Thursday Evening: We’re going to see the midnight opening of New Moon. The theater is already half full at 10 pm. Lots of teenagers, lots of females. High school-ers are snapping pictures of each other. The girls sitting in front of us are watching the first Twilight on an iPhone. Across the aisle, a teenage blonde girl in sneakers reaches into her purse and starts counting prescription pill bottles: “One. Two. Three. Four. Controlled. Controlled.” The girl behind her (a brunette in boots) opens her own purse. “I have five,” she says. Teenagers are weird.
The theater is selling T-shirts by the snack stand: Team Edward (Rob Pattinson wearing his constipated James Dean frown) and Team Jacob (Taylor Lautner modeling his cocky roid-rage sneer.) Me: “I’m from Entertainment Weekly. Which shirt is selling more?” Theater employee: “We’re actually not allowed to talk to anybody from the media.” You and everyone who works on Avatar, dude!
Two hours race by. The theater reaches capacity. The lights go down. You can immediately tell that this is one of those Great American Midnight Opening Night audiences: A gang of teen girls chant “Edward! Edward!” How energetic was the crowd? They even yelled during the previews. And based on that yelling, I conceive three grand sweeping cultural theories:
1. Pierce Brosnan is Sean Connery for people born in the ’90s: he appears in two previews, and gets a big applause both times.
2. As far as teenagers are concerned, Steve Martin is a bigger star than Alec Baldwin or Meryl Streep; he gets all the laughs during the It’s Complicated trailer.
3. Something called Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is going to be a monstrous hit, because the applause that follows the preview is deafening.
Finally, New Moon begins. The Summit Entertainment logo flashes onscreen. People cheer. (Let’s be fair: we used to do the same thing for the LucasFilm logo.) The first couple of scenes are greeted with hushed silence, as if the audience can barely believe they’re finally watching this movie. Then Rob Pattinson strolls toward the camera through the school parking lot, in slow-motion. Loud applause, cheering, and I think I hear someone crying.
Curiously, though, that first scene is the peak of the night for Edward. As pretty much everyone knows (SPOILER ALERT for anyone who lives under a rock), Edward takes off about 20 minutes into the movie, and most of the second act is devoted to Jacob’s transformation from a non-threatening 15-year-old with Christian rock hair into a perpetually shirtless action hero with a magical Native American werewolf gene.
In the process, Jacob completely makes the audience forget about Edward. The turning point comes after Bella has fallen off her motorcycle, and is bleeding from her forehead. “It’s just blood, no big deal,” says Jacob, who nonchalantly pulls off his shirt. Readers, there are screams!
And that’s just the prologue. The first time we see Jacob in his wolfpack uniform (shorts, shoes, no shirt, standing in the rain with steam literally rising from his body), the scene in the theater is like those old Beatles concert films, with girls descending into paroxysms of panic-attack joy. It’s becoming clear that we’ll only hear half the dialogue in any scene featuring Shirtless Jacob.
By the time (another SPOILER ALERT) Jacob and Bella have a soap operatic almost-kiss, the audience has decisively turned to Team Jacob. “Yes! Do it!” screams one lady. “Auuugh!” screams another. Edward can’t compete: when he takes his shirt off during a climactic moment in Italy, the theater is silent, except for one teenager speaking for all of us: “No, that’s nothing!”
The midnight audience loves the movie and applauds when it’s all over, but I definitely sense some minor disappointment with (SPOILER ALERT again) Bella’s final choice of male companion. Does this represent a sea change, Twilight fans? Are there any Edwardians out there who changed their allegiance after this movie to Team Jacob? And does anyone else have any good stories from a midnight show?