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Vampires gone to the dogs

Werewolves get in on the abstinence-only agit-prop action


Posted: November 25, 2009

By James Walling - Staff Writer | Comments (7) | Post comment

Vampires gone to the dogs

Courtesy Photo

Angst-ridden adolescents. Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in the new Twilight.

Perhaps much of the muddled religious subtext in the latest installment of the Twilight series will be lost on the largely atheist and agnostic Czechs. But religious attitudes about sex are what lie at the core of this second film adaptation of Stephanie Meyer's wildly successful series of novels for young adults. New Moon is more absurdly obsessed with sex (or rather, the lack thereof) than ever.

The series follows the fate of a pair of star-crossed lovers (indeed, the references to the Bard's originals are incessant), who are divided by the unfortunate fact that one them is a vampire - albeit, a benign version, a "vegetarian" who subsists on animals - while the other is an ordinary teenage girl. Multiple subplots concerning other vampires, young love, teenage angst and sexuality weigh the action down and liven it by turns, but the central struggle is the inability of the couple in question to copulate without disastrous consequences.

Opening with some pseudo-poetic drivel about "violent delights" and "violent ends," New Moon follows the couple and their respective networks of family, friends, enemies and would-be lovers during the female protagonist's senior year in a small town in Washington State. This stage of the saga is primarily concerned with the difficulties of loneliness and depression resulting from the vampire's decision to temporarily break off the affair. Enter a swarthy young suitor (Taylor Lautner) possessed of a dark secret of his own, and we are treated to a brief respite from the gloom and doom before the action picks up a notch and the romance is repaired.

Kristin Stewart is fine as the female lead, and, though I will surely receive the equivalent of a fatwa from the teenage-girl set for saying so, Robert Pattinson as the ostensibly irresistible vampire Edward Cullen is revoltingly unctuous and stiff in his role. Apart from his angular features, Pattinson comes off as some kind of retentive Frankenstein's monster with a penchant for classical music and snappy dress.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Directed by
Chris Weltz
With Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner

More troubling is the way Meyers champions her protagonist's pathological obsession with her possessive, mercurial, controlling, condescending and sexist vampire boyfriend. What sort of message is she trying to send to young women? To equate domineering, patriarchal, violent behavior with devotion and love is as dated a concept as it is an insidious one.

For an author who has repeatedly stated that her favorite reading material is contained in the Book of Mormon, such sentiments are hardly surprising. But it's more than a little disturbing to see the worst sort of conservative values dressed in music-video clothing. Interestingly, the largely Czech audience at Lucerna on the afternoon I attended laughed repeatedly and derisively at the film's attempts at pin-up sex appeal (there is hardly a sequence in the film that doesn't feature at least one bare-chested, chiseled-featured teenage boy).

There is an ongoing debate over how much blatant religious propaganda really exists in the Twilight series. But anyone who doubts the prevalence of the "no sex before marriage" theme need only sit through the tedious 130 minutes of this film, particularly its laughable (and dramatically ineffective) cliffhanger ending, to be convinced of the author's point of view.

At any rate, whether you're a Mormon or an atheist, a genre fanatic or vampire-hater, New Moon is a silly, trifling mess of CGI werewolves (unimaginative creatures who emote like Falkor the luckdragon in The NeverEnding Story), sparkling-skinned emo vampires and deadly dull teen romance.

Even for a nostalgic native of the Pacific Northwest like me, the setting of ragged seashore, old-growth evergreens and small-town atmospherics can't redeem the film. Not that any of this will make the slightest bit of difference at the box office. As with its predecessor, New Moon will doubtless be a blockbuster smash.

Make a quixotic yet noble gesture and take a pass.   


James Walling can be reached at
jwalling@praguepost.com


Tags: cinema review, film, Twilight, James Walling, Robert Pattinson.


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