The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Billy Burke
(Summit Entertainment; US theatrical: 20 Nov 2009 (General release); UK theatrical: 20 Nov 2009 (General release); 2009)
There is nothing in this world that could get me to sit through this week’s screening of The Twilight Saga: New Moon. My last experience with the faux fright franchise, a sorry excuse for turning Harlequin Romances into sappy tween terror, was so uncomfortable, so undeniably demoralizing, I never want to go through something like that again. I barely survived the experience. Forget all the studio mandates (no guests - though some in the local TV media ignored said restriction, an embargo seemingly crafted by the Department of Homeland Security) and the craptacular film itself. No, Twilight (the book, the fad, the mass merchandising uber-hype attempted phenomenon) has become a calling card of sort for all manner of lonely girls, Goth adolescents, misguided Mothers, and spinsters who’ve decided to live vicariously through literature - and they are a surly bunch.
They are known as “Twilighters”, worshipers at the pulp temple of scribe Stephanie Meyers and her less than mediocre muse (heck - even the best selling author of all time, Mr. ‘Big Mac and Fries’ himself, Stephen King, thinks she sucks!). They praise everything about the series, from its weird wish fulfillment which mandates that true love come from someone who’s undead, or a shapeshifter, to the cinematic interpretation of same. Some even subdivide themselves into ‘teams’, with Edward (the studly bloodsucker) and Bella (shallow audience surrogate) being the most popular. Trust me, said contingents were out in full force at the aforementioned sneak preview last year, shrieking like Paul McCartney and John Lennon had just walked onstage and dropped more than their mop tops. But there was something more belligerent about their vicious Vamp-mania. Indeed, nothing is worse than a throng going ga-ga over something unwarranted and unworthy.
There is no denying the franchise’s popularity. Hollywood wouldn’t be paying attention if Ms. Meyers was merely an isolated cult celeb. But an undeniable commercial response is never an appropriate gauge for critical perspective. If that were the case, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen would be this year’s runaway winner for Oscar’s Best Picture. No, success is measured in a lot of ways - with longevity being one of them. Right now, Twilight is sitting high atop a mountain forged out of clever promotion, demographic demand, and the nu-media’s ability to turn any minor conceit into a combination of mass hysteria and mob rule. It won’t last forever, but just long enough. We can’t just blame the Internet here. Everyone, from talk shows to serious news programs are jumping on the Bella bandwagon, acknowledging that with pandering comes ratings.
It’s the notion of recognized empowerment that drives the Twilighters to be tired, boorish, and dismissive. Argue with them about their fanaticism and they grow more so. Attempt to tear apart their passion and they become even more fervent. It’s as if their actual identity comes with being so betrothed to an icky idea Anne Rice had three decades ago. And now, with New Moon, we get the added idiocy of proto-hunky werewolves. That’s right; the main narrative thread has supporting player Jacob Black stepping to the fore as a lupine looker with a body so sculpted he makes gay pin-ups seem paunchy. Add in the “Volturi” a faux royalty vampire council capable of killing Edward and you’ve got a brainstorm that even Barbara Cartland would laugh at.
At this point in the process, I am already sick of New Moon. I’m tired of all the lame CG wolf transformations and ads that feature Robert Pattinson in full Robert Smith meets Morrissey pompadour pout mode. One day, a decade or so from now, when the young British thesp is a twice-rehabbed middle-aged “special guest” at a third rate Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention we’ll perhaps hear how it really feels to be the inadvertent idol of a million frustrated female’s latent fantasies. Until then, we get lots of pale-faced fawning and little else. Indeed, if the Twilight films were anything more than excuses for high school puppy love played out among the proposed cosmic consequences of a life in service of the supernatural, we’d have something more solid. As it stands, Meyers is just mimicking the lovelorn shtick from Dan Curtis’ far superior Dark Shadows - and doing a dreadful job of it at that.
Indeed, if there were any justice in this land, Barnabas Collins and Lestat de Lioncourt would rise from their own fictional coffins and drain this disaster of its crotch-moistening life force immediately. Even better, Bram Stoker and several other authors of note should take up undead arms against Ms. Meyer and teach her a thing or two about destroying the novel as an artform. While this may sound snarky, or even worse, incessantly mean, being bombarded day in and day out by PR people asking if you’d like “exclusive” access to interview and EPK material they’ve already leaked to dozens of other outlets can drive you to such fits of rage. Twilight is being sold so hard and so broadly that you can’t walk into a store of any kind nowadays and not see some symbol of its impact and influx. And again, it’s not like Twilight has tapped into something unseen before. Instead, it’s regurgitating what’s been already done - only this time with the omniscient help of Messageboard Nation to maximize the returns.
So I won’t be heading out to my local Cineplex come Wednesday to stand in line, check through security, settle into the press aisle and wait as numerous dimwits from local radio and TV outlets to work the 96% female audience into an absolute free film froth. I won’t have to listen to the lame trivia questions, the ear-splitting pleadings for one of only 50 available Twilight t-shirts, or the OMG reactions whenever someone mentions a main character’s name. Even with new director Chris Weitz behind the lens (as the man responsible for Down to Earth and The Golden Compass, he is only a middling improvement over previous helmer Catherine Hardwicke), I hold out no hope for the movie - and frankly, why should I. It’s not being made for me. It’s not being marketed to me. It’s not relying on me to show up and swoon over every literal translation from page to motion picture screen.
No, New Moon knows its audience, and knows you will come out in droves. They already have 30 Days of Night‘s David Slade turning over the next cinematic chapter - Eclipse - in the saga, and soon we will have a teaser trailer of that Summer of 2010 travesty to moan about. Even better, some theaters are showing the original Twilight the night before New Moon opens, the better to remind you of how horrid the first experience really was (and how potentially horrid this one could be). Rest assured, the Twilighters themselves couldn’t care less. They are simply ready to spend 120 minutes with their musk-soaked dreams coming to vivid Technicolor life. As with all trends and entertainment whims, it will soon be out of our lives and back in the embarrassments of a favorite now faded, where it belongs. Until them, count me out. Trust me, the makers of New Moon already have.