THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON is the second film version of the wildly popular “Twilight” series of books and is much less interesting than the first one. Where before there was the delight of Bella (Kristen Stewart) discovering that the deep dark secret that the brooding love of her life, Edward (Robert Pattinson) and his family, the Cullens, share is that they are vampires. Here there is the less than delightful spectacle of watching Bella being depressed. It’s much less cinematic despite a larger budget and a romantic triangle involving obstacles over and above those usually found in non-supernatural tales.
Bella’s depressed about turning 18, which makes her a year older than Edward was when he was turned 90 or so years ago. The age difference is weighing on her mind, making her anxious to be turned into a vampire herself so that Edward’s devotion will not fade with her youth. Edward has issues with that. He also has issues with the way his brother, Jasper (Jackson Rathbone, who, as in the last installment, still looks as though he has stuck his finger in a light socket), wants to snack on Bella. In one of those noble decisions with which melodrama of this ilk is rife, he tells Bella that he never wants to see her again and then he promptly departs the rainy town of Fork, Oregon along with his family, whose failure to age after 10 years of residence is beginning to cause talk among the locals. Bella spends the next several months inflicting her depression on her friends and on her single father, who may be the local sheriff, and while that equips him to deal with the string of mysterious murders in the nearby woods, it has not equipped him to deal with a daughter suffering night terrors and a colossal case of pining for a lost love. When he threatens to ship her back to her mother and far from the scenes of her doomed romance, she pulls herself together enough to notice Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the Native American only two years younger than she is and who is madly in love with her in a devotedly puppy dog sort of way. Jacob, of course, has his own secret, one that puberty has sprung on him, and because Bella seems to be a magnet for that sort of thing, it’s got to do with being a creature heretofore assumed to be mythical. Rather than give it way to those who don’t already know, suffice to say that hair sprouts in even more unusual places than an ordinary puberty would cause.
The expression on Stewart’s pinched face never changes throughout the film. All involved have conspired to make her character look like a pale shadow of her former self to express the depths of her despair, but the result looks more like anemia than an emotional condition. She’s almost as pale as Edward, who appears in most of the film as a wispy phantom haunting Bella mind every time she starts to do something stupid, like jump on the back of a strange biker’s motorcycle. Alas, the actual Edward, still brooding with a vengeance, he seems not much more substantial than the phantom version, which at least as the virtue of dissolving into interesting swirls. As for Lautner, he briefly jump starts the film by smoothly whipping off his t-shirt to reveal a set of abs that in their astonishing perfection, might also be of preternatural origin. As for his own angst over Bella’s preference for Edward and his own peculiar puberty woes, he actually seems to be suffering over them in contrast to the persistent thousand-mile stares that Bella and Edward have adopted.
The brightest spot in the entire effort is Michael Sheen as the top vampire cop, an immortal who has been around long enough to have gotten over morality, but not the capacity for enjoying novelty. In the slough of despond that is the rest of the film, he and his character are obviously having fun, and by doing so, allows the audience to have some, too.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON is a classic of the overwrought schoolgirl genre of romantic fantasy. The heroine is adored to distraction by hunky guys who would rather die than be without her even as they push her away. She would rather die than be without at least one of them, even as she, too, pushes them away and then pursues them with wild abandon. It may be some kind of catharsis for the target audience, but all others are warned to venture forth at their own risk.