Film review – The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson)

The second cinematic outing for the emo/tween Twilight franchise continues the love story between18-year-old girl Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and 108-year-old-in-the-body-of-a-17-year-old vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Edward is still refusing to transform Bella into his kind, or sleep with her, and he has become increasingly concerned that his presence in her life will come to no good. Edward and his family of fellow good vampires take off and Bella is left behind devastated. Bella briefly becomes an adrenalin junkie, is tormented by some of the bad vampires from the previous film and then starts to hang out with a pack of werewolves, developing a second love interest with Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner).

The first Twilight film, directed unremarkably by Catherine Hardwicke, was a chaste and bland addition to vampire mythology that at least was of interest for introducing audiences who hadn’t read Stephenie Meyer’s novels into its world of New Age vampires. About a Boy and The Golden Compass director Chris Weitz has taken over directorial duties for the second film and although Weitz is a better director than Hardwicke there is nothing he can do to save this film from its wet, limp and trite script. The dialogue from this film sounds like it is lifted straight from pulp romance and daytime soaps and it is extremely difficult to accept that writing like this is not only given a green light but adored by so many readers. Humour, subtlety and depth are all sacrificed for piles and piles of angst and empty sentiment.

On the plus side, the incredibly annoying Edward actually doesn’t feature too much in New Moon apart from the occasional absurd ghostly apparition. Like the Angel character from the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Edward is a tormented vampire who wants to help humanity, loves what he cannot have, broods a lot, has perfect hair and is played by an actor with questionable acting ability. Unlike Angel, Edward contains no sense of humour, self-reflexivity or charisma. When she isn’t pouting too much Kristen Stewart gives a decent performance as Bella but Robert Pattinson was clearly cast as Edward simply because of his looks.

Bella and Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner)

Audiences who want to embrace New Moon really need to question what ideas this franchise is selling to them. On the surface Bella may be an alternative to traditional teenage girl stereotypes but ultimately she is simply a lovesick girl whose sanity and happiness are dependent on a neglectful male. Bella is also surrounded by men who claim to have an innate desire to kill her, especially if they get angry, and their ‘noble’ attempts to protect Bella from their violent tendencies is disgustingly portrayed as romantic. New Moon is not only a poorly structured and badly paced slog but it contains at its core an incredibly regressive message about male violence and the need for women to accept it.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009

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  1. Yes – good call on the poor sound.

    Also, the soundtrack is a classic example of deciding what songs would make a marketable compilation CD and then inserting those songs into the film so that said compilation could then be sold as the film’s soundtrack album. No real thought goes into how the music works with what is happening on screen.

  2. Spot on! This regressive turgid melodrama barely contains the narrative breadth to cover a 23 minute episode of soap opera – actually it makes most soap operas seem genuinely heartfelt by contrast – and irrespective of the novels, seems to have been put to screen with little thought to cinematic adaptation beyond the need to sell merchandise and tickets to uncritical emo-wannabes. Apologies to any emo-wannabe readers but you may do well to save your money, stay at home, turn out the lights, and hurt yourself to feel alive.

    Actually, on second thoughts, there’s enough pain in watching this film to give you that feeling for years…

  3. you obviously haven’t read the books reviewer. if you did you’d understand how exciting it is to see your favourite characters brought to life on the big screen and you would understand that there is nothing weak or dependent about bella, or that no fan of this series gives a damn about oscar worthiness. why can’t some films just be escapist fun without people like you having to take them so seriously. good grief.

  4. I look forward to all the rebuttals and defenses. I’m sure they will entertain me far more than the movie will.

    My father-in-law still grumbles about the 2hrs of his life he’ll never get back from the first movie. “It’s a vampire movie, how bad can it be…” Oh, how he rued that decision.

  5. Hi Alison

    I understand that the Twilight novels have a very loyal following but if a film can’t stand up on its own accord then it is a flawed film. The craft of creating a novel and a film is different and therefore the criteria for critiquing literature and cinema are different. Plus, there are many, many films that are novel adaptations and it is completely unreasonable to expect that audiences should always have to read the novel first in order to appreciate the film. I’m pleased to hear that the Bella character is a stronger character in the novels but I certainly didn’t get any indication of that from this new film. Perhaps the New Moon film is a bad adaptation? Maybe it replicated the narrative of the novel so literally that it failed to articulate its nuances?

