Movie Mom

Movie Mom


The Twilight Saga: New Moon

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some violence and action
Profanity:Mild language
Nudity/Sex:Kisses
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking, smoking
Violence/Scariness:Fantasy peril and violence, vampires, wolfmen, characters injured and killed, risky teenage behavior and bad choices, references to suicide, some graphic images
Diversity Issues:Diverse characters
Movie Release Date:November 20, 2009
DVD Release Date:March 16, 2010

“You’re good with weird,” a character tells Bella mid-way through “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.” That’s an understatement. In the first Twilight movie, as in the first of the series by Stephanie Meyer, high school student Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) moved to the rainiest town in the US, Forks, Washington and fell deeply in love with Edward (Robert Pattinson), who looked like a teenager but was in fact a vampire who was more than 100 years old. He and his “family,” the Cullens, are sort of vampire vegetarians, living on animal blood. But there are other vampires who continue to prey on humans, and they almost killed Bella before Edward rescued her. And then they lived happily ever after until it was time for another book/movie, and that is where we begin.
Edward, convinced that their relationship will always put Bella in danger, leaves, telling her he will never see her again. She is devastated and isolates herself from everyone. She discovers that Edward appears to her when she is in danger, so she takes some foolish risks, just to feel close to him. But then the quiet support and gentle teasing of her friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) begin to make her feel that she is able to be a part of the world again.
bella-jacob-072309.jpg Like Edward, Jacob loves Bella and would do anything to protect her. And like Edward, Jacob has a secret. He is part of a tribe of wolf-people. Like “The Hulk,” his anger manifests itself in a powerful transformation. And Bella finds herself at the center of a centuries-old war between the vampires and the wolves.
The wildly popular Twilight Saga has the core elements of girl-friendly romances from “Wuthering Heights” to “Titanic:” a boyfriend who is not approved by parents who is utterly undone by the appeal of the female lead, and something to make sure that their relationship is about longing, not satisfaction. Just in case you aren’t paying close attention, we see Bella sleeping with a copy of “Romeo and Juliet” on her pillow, and her English class watching a video of the play. The teacher calls on Edward to recite one of Romeo’s speeches. And later, Edward, like Romeo, believes that his love is dead and decides he cannot live without her.
There is a lot of longing. Characters exchange meaningful looks and take an extra beat before responding to allow for some strategic intakes of breath and swelling of the score. There are moments that are more perfume commercial than movie. And as in the book, this big love Bella and Edward feel is expressed mostly in talking about the big love they feel. In a way, this is wise; we never see them doing or seeing anything that would interfere with our ability to project onto them whatever the specifics of our own fantasies of love look like. All we know or need to know is that Bella and Edward have the big, total, all-encompassing, would do anything for each other love. Just like Romeo and Juliet.
And we have Lautner’s excellent abs, which play such a significant role they should have their own billing. Lautner also has an easy confidence and sincerity on screen that nicely leavens the intensity and drama of the Bella-Edward connection. The screenplay is seasoned with some humor and a reference to self-referential cleverness that is almost meta.
New director Chris Weitz does not have Catherine Hardwicke’s feel for the rhythms of teenage interactions and the intensity of teen romance. And he does not have her ability to tell the story through the settings; we miss the lush natural world of the first chapter. Weitz and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg also have to grapple with a transitional story that translates less well to screen than the first one. But the film benefits from his greater experience with special effects and a bigger budget. He catches the spirit of the story and allows the natural chemistry between his leads do the rest. And that is enough to make this movie enormously enjoyable and keep us looking forward to the next one.


Parents should know that this film has fantasy violence involving vampires and wolfmen, with some graphic images. Characters are injured and killed. There is some mild language, Bella takes some foolish risks, and Edward attempts suicide. The movie also includes some teen kisses and some drinking.
Topics for discussion: How are Bella’s feelings for Jacob different from her feelings for Edward? What will she give up if she becomes a vampire?
If you like this, try: Twilight and the books by Stephanie Meyer.



  • grok87

    Just saw this tonite with my kids. Really enjoyed it. Good review Nell, I thought that captured the movie very well. Only thing I’d add is that I thought the violence was really pretty minimal compared to some of what gets rated pg-13 these days.
    The wolf special effects were great I thought. The wolf fight scenes in particular were great fun. I was less convinced by the Vampire fight scenes (with the Volturi) towards the end. Found that a little disorienting.
    cheers,
    grok

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, grok87!

  • Alek110

    I found this review to be lacking in integral thought, and your parallels to Romeo and Juliet to be absolutely unintelligent. This movie is not an acceptable basis for what love is of any sort. No, this movie is about self-destructive obsession, a theme that was in fact present in Romeo and Juliet, but in a way that was intended to teach the audience its negative effects. Instead this movie glorifies it to an extent that is frightening and very much unacceptable, teaching young girls and teenagers a terrible idea of what love should be about. I do not approve of the support you have given this movie.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Alek110, I was commenting on the movie’s making the connection to “Romeo and Juliet,” not making the analogy myself. That said, I disagree with your interpretation of “Romeo and Juliet” and your interpretation of this film. “Romeo and Juliet” is not about self-destructive obsession. It is about the destructive consequences of the feud between two families, with unreasonable hatred that became more important than the parents’ love for their children. You can see that same theme in the modern version, “West Side Story.” I am not aware of any critique of the play that sees the love between the two young people as anything but devoted and tender. That extraordinary scene when they first meet, their very first conversation is an exquisite sonnet, showing in form and content the true connection between them. The balcony scene gives them a chance to describe their love in a manner that is excited and passionate but not obsessive. In the Twilight movies, the young lovers demonstrate their devotion through restraint and sacrifice, the explicit goal of the author, Stephanie Meyers. I can understand why some people consider that Bella is acting from a position of weakness or making a terrible mistake in wanting to give up her humanity but I believe that can be seen from several different perspectives and is worth discussing.
    I welcome your comments and am always interested to hear the thoughts of those who have a different point of view, but let me remind you that the rules of this site prohibit insult and attacks, so I ask you to refrain from that in the future.

