Eclipsing the New Moon at Twilight

I’ve seen all 3 Twilight Saga Movies (TWILIGHT, NEW MOON, ECLIPSE).  Somewhat under duress, to be sure, but I’ve seen them and it is now my job to compare and contrast for you, lovely reader.  Why do I do this?  Masochism? The hope of getting paid? Team Jacob?  Your guess is as good as mine.  

In TWILIGHT we meet Bella, new resident of Forks, Washington (read: B.F.E.), Junior in high school, miserable, misunderstood (read: mopey as all get out). Bella is strangely drawn to Edward Cullen, part of the mysterious Cullen family, who all seem to be perpetually brooding and could use a tan. Either they’re part of some gothy emo band (and don’t count out that possibility), or they’re (wait for it).....


oh noes!

(Albino, by Calvin Klein)

Edward seems repulsed by Bella - is it her? Is he gay? (Don’t count that out.)  But no, it turns out Edward is completely in love with Bella, and “wants” her, so to speak, but is so afraid that if he is around her he will “lose control” and then she’d be in danger.  

For her part, Bella is willing to take the risk, so in love with Edward that she’d die for him, and trusting him not to hurt her.  

Such Love! Such Romance! Such Danger!  Such Delusional....well, you get the idea.

(It's either the Forbidden Fruit metaphor, or something to do with fiber...)

At this point I must break the narrative to confess where I enter the Twilight Saga. Years before the movies came out I picked up the first book. I read a third or so, and had to quit. It was appallingly written, and while I’ve read books before that did not exactly aspire to literary greatness, the story was too boring to me.  I felt then (and continue to feel after seeing the movie) that Twilight exists not in the fantasy world of vampires and other monsters, but the equally fairy-tale realm of what a teenage girl thinks love is.  

I guess what I’m saying is that Twilight is a movie about Abstinence as much as anything. The Cullens turn out to be “good” vampires who don’t hurt anyone. In fact, most of the concept of vampires is neutered, both in the traditional lore and more poignantly in their implied violence.  Oh, they brood and have those significant looks, but you’ve never seen a more well-behaved group. They could be the Model U.N. team from...Transylvania!

(The Young and the Breathless)

Why do I say it’s a teenage girl’s idea of love?  Well, look at Bella. She’s afraid of Edward, but trusts herself to be around him and knows he would never “lose control” and hurt her. And even if he did, she loves him enough that it wouldn’t matter. They will be together, or she will die for love.  Men can be absolute idiots about so many things, but with all due respect, only a teenage girl can be that dumb

Men do not work that way. This is why teenage girls get into so much trouble (well, one reason) by idealizing love, by deciding they will give all for Love, and mythologizing their suffering and angst.  But, hey, what’ya gonna do?  If girls made wise choices society would more-or-less grind to a halt, so maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on them. 

Back to our movie. 

Anyway, Edward and Bella, dangerous to be around each other, can’t stay apart. You get the idea. He wants to protect her. She wants to be near him.  Not much violence ensues. (Again, the way teenage girls think relationships work.)  

None of this is to say I didn’t enjoy TWILIGHT. I did. Very much so.  I just didn’t enjoy it at the level of some of my female friends, who apparently channeled their inner teenager. I can’t exactly hate - what are guys doing during super-hero movies? But for me, the enjoyment came out of laughing at the whole enterprise. 

This is because Robert Pattinson, who plays Edward, gives one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen in my life.  Yeah, he’s pretty, if you like that white pasty look, but brooding and soulful looks an awful lot like vacant and possibly constipated, if you ask me. (I can see collective womandom rising up to say, “Who asked you?”)  

(9021 O-Negative.)

Pattinson is just awful, but entertainingly awful. I enjoyed every minute of him on screen, if only to roll my eyes and take pot-shots. I watched the movie with my sister Jerrica (herself a Twi-hard fan, as they call themselves), and she did NOT appreciate my unending stream of quips and one-liners. But hey: whatever gets you through the storm, right?  

Kristen Stewart (as Bella) has her charms, I suppose, but for my money she is just mopey. Some people like that that angst and drama. Not sure I’m one of them. I’m not looking for Meg Ryan the early years, but would it kill the girl to smile once in awhile?  Also, while I admit it’s fairly true to life, I get annoyed with girls of this age (any age?) who absolutely live and die with how much they “feel” about their relationships. Yes, love can suck, but get over yourself a little! (Obvious exception: Juliet, who had the good sense to die within a couple of days of our meeting her, thus rendering her tragically heroic and not subjecting us to scenes of her complaining to Romeo, “You’re going out with the boys again?”)

Then yesterday I was informed that my other two siblings were coming to the midnight premiere of ECLIPSE, and I was required to be there too, to make a quartet. This entailed me first watching NEW MOON. which I did last evening before we left.  

