Vampirism has been an odd human obsession since even before 18th century Serbian folklore gave it a name. The unique fascination and fear of an evil, reanimated corpse with a hunger for human blood has permeated all cultures for centuries. But a more recent development entrancing people again is the reluctant vampire: the man cursed with a taste for human blood who must endure an eternity of torture in an attempt to curb his evil condition. He is known today, most famously, as Edward Cullen and can be seen in theatres now in “The Twilight Saga: New Moon."
Not three years ago were films and novels about vampires thought by the general public to be the kitschy remnant of romantic vampire tales of yore, but the unique fervor drummed up by Stephanie Meyer in her book, “Twilight,” and the subsequent film of the same name turned a dull appreciation on its head. Now, one can’t walk down the street without seeing vampires advertised - and it’s not Halloween anymore.
“New Moon,” the sequel to last year’s “Twilight, “continues the tale of high school senior Bella Swan and her forbidden romance with a century-old vampire named Edward Cullen who, like his family, has sworn off drinking human blood. Things take a turn in the besotted couple’s relationship when Edward’s brother Jasper, who though not recently turned is new to the “vegetarian” lifestyle, attacks Bella after she accidentally cuts her finger. After the attack, Edward leaves Bella in fear of her safety around him, sending her into a bottomless pit of despair from which only her childhood friend, Jacob Black, can pull her out. But as Jacob becomes a potential love interest, Bella finds out that he also holds a secret: he is a werewolf.
Cue the tried and true plot device of the love triangle. Bella must choose between her monsters and, to nobody’s surprise, picks Edward. Leaving fans firmly divided between the vampire and the werewolf. You might have seen the teenage girls donning shirts with their choice of love interest at the movies this weekend – one of the many facts that may make the series very unappealing for men.
However, “New Moon” succeeds in jumping out of the fantasy romance that “Twilight” boasted by adding the conflict between the Cullen vampire family and Jacob’s Quileute wolf pack as well as the mysterious and ancient “vampire police” called the Volturi. These plot elements might let the unenthusiastic boyfriend or husband enjoy the movie more than its predecessor.
Where “Twilight’s” major plot points dealt with a whirlwind romance with the reluctant vampire, “New Moon” illuminates the dangers of such a relationship - making it inherently more interesting.
The change in the directors chair also breathes new life to the series; Chris Weitz (“The Golden Compass”) fittingly changes the tone of the series from moody indie romance to epic fantasy (as it should be.) The camera moves with suspense, creating eerie images like a shot of a hunter searching for a bear the people of Forks assume is behind the deaths of mauled townspeople, with the scorned vampire Victoria hanging in a tree in the background.
Fantastic effects for the wolf pack are inserted into blood quickening chase scenes and where the slow motion effect might seem tired in recent action films, “New Moon” benefits from it immensely.
In short, the film is a great work of genre blending storytelling that is sure to captivate audiences - a great achievement.
Where the film suffers, however, is in its plot, which is solely the fault of author Stephanie Meyer. In such an influential work for this generation’s young women, the relationship of inherent inequality that Bella and Edward share is detrimental to creating a healthy ideal of romance. Bella’s attachment to Edward closes her off from the world when he leaves. Friends and family are inconsequential and unimportant compared to their love.
For those who have yet to see the film and do not wish for plot points to be spoiled please skip the following paragraphs:
The only solution for their inequality to end is in Bella’s becoming a vampire. This is where the tale of the reluctant vampire meets its problems. Though Edward initially disapproves of turning Bella because he believes her soul will be damned, a vote from his family makes him concede and agree to it. In this swift and unexplained turn, the family who has sworn to never drink from humans, the same family who believes themselves cursed by their vampirism, easily chooses to kill and impose their curse on a young woman at her request. It is seriously unsettling.
The only character who understands the problems in this is Jacob Black, who in the climactic scene of the film solidifies his rivalry with Edward by threatening war on the Cullens if they break their reluctant vampire code on Bella.
In “New Moon,” the reluctant vampire is turned into a killer again through love, but it is not supposed to be frightening – the audience is supposed to have their hearts warmed by it. Edward wants to make Bella his wife eternal – a thing that has unsettled man since the myth of Persephone and Hades - and people cheer as they leave the theatre. Maybe we were wrong to create a cult surrounding the reluctant vampire.
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