When Bella gets dumped, she really gets dumped.
First it’s by her boyfriend Edward, then by her rebound squeeze Jacob. The resulting loneliness she feels is, in her words, “like a huge hole [that’s] been punched through my chest.”
Maybe the moral here is that the cooler—or hotter—they come, the harder it is to get over them. Because Bella’s broken heart might as well be a million splinters of glass—all blown out of the gothic stained-glass window that was her life up until now.
As the heroine of Stephenie Meyer’s much-adored teen-lit Twilight series, Bella Swan serves as a stand-in for millions of young girls who have gotten or will get their hearts broken by the boy of their dreams. So it might be worth paying attention to how she reacts. What she does. And why she does it. Because notes are most certainly being taken, and not just by me.
In Meyer’s New Moon, which serves as not just inspiration for this film, but also sometimes provides the exact wording for its script, Edward decides that the best thing for his beloved Bella is for him to disappear. She’s too good for him, he feels, and his presence will only bring her pain. Or death. Or undeath. Edward Cullen is a vampire, of course, and the circles he flits in aren’t very hospitable to humans.
Neither are the circles Jacob Black prowls. But that doesn’t stop Bella from growing increasingly attracted to his winning smile, his bronzed face, his incredible strength (and warmth). And his six-pack abs. (Which he bares every chance he gets. More on that later.)
Jacob ends up doing the same thing Edward did when he realizes that as a werewolf he’s not exactly suitable company for a young, vulnerable female. And both of these gorgeous demigods believe they’re doing Bella a favor by detaching from her. But neither, obviously, has given his plan much thought, because even Bella’s casual acquaintances could have told them that leaving her alone and adrift on the swift, destructive current of her own raging emotions is a far worse fate than fending off marauding vampires and werewolves.
I’m a dad. So I’ll start with Bella’s dad. He’s a tad clueless at times—at least as seen through her eyes. But he’s caring, courteous and consistently attentive to her needs. He pushes her to get over that Edward chap and gently encourages her to spend more time with her friends instead of moping around the house. “You’ve gotta learn to love what’s good for you,” he says. As the police chief in Forks, Wash., he does his best to protect and serve, even when that means tracking down “giant killer animals” in the woods.
The Cullen family is also a tight unit. Father figure Carlisle is a calming influence, and he immediately comes to Bella’s aid when she’s cut and bleeding.
Bella’s friends, Edward’s “sister” Alice among them, chide her for being reckless and careless after Edward leaves her. Jacob might have ulterior motives for spending so much time with Bella, but he (mostly, and for now) respects her wish to maintain a platonic relationship. He protects her many, many times from both vampires and other werewolves. He saves her from drowning.
Edward valiantly protects Bella when he’s able, too. And he’s man enough to thank Jacob for rescuing her when he was not around to do so. But Edward and Jacob both end up taking a backseat to Bella’s courage and self-sacrificial spirit. In the first book and movie, she offered herself up as a sacrifice for her mom. This time around she offers her life in trade for Edward’s. It’s an act that both mystifies and intrigues the Volturi, the vampiric aristocracy that’s set to destroy Edward. And partially as a result the Cullens and Bella are allowed to withdraw—largely intact.
Bella maintains, “It’s not who you are, it’s what you do” that matters.
Vampires. Werewolves. We’ve covered that ground already. And in my review of Twilight I noted a few of their preternatural “gifts”—mind reading, future seeing. Different powers emerge as we meet the vampire elite in Italy. One can create pain in humans and vampires with a glance. Another can absorb everything you’ve ever thought with a touch.
Much, much more significant than that in New Moon, though, is a staccato discussion of souls and how they may or may not relate to vampires. Covered in more detail in the book, it’s hinted onscreen that Edward believes all vampires’ souls have been damned. It’s the primary reason he continually refuses to change Bella into a vamp. Bella will have none of that, though. She doesn’t care a whit about her soul. She just wants to be eternally undead so she can “live” forever with her love. More than once she casually dismisses the value of her soul as she begs Edward to bite her.
“If this is about my soul,” Bella tells Edward, “take it. I don’t want it without you.”
Jacob gives Bella a dream catcher to hang by her bed.
Revealed cleavage and short skirts are occasionally on display here, but the more significant sexual issue in New Moon revolves around the guys. Edward and Jacob repeatedly peel off their shirts to dazzle their dates—and moviegoers—with their “stunning” physiques.