Edward is still dour and gloomy, but luckily he and his family are leaving forever, for some hastily explained aging thing. (This comes one day after a big party, and makes no thematic sense. I’m guessing huge parts of the book are excised to save time. This is the movie’s Achilles Heel. There is no flow to the narrative, and things happen almost out of the blue without much explanation.)

(Team Casper!)

You’d think with Edward gone we wouldn’t have to put up with him, but you’d be wrong, because there’s Ghost Edward to deal with.  At least, that’s what it seems like.  Edward appears as a vision to Bella time and time again, usually to warn her from some situation or another. (“Don’t!”)  These appearances of Edward frighten Bella so much that she almost dies more than once.  

My sister Jerrica swears this is not actually Edward appearing in visions, but rather Bella cracking up, missing her vampire-man so much.  Maybe. Like I said, I haven’t read the books past the first 1/3 of Twilight, but from watching the movie straight up, it certainly isn’t obvious that Ghost Edward is a figment.  

(If only there was a Thunderdome to solve all our problems!)

You’ve seen the commercials and campaigns for Team Edward or Team Jacob.  When this first came out I had only seen TWILIGHT, of which Jacob is only a small part. Nonetheless, I immediately joined Team Jacob, even though I knew next to nothing about him. I did this partly as a protest vote since in TWILIGHT Edward is such a pansy, but also because my other three siblings (including my brother, and quite vehemently!) were so firmly on Team Edward.  Anything they all agreed on that strongly had to be opposed on moral grounds. 

After seeing NEW MOON I am completely and utterly convinced that through the first two movies there is simply no comparison - Team Jacob all the way. 

Before you create a lynch mob, let me point out that I haven’t read these books. My siblings screeched to me 484 times how great Edward is in the books.  Bully for him. All I can judge is the two movies I watched, and Edward continued to be a total pansy. I began to seriously question whether his staying away from Bella was over his love for her, or some other closeted issue, if you follow me.


Moreover, Jacob is a total bad-ass. And (I really hope I’m not ruining anything here, but c’mon, like you didn’t know): Jacob becomes a werewolf!  The werewolves are fantastic. A couple of the shots are shaky CGI, but most are stellar, and the transformational “Phasing” (from human to wolf) is really great. These wolves are totally menacing and sweet. 

I want to stress here that I have nothing against vampires. I generally like all manner of vampire fiction, and who can’t get behind the idea of biting a chick’s neck when the mood strikes?  Add to that - I’ve never been much for werewolves. But Jacob changed all that. Played by Taylor Lautner, he’s...well, good wouldn’t be the right word, but definitely less sucky. The character is more effervescent.

(Fashion line from Abercrombie and Sioux)

Plus - and this is just pure genius - because the “pack” of wolves are forever changing shape, they roam around without any shirts on, to facilitate their transformation.  Hello, eye-candy. I found it almost disturbing (erotically disturbing?) how hot Jacob was. I won’t lie to you - when Jacob and Bella were on screen, I wasn’t looking at Bella. I would like to think this is because my staunch hetero self rejected Bella’s mawkish nature, but I can’t be sure. (We could have a Ryan Reynolds situation developing.)

(Were for art thou, Wolf?)

Every moment with wolves on screen was a lift for the series. They added snap and menace, an energy and vitality that the comatose (no pun intended) Cullen family so lacked. 

This fact is slammed home when the movie suddenly shifts to Italy for the last third or so, a transition so mishandled that it almost literally stops the movie dead in its tracks.  For realz; all the energy just dies when Bella goes off searching for these weirdo Volturi (who are like Vampire kings or something) to save Edward because he wants to....kill himself or something. 

(I was never entirely clear on this. They talk about how hard it is for vampires to kill themselves, but for my money it doesn’t seem that tough. Immolation, baby!  Why do you need permission from the cast of Don Giovanni? But I digress.)  

(The Volturi! Coming soon to a dinner theater near you!)

Meant to be cool and sophisticated, it comes off as a bad Italian B-Horror movie mixed with a scene from the Matrix Reloaded without nearly the production values.  Even the appearance of my girl Dakota Fanning can’t help much; she comes off like a teenage girl playing goth and on the verge --any minute now!--of writing some bad poetry.

(Make-up applied by her father, I Am Sam)

(Although: since I probably won’t mention it later, it’s worth noting that the Volturi, while still not understood, are much better utilized in part 3. Dakota’s part is better too.  She broods well.)

Overall NEW MOON isn’t nearly as cohesive or straightforward as TWILIGHT, although the wolf parts are better than anything in part one, so hard to say which film would get the nod.  One other negative: the films have three different directors, which is kind of a cool thing. Catherine Hardwicke (who made the wonderful THIRTEEN) really captured the teen angst angle in TWILIGHT. Chris Weitz does a good job in NEW MOON, but he’s overly reliant on Source Music added in. The clips he uses are too long and the lyrics to noticeable. At times it felt like I was watching music videos. A small thing, but kind of annoying.