    I’m all for quality escapist entertainment when it is actually entertaining. I try to value every film for what it is and what it is trying to achieve and frankly I found New Moon to neither succeed as a romance film nor a horror/fantasy film. If you are sitting in an escapist film constantly wondering how much longer the film has to go until it ends then it is not really functioning very well as an escapist film. I found it tedious and embarrassingly self-important. I didn’t take it seriously at all and maybe I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn’t so humourless and straight-laced.

    Anyway, do you really think this is the kind of film where people are going to care what the critics say? I reckon fans will go to see it regardless.


  6. OK Gemma, you’re now two for two in terms of leaving comments here that have actually made me laugh out loud.

    I’m not sure I’m really brave enough to take on Boreanaz. I really like the guy: he has wonderful presence and against all the odds he made Angel into a really fun, likeable and kick-ass character that was able to sustain a spin-off series, which is incredibly rare. I’m just suggesting that as a actor he may be limited. Please don’t flame me.

  7. You missed the most important aspect of the film; all the hot guys with their shirts off! I was going to write a diatribe however then I read this article, which says everything I was thinking (especially the last paragraph).

    and hey, Boreanaz came along way with that Irish accent and he could teach Rpattz a thing about brooding.

  8. Hi Bria

    Interesting article but it does take the debate in a different direction to what I am talking about in my review, which is perfectly fine of course!

    OK, sure, there is plenty of eye-candy for the straight girls and the queer guys but stuff like that rarely interests me as a critic. Nevertheless, the Salon article you linked to is a good analysis of the double standards in popular culture about objectifying male and female bodies and I do agree with its sentiments. I also agree with the sentiment in the final paragraph that a climate of equal degrees of objectification is far less preferable to a climate where there is no objectification at all.

    (And as a side note – I honestly don’t think New Moon objectifies its males stars. The guys in the film are beautiful men who are presented on screen in an ultra appealing manner but they are also active and empowered characters. I’ll give New Moon points for that but then again presenting men on screen in a flattering manner is hardly radical filmmaking.)

    I think it is great to have films that cater to female desires, although I think it is problematic assuming that all females are wired to have a similar set of fantasies. My issue with New Moon is that it is an incredibly bad film and providing a bit of titillation is not something that redeems it for the same reason that the pornographic presence of Meagan Fox in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen doesn’t prevent the fact that it is also a terrible film – actually her objectification in that film compounds the fact.

    I’ve got no problem with films that cater to specific audiences and I agree that Hollywood has frequently let women down but is it too much to ask for decent quality escapist entertainment that isn’t tedious to sit through or an insult to our intelligence?

    Thanks again for that link.


    PS I re-watched a couple of episodes of Angel last night so I am now on Team Boreanaz and withdraw all previous doubts about his magnificence. Thank you for indulging my momentary lack of faith.

  9. dont forget, Bones, channel 7 8:30pm sunday nights

    Also – I actually quite liked the movie. I didnt at all find it boring (as I honestly did the first one) and didnt find the dialogue as bad as you discribed it. The one hilarious bit was when Jacob takes off his shirt to stop Bella’s head bleeding – how on earth can you say the film doesnt have a sense of humour???

  10. I just got out of the cinema now and am surprised at how really bad that film was. it was fumny in places but, as films go, it was just pathethic. It was 3 hours long!! that is way too long for a film like that. the ending is seriously flawed too. you just leave the cinema thinking : why the hell did I just spend 7 quid on this sh@t? i really liked the first one, but this was a huge let down. just a waste of time making such a lacklustre mediocre movie .

  11. Twilight‘s music and story is pretty good, but something is missing, after Angel and Buffy and them immortal love none could do a better history in the subject! Angel is so more hot, sexy, beautiful, nice, smart, fighter than everyone like Edward. ANGEL/ANGELUS TEAM! Even has a shirt of Angel team.

  12. Did you mean ‘subtlety’, Mr Caldwell? Check your dictionary before you submit a review, please.

  13. Thanks Mr Yuma

    I did indeed mean ‘subtlety’ so I have now made the correction. Sorry if my error caused you any distress and I appreciate you pointing it out.


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