-old Kmart model.
After a sticky incident at a social gathering Edward decides that being around Bella is bad for her health – no duh – so he moves away and spends most of the movie periodically returning as a half-rendered hologram. In Edward’s absence a new boy muscles in on the scene; his name is Jake (Taylor Lautner) and he’s a werewolf, and werewolves, you see, are perpetually at war with vampires. You might call it a fire and brimstone love triangle but that would imply there was palpable passion or excitement involved. Jake spends much of the story trying to get to first and second base while Bella longs for Edward’s return. Nuf said.
What really surprises about Twilight: New Moon is not that it’s dopey, dumb or low-brow – it’s the startling lack of conviction that lethargically weeps from every inch of the frame, when it can be bothered. The visual structure is bare and vacuous and the special effects are lacklustre. More alarmingly, the actors can’t be assed putting effort into what they’re saying, listlessly enunciating the dialogue as if they’re suffering from sleep deprivation or have downed a few too many valiums. Makeup on the pasty-faced vampires is so off-putting it makes you wanna walk up to the actors and wipe the white gunk off their faces.
Robert Pattinson appears to have been directed simply to “look cool” on every occasion. Instruction from director Chris Weitz (About a Boy, The Golden Compass) went something like this: “walk across the street…looking cool! Open the door…looking cool! Look at her longingly…looking cool!” But cool this movie is not and neither is he. In fact, if Twlight is your idea of cool, you need some kinda masochistic self-help package: may I suggest inserting a clove of garlic or two where the sun don’t shine, sitting on the pointy end of a silver blade, frying on a banana lounge in the sun and – while grapping with your much deserved self-afflicted agony – taking a long hard look at yourself.
The profligacy of naked, immaculately toned male upper torsos in this movie is staggering; one could be excused for thinking that the town of Forks (where the series is set) enforces some kind of weird arcane rule law stipulating that every young man must be buff, polished-teethed Fabio appreciators and must, must, must, be showcasing their flat chests and six packs at all times. This is taken to ridiculously excessive extremes, so much so that Twilight: New Moon deserves to be pegged as soft, soft, soft porn – a pubescent Mills and Boon stomach-turner jazzed up by a half-assed supernatural twist.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon’s Australian theatrical release date: November 19, 2009.