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New Moon - prepare for disappointment
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (DVD)
Member Name: silverbird44
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (DVD)
Date: 10/03/10, updated on 10/03/10 (62 review reads)
Advantages: Quite amusing...for all the wrong reasons
Disadvantages: Unbelievable central romance, poor script, poor acting
* Film only review *
Unless you are a Troglodyte living in some obscure out of the way cave, you will probably have heard of the teen fic juggernaut that is the Twilight saga. Stephanie Meyer's quartet of books about the romance between handsome vampire Edward Cullen and hapless human Bella Swann have sold millions of copies since their first publication in 2005, and have become ubiquitous among teen and adult readers with very impressive speed. Obviously (for few could resist such an obvious cash cow) film adaptations were bound to follow. New Moon, first released in 2009, is the film adaptation of the second instalment of the series.
The tone of the first paragraph may already have given some indication of what the conclusion of this review is going to be. Because I cannot be gushingly positive, I feel the need to get my defence in early. I absolutely loved the Twilight books. I started the first one on a Monday and finished the fourth on a Friday, communicating with everyone around me in grunts from behind the black hardbacks. Although not as good as the first, I thought the second book was still pretty decent. This just makes me all the sadder that it could have been turned into such a chronic film.
The plot of New Moon picks up a short while after the end of the first of the Twilight books. Vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) has successfully rescued true love Bella Swann (Kristen Stewart) from evil vampire Victoria, and all are back in their soggy hometown of Forks, Washington. But the peace is short lived: for it is Bella's 18th birthday, a day she has been dreading because it makes her technically older than her undead boyfriend. And her fears are justified, if a little misplaced. After a disastrous birthday party with Edward's vampire family, Edward decides that he and Bella are never going to work as a couple, and ends their relationship with immediate effect.
So you have a peculiar situation where one of the keystone characters disappears some fifteen minutes into the film, leaving Bella heartbroken and lonely. The film tracks her misery and loneliness, her efforts to get closer to Edward and her growing friendship with local Native American boy Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). Do they get back together? Does she end up with Jacob? What big secret does Jacob have? For those few people who don't already know the plot, I think I'd best not say any more.
In terms of story, New Moon is not at all bad - perhaps because this is the aspect in which it sticks closest to the book. It is hardly some wildly intricate masterpiece, and you will most likely see any plot twists coming several hundred miles away, but as books containing vampires and werewolves go it is all surprisingly plausible and appealing. Sadly, the plot is weighed down under a pretty leaden script. Bella, Edward and Jacob are forced to grapple with lines that are hopelessly clichéd or horribly unrealistic. There are a few good lines among the supporting cast, but these are only memorable because of their rarity.
Then there is the acting. The kindest thing that can really be said here is that the film seems to be a case of good actors have a bad day. In the books, Bella Swann is beautiful and much loved, but is saved from being unbearable by a healthy dose of gawkiness and awkwardness. But in the hands of Kristen Stewart and the scriptwriters, she has become monosyllabic, grumpy and prone to doing incomprehensibly stupid things (which made sense in the books, but not in the film - an example is the ride with the unknown biker). Then there is poor Robert Pattinson, who was inoffensive when playing Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter, but pretty shocking as Edward Cullen. Given that the character he is playing is supposed to be perfect, the task was always going to be a challenge: but throughout the film he musters little more expression than a dopey half smile and issues every line in the exact same tone. Not the boy's finest hour, I would say.
The leads aside, the supporting cast are actually not so bad. Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black fulfils the role of teen heartthrob pretty efficiently, although this is more due to physiological advantages than a particularly good performance. Still, the memory of the collective sigh when he ripped off his shirt (in response to Bella cutting her head...wouldn't we all do the same?) will make me giggle for a far while to come. Among the others, the problem isn't obvious bad acting (as in Robert Pattinson's case) but ham acting (Michael Sheen as an evil vampire) or two dimensional characters (most of the werewolves and vampires, who are infinitely more interesting in the book). However, exception has to be made for three performances. Michael Welch, the highschooler Mike with a hopeless crush on Bella, is appealing hapless; Anna Kendrick as Bella's 'friend' Jessica puts in a brief but brilliantly bitchy contribution: and Ashley Greene as Edward's sister Alice, when she finally reappears late in the film, gives the whole production an instant shot in the arm. But all in all, the acting is nothing to write home about.
After story and acting, there are also the more technical considerations of the film. The imagery is quite self consciously arty - dim colours, weather reflecting everyone's moods etc etc - which in general suits vampires quite well. But the nature of the story in the book is so much quicker, so much more vivid, that the toned down feel of the film doesn't really add anything too it. It just saps the whole thing of energy. The scenery around Forks is used to good effect, the wild country of Washington State with its woods, hills and oceans and there is a decent soundtrack to distract you from the lack of onscreen action.
Before concluding, I'll just sum up the key good and bad points of this film. And there are good points - no film is entirely irredeemable. In places it's very pretty, Ashley Greene and Anna Kendrick are good for the short time they are on screen and the soundtrack and main plot aren't so bad. If you don't take it seriously, it is also quite entertaining, for the all the wrong reasons! But these good points are so heavily outweighed by the bad points. Forget the clunky script, the two dimensional characters, the periods of time where nothing seems to be happening except Bella staring into space (apparently wearing the same clothes for three months...curious...). The thing that really kills the whole film is that through a combination of bad acting and bad scripting, you just can't care about the central romance. It's a killer blow - because after a while, you don't really care if Edward never comes back and Bella has a boring life. No romance can survive when the lovers are so unprepossessing.
All of the above demonstrates why I'm not sure I can recommend that you spend any money on seeing Twilight: New Moon. If it's on TV, then why not - you'll probably find yourself chortling at the corniness of much of it. But the fact is that the film makers were presented with a great series of books, a decent cast and fabulous settings and somehow this shocker of a film is all that's come out. Sorry, twilight fans. But this is just not the film that your devotion deserves.
New Moon, 2009
Director: Chris Weitz
Cast includes Kristen Stewart (Bella Swann), Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen), Taylor Lautner (Jacob Black), Billy Burke (Charlie Swann - Bella's Dad), Ashley Greene (Alice Cullen) - see IMDB for full list.
Running time: 130 minutes
Summary: Someone seems to have drained the life out of this film