Just because a guy shows up shirtless in a movie doesn’t mean it’s a sexual issue, of course. But in this case, the way these boys’ bodies are presented is little more than an excuse to ogle.
Edward and Bella share a couple of very passionate kisses. Jacob and Bella embrace and … almost kiss several times.
Discovering that she can see visions of Edward when she puts herself in harm’s way, Bella systematically begins to put herself in harm’s way. She jumps onto the back of a stranger’s motorcycle. She crashes her own cycle—landing in a heap and badly cutting her head. She ultimately jumps off a cliff into the ocean where she nearly drowns.
It’s important to note that as she’s lying limp underwater, seconds away from death, the movie romanticizes her peril as we see a vision of Edward appear next to her. It’s as if she’s finally found peace and comfort.
Similarly, when Edward thinks Bella is dead, he immediately puts his suicide backup plan into action, unwilling to go on without her “in the world.”
Almost as a motif, blood plays a key role when Bella accidentally slices her finger with a piece of paper. As drops of it fall—in slow motion—to the carpet, the Cullen family tenses, driven slightly mad by its smell. Jasper can’t control himself and rushes toward Bella, desperate for the kill. And before the ensuing melee is over, Bella’s been hurled across the room and cut deeply by broken glass as Edward and the others forcibly restrain Jasper. (Later we see Carlisle stitching Bella’s bloody cut.)
Supernatural skirmishes are loud and explosive. Growling menacingly, werewolves attack and kill a rogue vampire. (We see him buckle under their mass assault.) Werewolves tangle with each other, mostly to roughhouse—but anger, an emotion that sparks their transformation, is always part of the mix.
Up against the Volturi, Edward gets the worst of it as he’s flung around a huge chamber and body-slammed into (through) concrete steps. The Volturi also snap the head off a vampire in a crackling, crunching, quick-cut scene.
Edward bats Jacob away from Bella, sending him flying. But before Jacob’s human form hits the ground, he’s morphed into a werewolf. Bella desperately stands between them, daring them to hurt her first so they can hurt each other.
Quick flashbacks reveal scenes from the first movie in which Bella is attacked and nearly killed by a vampire. Bella and her friends go to see an “action” movie that features the sounds of machine gun fire and threatening assaults.
About 10 uses of “h‑‑‑.” One wrongful exclamation of “d‑‑n.” God’s name is misused a handful of times. “Frickin’” stands in for the f-word.
One scene takes place outside a biker bar. Bella’s dad is seen with a beer.
Alice steals a Porsche in Italy.
A handful of women were standing around after the movie discussing the important matter of whether Edward or Jacob had better nipples. Laughing, one commented that during a crucial—shirtless—scene, Edward’s chest looked downright unappealing.
What a ridiculous conversation, I thought as I headed for the exit. But before I made it to the door I realized that there was actually little else for them to talk about. And, in fact, they were talking about exactly what the film’s director, Chris Weitz (who helmed The Golden Compass and helped launch the American Pie franchise), wanted them to.
When Entertainment Weekly said to Kristen Stewart (who plays Bella), “It must be nice to watch the guys’ appearances get obsessed over for a change,” she responded, “It’s a trip to sit back and look at the sexual objectification of these dudes. I’ve never been asked to do any of this stuff.”
But there’s more to it than that: “Magazines, websites and TV are blanketed with images of 17-year-old star Taylor Lautner, shirtless and showing off the body he trained for months to perfect for the role,” wrote Yahoo! Movies contributor Lindsay Robertson. “And yet none of the cultural critics who turned Miley’s photos into a full-blown ’scandal’ have said a word about the sexualization of Taylor, who, at 17, is just two years older than Miley was during her ’scandal’ and is also a minor. So, does Hollywood have a double standard?”
That’s a rhetorical question, of course. And it’s one that the girls and women watching New Moon around me didn’t care much about. They were too busy screaming and applauding every time Lautner (Jacob) and Robert Pattinson (Edward) took their shirts off. It happened often enough onscreen that it became something of a contest within the theater to see who yelled the loudest for which guy. And, so, Twilight, in the space of two movies, has devolved into a who’s hotter (Team Edward! Team Jacob!) revue.
Having read and reviewed the Twilight books, I was convinced going into this film that I would spend most of this review dealing with Bella’s self-destructive behavior in the wake of heartbreak. And I’ve tried not to ignore that, because it comes across vividly onscreen and may inspire at least a few afflicted fans to follow suit.
But New Moon is really all about getting the girls to go googly over guys’ great pecs and abs.