10 Years Later, Is The Twilight Saga: New Moon Really That Bad?

We are deep-diving into a sea of teenage angst, folks.

It’s been more than a decade since Twilight the movie entered our lives, and all these years later, it is still our favourite thing to hate on. Consider all the controversy surrounding the casting decision of Robert Pattinson as Batman, with all the outrage and disbelief emerging because the poor man starred in Twilight. Then there’s the perpetual comment of “still a better love story than Twilight”.

You probably used that phrase once or twice, maybe even a billion times – I know I have. And why is that? Well it’s funny, but also because it is fashionable to hate on Twilight. Does the franchise deserve the excessive vitriol it receives? Of course not. Well, maybe Breaking Dawn, it was the weakest book, so I didn’t care much for the two movies spun from its wake. I also literally threw the book across the room because I was so inflamed by it, but that’s a story for another day. Nevertheless, the first two movies offered something rather decent, and since it’s the 10th year anniversary of New Moon, I’m going to dive back into the movie to do the unfashionable thing and examine its strengths.

If we look deep within ourselves, our main gripe with New Moon is the whiny teenage girl moping about her breakup. The emo-ness she drowns herself in makes us roll our eyes – “What a drama queen”, we think. We as a society don’t consider young love worthy of our notice. Romeo and Juliet, which is a narrative New Moon has built into its layers, also receives much scorn and derision when we realise how young Romeo and Juliet are. How can young people fathom and experience the true depth of romantic love?

We question what Bella and Edward love about each other, and deduce that she’s into him because of his brooding vampire good looks, while he wanted a snack. This is because her blood sings for him, and no, I am not making this up. This perception leaves us feeling that the relationship is superficial, so we cannot relate to her feelings of despair and loss when he decides to walk away from her. Truth be told, Edward’s decision to leave her for her own good is a sacrificial one. Finally he has found someone who roots him in his humanity, yet he cannot bring himself to doom her to this monstrous life he feels he lives.

He never got to choose his own fate, and if he stays with Bella, there is the realisation that he would eventually need to turn her in order to be with her fully. As a woman, and someone who was a teenage girl not too long ago, I can understand Bella’s devastation when Edward sells her a lie so that she would accept the breakup. In the book, Bella describes the experience of heartbreak as “a crippling thing, this sensation that a huge hole had been punched through [her] chest”.

The movie does a good job of communicating this gaping emptiness, with the wonderful sequence of a spinning room, the seasons changing around Bella, while she is stagnant and inert. Billy Burke, who plays her father Charlie, is so great in these scenes. He experiences such helplessness seeing her in so much pain, and she is unable to confide in him or anyone since she can’t openly discuss the vampire situation. Bella and Charlie’s relationship is decently developed despite the romantic plot taking the spotlight, and Burke’s performance is definitely one of the better aspects of the franchise.

Taylor Lautner also does a decent job as best friend Jacob Black, and the unfolding of the relationship feels natural and real. While her relationship with Edward feels soap opera-ish and dramatic, the friendship with Jacob offers a nice contrast, allowing us to see that Bella could have a chance at a normalcy. There is definitely some lament here, because in a world where supernatural beings like vampires don’t exist, Jacob and Bella would end up together. This is, however, a moot point, since they do exist, and Bella has already given her heart away.

As Bella tries to pull herself out of the abyss she wrapped herself in, she stumbles upon a discovery of an illusive Edward who pops out whenever she does something foolhardy and dangerous. In a bid to experience more of this phantom, she decides to push the envelope of danger. This involves riding a motorcycle and jumping off a cliff. She gets hurt on the bike, and nearly dies after leaping off the cliff. The visuals of that moment when she is in the water, still imagining the phantom Edward and longing for him, is beautifully done.

Once again, we view all this as stupidity, because why is she risking her life for something that isn’t tangible but merely a creation of her own mind? We forget how powerful of an emotion yearning can be. Even now as adults, it is hard to leave behind people we have loved before. We eventually move on, but that wound persists, even as time mends it and new skin grows over it. The thing is, Bella would have moved on, be it with Jacob or someone else. It wouldn’t hold a candle to what she shared with Edward, but first loves will always carry an unrivalled intensity.

However, we don’t get to see this play out, because Edward returns into her life. In New Moon, he shows us the sacrificial side to love, as well as the selfish aspect that dwells within it. He gives in to his desire, and they pick up where they left off. Of course it is a tad more dramatic, with the Volturi scenes giving the audience a reminder of how truly dangerous Edward’s life can be. Michael Sheen delivers a fantastic, over-the-top performance as Aro (camp done right), and Dakota Fanning exudes an intimidating presence without needing to say much. There is still the question of Bella’s mortality hanging in the balance, and I like that we get to see the two sides to the discussion towards the end of the movie.

Edward doesn’t want to rob her of anything because of her relationship with him, while Bella feels that her becoming a vampire is the only route if she wants to be with Edward forever. There is such boldness here to Bella’s choice, where this assertion is only possible because she knows, without a doubt, that this is the man she wants to spend her life with – or eternity in this case. There is so much hemming and hawing that exists when it comes to love, and the uncertainties that plague when it comes to commitment. However, Bella and Edward are so certain of what they share that we can’t help but admire them for it.

There is nothing quite as bright and illuminating as first love, nor anything more devastating when love is lost. This is why, for all its flaws, I can never hate the franchise. There is lush earnestness in the exploration of young love, the blinding nature of it and the recognition of the never-ending trust fall you must now submit yourself to. Edward and Bella’s romance certainly isn’t the greatest love story ever told, but it is a reminder of what we all seek when it comes to our own pursuits of love. We want someone we cannot live without, someone who will inspire us to desire an eternity with them – even if they’re not a sparkly vampire.

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