Completely unschooled in all things Twilight, The Daily Beast’s Nicole LaPorte saw New Moon cold. She emerged with a knowledge of shirtless wolves and vampires who sparkle. Plus, Barbara Spindel on being Robsessive compulsive.
“Which team are you on, Team Jacob or Team Edward?” a little girl asked her father, minutes before the first Los Angeles screening of The Twilight Saga: New Moon started, last Thursday night.
The dad, who was seated to my right, shrugged. “I’m going with the vampires,” he said, cluelessly. The girl nodded her head vigorously in approval.
Then and there, I decided that, should I ever be given the opportunity to choose, I, too, would declare myself an Edwardite. Whatever that meant.
I started taking notes. “What is the Volturi?” “Who is Alice?” “Why is the dad sleeping on the couch?” “Who’s the guy in the dreads and why is he so pissed off?”
You see, I was a Twilight Virgin. Of course, I knew what Twilight phenomenon was, or at least that it was a hugely popular series of books about vampires, and that one of those vampires, played by the hunkily brooding actor Robert Pattinson, induced Beatles-like mania among 13-year-old girls. I knew that when the first Twilight movie came out last year it made a lot of money and jump-started Hollywood’s vampire craze. That was about it.
I had no idea who Edward was, or why he got to have his own team. Ditto for Jacob.
• Barbara Spindel: Robsessive Compulsive• Video Gallery: Before They Were in TwilightBut I was confident I could figure this out, just as I’d figured out Harry Potter—or, most of it; truth be told, I’m still not sure what a Hogwart is—when I was dragged to see the fourth movie cold, having never read any of the books or seen the movies.
This, in contrast, was only the second film. And, I assured myself, there would be all of the usual cinematic devices to assist me: flashbacks, voiceover narrations explaining plot complications, a splash of backstory, etc.
Wrong. About 15 minutes into New Moon, I started to feel the first twitchings of panic. There were no assists. When Bella (Kristen Stewart) is locked in an emotional threesome with (Team Leader!) Jacob (played by Taylor Lautner) and Edward (Pattinson), in the middle of a school parking lot—she and Jacob are having an I’m-Into-You-Kind-Of moment when Pattison rolls up in his Volvo—I could not discern what the currents of love and hate added up to, only that they were there.
(Summit Entertainment, which is releasing New Moon, is clearly confident that diehard Twilight fans, who are familiar with every nuance and hidden symbol in the books, will take care of filling theater seats.)
My only consolation was that I had chosen wisely, going with Team Edward—every time Pattison graced the screen, violins started playing, and everything went into slo-mo, as the camera zoomed to catch our hero running his hand through his extravagantly sculpted, bed-head hair. Jacob got no such love.
But there was little else for me to hang on to, and so I started taking notes. “What is the Volturi?” “Who is Alice?” “Why is the dad sleeping on the couch?” “Who’s the guy in the dreads and why is he so pissed off?”
Luckily, there was my friend, the little girl, two seats over. Being the only person in the entire theater under the age of 30 (made up of schlumpy, and mostly middle-age, journalists, media screenings do not play to the Twilight demo), I began relying on her for my cues. At the first sign of onscreen blood, when she shrieked, with genuine terror, “Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no!”—and then, when there was more blood: “OH MY GOD!”—I knew it was a big deal.
“Blood. Important.” I wrote in my notebook.
I was similarly alerted that something of significance was afoot when Jacob took his shirt off for the first (of many) times, revealing a torso that had, apparently, improved since the first movie. The girl nearly lost it.
“Jake. Buff.” I jotted down.
I became very excited when my two discoveries converged in a way that I assumed was a major metaphorical allusion: Jacob took off his shirt to remove a spot of blood!!!
Since when, after all, did fantasy films not involve religious subtext, or, at the very least, an implicit reference to Paradise Lost?
But I was still adrift. Now there were more guys running around shirtless, which wouldn’t, by itself, be that odd, if only it were a little bit odd to all the other people in the movie, who were wearing shirts. It wasn’t.
Just like nobody at Bella and Edward’s high school seemed to think it was in any way strange that a handful of kids had scary-looking red eyes and wore a light dusting of Marilyn Manson makeup.
Awhile in, I was starting to give up on the idea that I would master Twilight in one sitting. I got up to go to the bathroom, and, as I did, was surprised to discover that I wasn’t the only one—it was as though someone had declared intermission, at least for the over-13 crowd. Walking toward the restroom, a woman in her 40s helped explain. “This is worse than Sophie’s Choice!” she whispered. “We’ve still got another hour and a half!”
Suddenly, for the first time, I was embarrassed to be among the ignorant when it came to Twilight. I didn’t feel high-brow or sophisticated. I felt like my mom.
It was time to take stock. I had come so far to get here. Just to enter the theater, I’d had to hand over my BlackBerry and submit to one of those wands they use if you’re in trouble with airport security. A bright blue wristband had been slapped around my wrist, signifying that I was one of the Chosen Few allowed to see the movie at so early a date. A sensation that can only be called Twi-Hardish swept over me: This was an honor, damn it!
As I returned to my seat, I decided I was going to own it—or, at least, the last remaining 90 minutes of the movie.
I did OK. I figured out that the shirtless guys were wolves, and that Jacob had joined up with them. (As for how or why—please.) I learned that Bella really, really wanted to become a vampire, but that Edward didn’t want her to, and that this was the major source of contention between them and why he was spending most of the movie (off-screen) moping in Italy.
Some things, of course, would still have to be explained. Leaving the theater in the crush of people all making a bee-line to the table where cellphones were being repossessed, I overheard a man explaining to someone why the vampires’ faces sometimes looked like they were radiating sunbeams. “ They sparkle,” he said. “That’s part of the mythology.”
Nicole LaPorte is the senior West Coast correspondent for The Daily Beast. A former film reporter for Variety, she has also written for The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, The New York Times, The New York Observer, and W.