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Movie Review: New Moon (PG-13)

Chesapeake Family provides family-friendly movie reviews every week, concentration on material parents might find objectionable, like sex, violence or language. This review is about New Moon (rated PG-13)

Sucks Less Than Before

A faster pace and better script helps the vampire saga move along

You can read my thoughts on Twilight, the first movie in the series, here.

New Moon, the sequel to the screamingly popular Twilight series, did not make me want to stab my eyeballs out, as the first one did. In fact, it was almost…OK.

Bella (Kristen Stewart) turns 18 as the movie opens, putting her a year ahead of the eternally 17 Edward (Robert Pattinson), who, if you have been living in an underwater cave with no WiFi for the last few years, is a vampire. And so she begins to realize the eternal problem with human/immortal relationships: One gets old. One doesn’t. Also, she’s being stalked by the redheaded Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre), who’s seeking revenge for the last-movie killing of her boyfriend James. On top of THAT, her platonic friend Jacob has put on about 30 pounds of solid muscle and walks around shirtless in a way that makes women in their thirties engage in highly inappropriate games of Count the Abdominal Muscles.

After a mishap at Bella’s birthday party that very nearly leads to her death—plus the fact that people in town are beginning to notice that his father, Carlyle (Peter Facinelli), isn’t aging—Edward and his vampire family, the Cullens, decide to move on, leaving Bella behind. Bella is sad. Bella is so sad that she spends months silently staring out of a window while the camera spins 360 degrees around her, which means if you’re watching the movie on a big screen, you’ll feel nauseous, and if you’re watching on any screen, you’ll be bored.

Bella discovers, though, that when she does dangerous things, she can hear Edward (whether he’s actually appearing to warn her or if it’s her imagination isn’t really clear.) So she develops a taste for motorcycles and jumping off of cliffs. And it’s here that the underlying message of the movie that bothers me the most becomes clear: If a guy breaks up with you, hurt yourself a lot and he’ll come back! Yay!

Meanwhile, friend Jacob turns out to be a werewolf (if that’s a spoiler, I wonder if that underwater cave I talked about earlier has a guest room I can use.) Werewolves hate vampires, and vice versa. Jacob also has a thing for Bella, which forces her to face the one genuine emotion in the entire movie: What do you do when your friend falls for you, but you don’t like him That Way? Bella elects to almost cruelly lead him on, which is not the option I’d recommend, but I didn’t write the books. If I had, I would be spending today wearing my money bathing suit, swimming in my money pool on my money-powered yacht.

And THEN there’s this whole coven of Italian vampires, all of whom look like Joel Grey in Cabaret. I’m not sure of the reason they exist in this film, really, so I assume they’ll be back in later movies.

Director Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass, About a Boy), has a better eye and sense of pacing than Twilight’s Catherine Hardwicke—the pacing is much faster, and the staring-into-one-another’s-eyes-for-minutes-at-a-time that plagued the first film is all but eliminated. Stewart has improved, though she can’t quite shoulder the entire movie as the role requires. And the fact that Edward is gone for much of the movie is its greatest asset—not because Pattinson is that bad (he’s not), but because like Romeo and Juliet, which the film alludes to numerous times, the central characters are the least interesting. Weitz also has a good eye for subtle sight gags, lending a neat cleverness to a scene in a movie theater and one in an elevator.

As far as explicit objectionable material, there’s not much. There’s some kissing and near-kissing. There’s some vampire-on-vampire violence, as well as werewolf-on-werewolf and vampire-on-werewolf (in fact, the fight scenes are particularly well done, particularly the sound of the thunderous running of the werewolf pack in full attack). The word “damn” is used, but in the traditional sense (i.e., in relations to souls, and the un-saved-ness thereof.) Bella lies to her dad, but gets in trouble for it.

But let’s come to the crux of the matter: I still believe the message of this film, and the one before it, can be dangerous for young girls if it’s not explicitly discussed and dismissed by their parents. And New Moon has a different, but still troubling, message lurking below the surface—even one that goes beyond “jump off a cliff and your boyfriend will change his mind about breaking up with you.” Both sides of Bella’s love triangle are inherently violent. It’s just considered normal: Vampires will be vampires, after all.

There’s a particularly troubling scene. Bella meets Emily, the fiancée of Sam, the pack leader. Half of Emily’s face is severely scarred with claw marks. Jacob tells her that Sam lost it “just for a second,” and did that to Emily. But, you know, he’s so nice most of the time. He just got angry. Just for a second. You know how men are.

Nearly every man in the film has the potential for violence. Some more than others—Bella’s dad is perfectly gentle, but is a cop, so spends much of the movie armed and looking to kill the “bears” that have been seen around the woods. The one guy that can’t take violence, throwing up after seeing a gory movie, is held up for ridicule. In this world, men are violent, and women are to both accept it, and stay with them. And the scene with Emily–a small one, largely irrelevant to the larger plot–could easily have been cut. But it wasn’t. It was left in as the example that you should stay with your violent boyfriend, as long as he’s just violent once. As long as he feels bad about it. Then stay.

(Granted, many women in the films are violent, too. But there are at least examples of nonviolent women.)

While the message of Twilight was “stand by your man, even if your dad doesn’t approve and, oh, by the way, part of him wants to kill you and suck your blood,” the message of this one is “stand by your man, even after he hurts you, because it wasn’t really his fault he got so mad he clawed your face in two.” Emily stays with Sam, with the reminders of his rage forever carved on her face (oh, and Sam doesn’t like it if you stare. Emily’s feelings about her face aren’t apparently important.) Bella stays with Edward at the cost of her own mental health, her physical safety and, since she wants to be a vampire, too, at the cost of her actual life.

Yes, it’s escapism. But if your daughter sees this movie, discuss this issue with her. Point out that this is not what love looks like, that this isn’t what she should want. And then ask why so many girls, why so many women, do seem to want it.

We all want someone who will love us beyond death. But we don’t have to die to get that.


Kristen Page-Kirby last reviewed Where the Wild Things Are.





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