  • Your Name

    Beautifully written response to Alek110, Nell! Very intelligent and insightful. I’ve been reading your reviews for years and appreciate your work. When looking for information on movies, your blog is my first and only place to look! As a mother of 3 young girls, I always look to your reviews for reliable information on movies. Your perspective is always spot-on! Thank you!

  • Warner

    My wife and I watched this movie this past Sunday and really enjoyed it. I must say, being an “R” action movie type of guy I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the scenes and interaction by the audience. It was funny to hear the crowded cinema of mostly high school old girss and giggle and clap when Lautner took of his shirt for the first time. Unfortunately, I believe that Miss Stewart is a subpar actress who doesn’t seem capable of shedding a tear or even showing any shades of emotion. Her lack of acting skills seemed to get worse as the movie wore on. Regardless, my wife and I liked this movie just as much as the first one and we have started to read the trilogy (soon to be 4 books) to better understand the story.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks so much! That means the world to me. And as the oldest in a family of three girls, I always have a special place in my heart for families like ours. My best to you and your family — happy Thanksgiving!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you, Warner! I appreciate this perspective very much and hope you will return to let me know what you think of the next film in the series and any other movies you see.

  • Obsessive (?) Love- “O love is the crooked thing”

    If you read the books, it’s clear that Edward’s love for Bella is just as obsessive- perhaps overwhelming is a better word. And isn’t all true love a bit obsessive at the end of the day. I think Yeats said it best: “O love is the crooked thing…”
    William Butler Yeats- Brown Penny
    I whispered, ‘I am too young,’
    And then, ‘I am old enough’;
    Wherefore I threw a penny
    To find out if I might love.
    ‘Go and love, go and love, young man,
    If the lady be young and fair.’
    Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
    I am looped in the loops of her hair.
    O love is the crooked thing,
    There is nobody wise enough
    To find out all that is in it,
    For he would be thinking of love
    Till the stars had run away
    And the shadows eaten the moon.
    Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
    One cannot begin it too soon.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom Nell Minow

    Thanks, Obsessive — that poem is one I learned from my husband and it is one of our favorites. I think there is a difference between obsession, which I think is self-directed, and the very intense, passionate, sometimes all-consuming love that is still about caring for the other, sacrificing when necessary. Bella and Edward are in that second category, and I think that is part of their widespread appeal. But even Stephanie Meyers doesn’t come close to Yeats!

  • Carol

    You are my new best friend. Our two daughters, 11 and 12, just moved from a Waldorf school where digital anything was frowned on, to our excellent public school. The eldest is going to this movie today with five new friends as part of a birthday sleepover. Our choice to let her go had more to do with her bonding with new buddies. It seemed to us — and we told her — that the friendships are real; the movie is not. I wish I’d read this first. Now I know I have a great source for reliable reviews that discuss movies from a parental perspective. Thanks Nell! And let’s hope she makes it through this unscathed.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Welcome, Carol! I’m very glad to be here as a resource. Welcome, and please post a comment or email me at moviemom@moviemom.com if there’s anything else I can do to help. I hope you and your family will let me know what you think of the movies you see.
    You’re grappling with one of the toughest choices a parent has — balancing the chance for some bonding with friends with the influence of less-than-optimal popular culture. I think you made the right call on this one. These overwhelming cultural juggernauts serve as a sort of training wheels for social interaction for middle schoolers. It gives them a shared language and a range of conversational topics that can really help kids navigate those relationships just when friendships become so important to them. Sounds like she has just the guidance she needs to remain not just unscathed but to flourish.

  • karte

    Edward is still a walking mannequin, and his emotional range is so limited that the connection between Bella and Edward seems strained and at crucial times unconvincing.

  • Laura

    I’m surprised you didn’t caution against the glorified teen suicide themes. That disturbed me the most out of the movie. The idea that Edward was going to violently kill himself because he thought Bella was dead was romantic. He even told her in class that if he lost her, he would do something to kill himself. Depression and suicide rates are high enough among high schoolers. I’d be a little less worried about “teen kissing” and “longing,” and a little more worried about glorified suicide attempts and controlling relationships.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Laura, that is a very good point. I share your concern about romanticizing suicide. I know some people think that Edward controls Bella, but I think the book portrays just the contrary. She has all of the power in their relationship and I believe it is the way she shifts the balance of power on someone who self-characterizes as the world’s supreme predator that contributes to the book’s appeal for young women.

  • Pauline

    I would like to comment on the romanticizing suicide,I understand your concerns,but you have also got to realize that your children will learn about it in high school english when they are required to read Romeo and Juliet. I am also a mother and yes I do have concerns about what my daughter gets exposed to but I also must say she is 4 years old and I let her watch this movie and she also recongnizes the difference between realty and movies.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Pauline, though I think 4 is young for this film. While kids can repeat back to you what you tell them about reality and fantasy, most cannot truly understand the difference until about age 8 or 9 (hence the concrete fantasies of Santa, tooth fairy, etc. as a way of processing abstract ideas).

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