This brings us to ECLIPSE, a total quantum leap in terms of quality. It takes the raw kinetic energy of the wolfie parts of NEW MOON and adds in the vampires more, but this time with stuff to do, and then there’s some actual bad vampires (finally!), and a big ol’ battle, and...well, lots of stuff.  

Best of all - no gaping plot holes! I’m sure they cut just as much as from the other two books, but here you can’t tell. The movie flows with excellent rhythm.  

Another great thing - Robert Pattinson has learned how to act a little!  It’s not much, but it’s (again, pardon the pun) night and day better than his previous efforts. Kristen Stewart is also more animated, much more. She doesn’t really smile, but she does come alive a bit, and manages more emotion other than angst and depression, and it’s a good thing.

(He's either waiting for marriage, or for Bella to be a Fella)

For all his new-found power, though (and to be fair, Edward does pull off some major-league Awesome a couple of times), he still seems scared of sex. This comes up - don’t try to tell me the movie isn’t fixated with abstinence!  All I know is, mopey or not, if Bella was throwing herself at me I wouldn’t be THAT scared. 

So we got the energy and we got the story-flow, but there’s more. Director David Slade (30 DAYS OF NIGHT, HARD CANDY) brings a real air of danger and malevolence that’s been missing. There are some real scary scenes here (well, scary for Twilight), and this is the first of the three films I would question letting the younger girls watch. (I suppose Junior High is still probably fine in today’s culture, but I wouldn’t go much younger than that, but that’s me.) 

Slade also brings a very nice visual style - there are several moments that are just Striking. (Vamps coming out of the water spring to mind. 

Everything around the tent is awesome too in terms of visual oomph.)  The man knows how to frame and pull off a shot.  

Then there’s the Love Triangle.  

(Take me, Wolfie!)

In TWILIGHT we mostly got Bella and Edward.  NEW MOON had little Edward, although Bella was still so moony (groan) over him that she had a hard time seeing Jacob as more than a good friend. (It does help once he takes off his shirt.) But finally the Triangle is in full bloom, and it is a sight to see, as Bella is forced to confront her feelings of love for both men, and pulls off the rare feat of being a slut while still being a virgin. (It's a teenage-girl thing.)  Jacob and Edward do NOT like each other, and every scene they are in ripples with anger (and maybe a touch of homo-eroticism?)  

Unfortunately, because of the “bad” vampires Jacob and Edward have to work together, to protect Bella. At one point when Edward is delivering her to the wolf for protection he grouses, “Doesn’t that guy own a shirt?” It’s a great line. 

Even better - a scene the three of them spend in a tent during a blizzard. (They are all up on a mountain-top to protect Bella.)  I don’t want to ruin it (it’s a CLASSIC), but one part I can tell you, because it’s just too awesome not to share.

(Okay, this isn't the actual scene, but it was too funny to pass up. Don't hate.)

So Bella is cold as ice and starting to get hypothermia. Poor Edward is miserable and can’t do much to help (being a “cold one” and all). Jacob pokes his head in and notices this and offers to warm her up (as a werewolf he gives off oven-like heat). Edward rejects this and claims he can protect Bella, to which Jacob replies “I’m hotter than you.” 

This is a nifty line, what the Japanese would call Fan Service, a tribute to the raging Twi-hards out there who are so obsessed. 

I can’t believe I’ve been writing for 2400 words, so let’s wrap this up quickly. If you’re a TWILIGHT fan, books or movies, I can’t see you being anything but pleased. ECLIPSE is just light years better than its predecessors, and bodes well for the final chapter. 

If you’re NOT a fan, I don’t think the series is anything close to Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. You’re not missing out on the Great Art of our time. But, it is a cultural phenomenon, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy it. I laughed myself silly through part one, and contented myself with a few jabs in part 2, and more “Team Jacob!” to annoy my sister. I fiercely whispered Jacob’s name plenty of times in part 3, but I hardly needed to. The movie stands up quite nicely on its own.  

I’ve probably been to three-score midnight movie premieres, and to Opening Night Hundreds of times. I have NEVER EVER EVER seen a movie theatre parking lot that packed. The crowds were immense, and I would very much expect records to fall this week. With how good ECLIPSE has turned out, They may keep setting them for some time. 

Oh, and in case I wasn’t clear - TEAM JACOB FOREVER!

June 30, 2010
5:56 a.m.

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Koz said...

Would you rather be hung like a wolf or hung like a vampire? The choice is simple - Team Jacob!!!

Dragon said...

What Koz said.