C: Readers, if you were in bed last night at 3:00 a.m., that means you missed the midnight showing of New Moon, the second film in the Twilight series. Fortunately for you, Relatively Entertaining represented.
One hears a lot of critical questions about the Twilight phenomenon: “Is Bella and Edward’s relationship a healthy example for girls?” “How did Stephenie Meyer get so famous when she can’t write?” “Do small woodland creatures dwell in Robert Pattinson’s hair?” If you hear the hating, my friends, please put a stop to it. Twilight may have been a two-hour film about teenagers staring at each other, but New Moon has a message, and it’s one teens today desperately need to hear:
Shirtlessness isn’t harmless fun. Shirtlessness can have serious consequences.
Of course it’s all over TV and films these days. Society would have you believe it’s no big deal. People say, “Kids will be kids. You can’t stop them from going shirtless. Instead we should focus on teaching them to use UV protection.” But New Moon isn’t afraid to speak the truth to power.
The film begins about where the first left off. In case you missed it, here’s the short version: Bella is a high school girl, Edward is a 109-year-old vampire who sparkles in the sunlight, and they fell in love even though he would also like to suck her blood. (That’s no longer a plot point in this film, though it’s maybe supposed to explain why he looks constipated whenever they’re together.)
Now Bella and Edward are together and Bella thinks she’s finally found a reason for her existence (“You’re my only reason” is actually a direct quote from a LeAnn Rimes song this movie), but a dark shadow hangs over their relationship. As they watch Romeo and Juliet in English class, Edward confesses to Bella that when he thought she was going to die in the last movie, he started considering shirtlessness. And he hasn’t stopped.
Of course Bella ignores the warning signs. This is where the filmmakers show their brilliance–they know how to reel teens in. “There is something a bit romantic about disrobing because of love,” one might think after Edward describes how he’d dazzle the people of Italy with his sparkly vampire skin. Bella just tells him that he has no need to do that anymore, because he has her. But of course, within a few scenes they’ve broken up, thanks to a minor incident where Bella gets a paper cut and Edward’s vampire-brother lunges at her and Edward has to protect her by hurling her against a line of glass bottles in front of a rather firm wall.
Edward dumps Bella for her own good. The scene is full of pathos, as the two leads try desperately to act. Then Edward and his family take off to parts unknown, and Bella is left to scream into her pillow at night and sit in her room every day without showering or changing clothes while the seasons change outside the window (with helpful captions).
Finally, though, something wakes Bella up – a vision of Edward she sees when she’s in danger. So, deciding to seek out danger and maybe break a heart while she’s at it, she gets an old motorcycle and brings it to her friend Jacob Black to fix up. Jacob is cute in an age-appropriate way for her and has a sense of humor, and he clearly has the hots for Bella, but he lacks the pasty white skin and pained expression which are the keys to her heart.
One day Bella and Jacob see some boys from the Reservation standing around on a cliff – shirtless. In a touching moment, Jacob confesses that he sometimes thinks he’ll be drawn into their circle, as several of his formerly clean-shirted friends have already been. Bella tells him he has her support, and to try to stay away.
Sadly though, the cure is worse than the disease. Spending so much time with Bella makes Jacob desperate to impress her. He’s confused and angry; his friends are pressuring him; he knows Bella’s a thrill-seeker who’s been with a guy who can take off his shirt and sparkle. Finally one night he gives in to the dark side. The next time Bella sees Jacob, he’s shirtless. For the whole rest of the film, night or day, rain or shine, Jake never wears a shirt again.
At first Bella doesn’t see this as a problem. His washboard abs seem cool to her. Here’s where the writer’s brilliant allegory comes in. When Jacob gives in, he becomes a “werewolf.” The “werewolf” is out of control, angry, and aggressive. (Incidentally, the werewolf is also terrible CGI. Will there ever be a non-ridiculous onscreen werewolf transformation?) He confesses to Bella that he feels like he’s losing himself. Kids today may not know what it’s like to fursplode, but even if they think he’s sexy, Jacob subtly teaches teens that giving in to peer pressure means losing a sense of your own identity.
It’s not Jacob, though, whom the movie uses to demonstrate the ultimate lesson. Bella, in her quest for thrills, jumps off a cliff and almost dies. Edward’s vampire-sister Alice has a vision of the jump, but not the rescue, and Edward becomes convinced that Bella is dead. So he decides to do what he talked about when they were coincidentally watching Romeo and Juliet, and kill himself because he doesn’t want to live without her. To kill himself… by shirtlessness.
Bella races to Italy and arrives just in time to see Edward, bare-chested, about to step out into the noonday sun; if he is seen, vampire royalty will rip his head off. (Literally.) I wouldn’t dream of giving away the ending, readers. Let’s just say, there are more movies coming. But young viewers are likely to think twice the next time their “friends” say disrobing is cool and everybody’s doing it.
So readers, if anybody tries to tell you that this movie is forty minutes longer than it needed to be, that the occasional entertaining moments are outweighed by the poor acting and embarrassingly stiff dialogue, that the love story is really about a girl with a codependency problem chosing between two boys who want to dominate her, you tell those people to step off.
Because if New Moon saves just one teenager from the lifelong regret that can come from experimenting with shirtlessness, none of the rest of it matters.