Synopsis: In the second chapter of Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling Twilight series, the romance between mortal Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) grows more intense as ancient secrets threaten to destroy them. When Edward leaves in order to keep Bella safe, she tests fate in increasingly reckless ways in order to glimpse her love once more. But when she’s saved from the brink by her friend, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), Bella will uncover mysteries of the supernatural world that will put her in more peril than ever before.
I never expected it to spiral downward as dramatically as it suddenly did.
I think I’m going to have to blame the director. Someone’s got to take the blame and, with a returning cast and the source material coming from the same author, who else could be at fault? I was pretty surprised, given the original’s success, that Catherine Hardwicke wasn’t asked to return at the helm. But my jaw disconnected from my face when I heard that Chris Weitz was selected in her place.
This is the man who brought us the ‘American Pie’ series (which he produced). Oh, sure, he co-directed ‘About a Boy’ with his brother, but he had only helmed ‘The Golden Compass’ on his own before ‘New Moon’ – and that had bombed! So what were the producers thinking? Okay, the ‘American Pie’ films were a tremendous success… but it’s a large leap from sexually-charged teen comedy to an epic teen romantic drama featuring vampires and werewolves.
Even the most respected directors aren’t always able to handle all genres – much like Award-winning actors are sometimes best in certain genres as well. Comic timing is a very different thing from action sequences, and romantic atmospheres are usually antithetical to horror ones. It’s just a basic fact, and not everyone can handle everything equally well. So a novice director with no experience in the genre, helming a burgeoning franchise? Not wise…
The script didn’t help one bit, mind you: the dialogue was so unbelievably clichéd and unrealistic that it had me snickering throughout. It was simply a painful script to slog through, to be subjected to. It was so chock full of reheated leftovers – it was completely uninspired.
And yet it’s based on the novel, and Melissa Rosenberg wrote the screenplay for the original ‘Twilight’. So… was she just lucky the first time around? Or did she just completely lose her bearings for this outing? I seriously hope it’s the latter, because she’s also written the screenplay for the next one, which I’ll be watching shortly – and I’m hoping she got her bearings back.
There’s really not much to say about the story (’cause we’ve all seen this before, done better), but there were a few key elements that had my friends and I wondering:
-why in God’s name is there an abhorrent surge of old-school machismo in this modern teen film? All of a sudden, every guy in the picture takes control of Bella’s truck and drives it for her; she’s always relegated to the passenger seat. It’s HER truck, for which SHE has a licence, and that SHE drove very ably in the first film. So what gives?! And what kind of message is this supposed to send to teenagers about male-female relations, after the stalker-romance of the first film? What? That unhealthy dependency on a man is laudable?
-(warning: small spoiler alert) Edward tells Bella that she’ll never see him again, and then he skips town. But, for some reason, he keeps talking to her in some sort of spectral form. A friend suggested that maybe it was all in her head, that she was inventing these dialogues (which could make sense), but it was totally unclear if that was the case or if he actually was in touch with her. Well, if he was actually trying to watch out for her, he’s a terrible guardian angel – he kept distracting her at dangerous moments, thereby putting her life even more in jeopardy. Stupid, stupid, stupid. And, If it’s in her head, then it should be made more obvious to the viewing audience.
Bella and Edward’s relationship is troubled not just by this strange development, but by the fact that there is absolutely NO HEAT between them. Surprisingly, I felt something in the first one – so I believe that it’s not really the cast’s fault. In ‘New Moon’, Bella and Edward are colder than ice. The same goes for Bella and her new suitor, whose attraction remains inexplicable to me due to the lack of chemistry between the actors.
For some reason, Kristen Stewart lost whatever magic that made Bella three-dimensional – which is a shame, because I thought she was the strength of the first film and I quite liked her rendition. Sadly, in this film, she’s suddenly become a cardboard cut-out. But then so is everyone now (or they’re a cliché, like her friend Jessica, who is suddenly an annoying socal girl instead of a slightly insecure small town girl ). Is this also the director’s fault? I’m willing to bet that it is…
All this to say that the film felt empty and staged throughout. The human element of the first film was completely gutted and there is nothing left on screen but a few shells pretending to be whole human beings with real interactions and relationships.
On a technical level, the film is a mixed-bag:
– on the one hand, the CGI werewolves were terrible. The rendering was really subpar. Oh, sure, they look like wolves (as opposed to the beefy steroid werebeasts we’ve been getting from Hollywood in the last decade), but they don’t look real one bit – they totally look animated (even their fur doesn’t move realistically!). Plus which they’re HUGE; they morph from average human forms to wolves that are 4-5 times that size. It simply doesn’t make sense. And it’s not any scarier.
– on the other hand, the rope work is superior to ‘Twilight’s (which was the shoddiest I’d seen in a long time!). Still, the CGI effects that accompany the rope work were sometimes iffy. And the fast-forward movement that they used to suggest superpowers is lame – not as pathetic as in ‘Queen of the Damned’ (yet another poor excuse for a modern vampire tale), but still…
The overall soundtrack was decent, but unmemorable; there was some good surround activity and yummy panning, but nothing outstanding. Heck, ‘Jennifer’s Body’ had a better aural quality to it. And it was bothersome that they had to plug a few (too many) songs from their motion picture soundtrack along the way. A couple of songs is fine, but at a half dozen or so (and unremarkable ones at that!), it got tedious.
Anyway, I kept waiting for something to pull me into ‘New Moon’, but it never happened. I even laughed at the movie a number of times (not hysterically, but it obviously shouldn’t be happening in the first place). I can’t recommend this film to anyone except to those who insist on seeing the rest of the series – and even then, I would probably suggest reading the Wikipedia entry and just moving on to the next film in the series. Which, hopefully, will be much, much better.