By John Mulderig
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — There is something at once reassuring and sad in the fervor with which its target audience of tween and teen girls will undoubtedly greet the lovelorn Gothic romance sequel "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" (Summit), at least to judge by the squealingly delighted reaction of such viewers at a recent preview screening.
Their enthusiasm is reassuring because this latest chapter in the love story of well-mannered vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and mortal high school student Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is — like its 2008 predecessor "Twilight" — remarkable for the innocence of their interaction. (Edward fears that temptations of the flesh, if indulged beyond the occasional kiss, might give way to temptations of the blood.)
What makes it sad is the thought of how rare the portrayal of such a restrained relationship has become, even in entertainment aimed at the young. And then, of course, there’s the fact that it takes an occult contrivance to compel and enforce the couple’s chastity.
Though behaving themselves when together, in fact, Edward and Bella spend most of their time apart in director Chris Weitz’s adaptation of the second book in Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling series of young-adult novels. That’s because, early on, Bella has a slight accident involving a bit of bleeding that sends the less controlled members of the undead clan with which Edward lives, especially the ever-predatory Jasper (Jackson Rathbone), into a dangerous frenzy.
Appalled, Edward feigns a change of heart, breaks off their relationship, and disappears. Disconsolate Bella eventually turns to her American Indian friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) for solace. But, in addition to wanting to be more than mere pals, Jacob has a supernatural secret of his own: He’s inherited the gene that turns some members of his tribe, when provoked, into werewolves.
And who are the werewolves’ mortal enemies? Why, vampires, naturally. So, as the picturesque proceeding sweep from the misty Northwest of Bella’s hometown of Forks, Wash., to the sunny hills of Tuscany, the sighing, gazing and moping are interrupted by some intermittent violence as outsized battles flare between superhuman opponents.
Along the way, Bella’s pleas to be transformed into a blood-sucker — thereby resolving her dilemma and allowing her to remain with Edward forever — lead to a hazy discussion about the possible loss of her soul. Edward, we learn, believes that all his kind, no matter how courtly, are damned, though precisely what that means Melissa Rosenberg’s script never tarries long enough to explore or explain. There’s also a brief exchange about the origins of Jacob’s problem that echoes, presumably for humorous effect, the debate about the origins of homosexual orientation.
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Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.
The film contains considerable action violence, a vague sexual reference and at least one mildly crass term. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.