Friday, November 20, 2009
“Words… cannot… describe…” – Seeing The Twilight Saga: New Moon: 12:01 AM
I suppose it was destiny that I should end up seeing The Twilight Saga: New Moon with six 9th grade girls who are avid (and that’s putting it lightly) Twilight fans: Paula, Meghan, Olivia, Bianca, Gabby, and Rebecca. Last year they were in my 8th grade American history class, and during our spring-term coverage of American film history, we were brainstorming the criteria that might constitute a “classic” film, and Meghan bravely raised her hand and asked me whether or not I thought Twilight (2008) was destined to be called a classic. I was nervous, realizing that I was going to incur the wrath of the fans if I said that I didn’t think it was. So I suggested we think of it this way: Will Twilight be mentioned in a film history text ten years from now? I said that it might well be mentioned – as a popular cultural phenomenon, but not as a “classic” film. This rubbed some noses the wrong way, but later during the course, Meghan conceded that I was probably right.
Then, yesterday, it was Rebecca’s birthday celebration, her sainted mother had agreed to take her and friends to the first showing, they had an extra ticket, I got invited, and how could I turn down a chance to be part of the movie event of the year?
Thus, serendipitously, at 12:01 AM this morning, I found myself sitting in a movie theater, heated by the mounting fever of fervent fans, with the girls listed above (and the aforementioned sainted mother).
Shrieks from hundreds of fans, in love with Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) or Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) – or both – broke out as soon as the first preview disclaimer appeared on the screen. Startled shrieks broke out when Pattinson appeared in the first preview – for a film called Remember Me in which Pattinson plays a mere mortal, but in the same sort of sullen, slouching, mumbling manner he plays Edward in The Twilight Saga.
Previews over, you could feel a palpable thrum of ardent anticipation.
The image of a full moon darkens with shadow and reveals the title: New Moon. More shrieks are elicited by Pattinson’s first appearance – in a dream sequence in which Bella sees an old woman who turns out to be herself – but this doesn’t lessen the shrieks aroused by Edward’s first appearance in the flesh, so to speak, when he walks across the school parking lot toward Bella (Kristen Stewart) in gratuitous slow-motion.
Taylor Lautner fans shriek when the buffed up actor, who plays a Native American who is a werewolf, shows off his mountain range of muscles. In fact, he and his other Native American werewolf chums go around shirtless for most of the movie. I guess, somehow, it’s easier for them when their uncontrolled anger transforms them into werewolves – though we never see them running around as wolves with shorts, so I don’t know what the problem is. I guess the shirtless thing is just to show off their muscles.
The passionate Edward/Pattinson fans find this installment of the saga somewhat frustrating because, early in the story, Edward leaves - to protect her, telling Bella he will never see her again. You see, she wants him to turn her into a vamp so they can be blood-suckers together, but he wants to prevent this – and he wants to keep her safe from other vampires. Bella’s birthday party chez Cullen turned problematic when Bella got a paper cut and stupidly held up her finger and said, “Oh, paper cut,” and the sight of blood caused a sort of Cullen-family vampire frenzy.
So lovey-dovey Pattinson is off screen for most of the film! I was disappointed too, for some reason. This leaves Bella to develop a thing for Jacob, but just when things are heating up, Jacob starts acting like Edward did, all, you don’t know the truth about me and, like, I’m not good for you. Holy monsters, what’s wrong with all the dudes in Forks, Washington?
But it all comes clear to Bella when she is threatened by one of the Shirtless (seems that when the boys get angry, they “Hulk” into werewolves) and Jacob needs to change into a werewolf too to fight him off – by means of awkward CGI, helped somewhat by chilling sound effects. Shocking revelation! It’s like, and I quote, “The wolf’s out of the bag!”
Now, what’s a girl gonna do? Torn between two lovers – and both of them have monster issues. This is when the film bogs down – though there’s a thrilling pursuit of the bad vamp Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre) by the boyz in th’ pack (who just love ripping vampires to shreds). So it’s all, like, don’t you love me, Bella? And, Edward, Edward, come back. But the pace picks up when Ed’s “sister” Alice (Ashley Green) appears out of nowhere (as vampires do) and tells Bella that Edward has decided to end his immortality in the only way immortality can be ended – by being ripped apart by the Volturi (don’t make me explain) who live in Italy.
So when Bella and Alice fly off to Italy on Virgin Air (I kid you not), the story goes all Angels and Demons on us but there’s fun in seeing Dakota Fanning and Michael Sheen play vamps (Fanning is actually more convincing than Sheen).
2:20 AM, or thereabouts, it’s over (the film is longish and in need of tighter editing and the actors must have been directed to think about their lines for a long time before saying them).
I need to rush home, get some sleep, and get up at 5:30, but I linger with the girls to get their feedback.
Rebecca says, “It was perfect. It followed the book perfectly.” (I have a beef with this. The big fans, starting with The Lord of the Rings, feel that the movie should follow the books religiously; they want a cinematic copy of the books. But I don’t agree. I think a film is a separate entity, and the director should have the freedom to capture the essence of the novel by means of his or her own artistic vision. I allow directors full freedom to do this with any of my favorite books.) Olivia says, “It was more of a Hollywood movie than the first one, while at the same time it remained faithful to the book.” Says Gabby, “It was… good.” Meghan says, “It’s my favorite movie of all time.” Bianca's smile is too wide for her to form words. Paula, one of the school’s resident Twilight gurus who was one of the first to start reading the books back when she was in the 6th grade, comes up to me, face all flushed with rapture, and says, “Words… cannot… describe… how I feel.”