Twilight Saga: New Moon, The (2009)
Reviewed by Morgan Elektra
Starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, Ashley Greene
Directed by Chris Weitz
Hold on. Let me take a deep breath before I start this. No, I am not trying to contain a pubescent squee of delight because I got to see the new Twilight movie. I am trying my best to coherently form thought after yet another disappointing adaptation of a book I actually enjoyed. Luckily for me, my illustrious colleague Mr. Nomad has already covered a good deal of the issues I had with the film (read his New Moon review here). I don't completely agree with everything he said – I found Taylor Lautner's performance warm, engaging, utterly endearing, and the best of the whole film as far as capturing his character – but he's hit all the major points.
I don't need to mention again the painful and lackluster performances of the film's stars, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, who have so little chemistry I think it actually has become negative. They seem to repel each other … and the viewer. I can't imagine anyone who has been really, properly well-kissed feeling even the slightest thrill at their supposedly passionate lip locks, smooches that seem to bear more resemblance to those dare kisses at a junior high party with someone you're kind of indifferent to than anything experienced between two people who are desperate to consume each other in one fashion or another.
But that's not the biggest issue to be had with the film, not by a long shot. All of the Twilight books are told completely from Bella's perspective. As the reader, we are not privy to any thoughts or information other than what Bella sees, hears, and knows. This seems to have caused a great deal of difficulty for the screenwriter. Melissa Rosenberg just can't seem to ditch the horrid voiceover. So, instead of getting to SEE Bella and Jacob interacting and their friendship growing, we get to see a montage and hear a fucking voiceover letter to Alice of her growing friendship with Jake and how he makes her feel. And it must be noted that none of this letter writing bullshit was in the book, so there's no faulting the source material in this regard.
Many years ago, when I became interested in writing screenplays, I read as many style guides and how-to books as possible, and it's a pretty widely accepted rule that voiceover is something that should be used sparingly, if at all. It's good when it's done right, but it's so often done wrong. The general rule is SHOW, DON'T TELL. And this film is a perfect example of why that rule is so widely accepted. This is BAD voiceover, and it needs to stop. Instead of getting to know characters and seeing their interactions and how their relationships are developed and feeling a part of the story, we are relegated to the position of distant observer as scenes fade into music video montages where dialogue takes place, but we don't get to hear it, and then we are told what is happening by Stewart, who somehow even manages to make her voice emotionless.
We are supposed to care about Bella, about the fact that she has lost her love and she is in agony. But why should we? Despite this being the second film, we still know next to nothing about her. Nor has she exhibited any behavior other than being pale, quiet, and intense. Why is Edward so passionate about this ho-hum girl? And apart from Pattinson's questionable good looks (he does absolutely zip for me, but to each her own), what does Edward have to offer? On the screen he's pale and rich and brooding – and happens to be a vampire. That's about it. Book Edward is kith to Buffy's Angel, tormented, but you know … not ALL the time. He's still able to crack a joke when the situation calls for it. Movie Edward is just broody and kind of sad. Both are shallow and lifeless characters. As I mentioned earlier, thank god for Taylor Lautner, who actually portrays the goofy, laid back, and yet passionate Jacob with warmth and humor. Reading the books, I was definitively on Team What's Wrong with a Threesome? Based solely on the films, I'm all about Team Jacob. Who wants a whiney, pasty white boy when you could have a tan, broad-shouldered, and relaxed Indian werewolf?
Much like the first film, New Moon is, on the surface, faithful to the book. It hits all of the major story points. But it merely glances off them. When I read New Moon, it brought forth in me that recollection of my first "true love" in high school, the one who broke my heart so thoroughly at one point that I wept in the middle of a restaurant, openly and unable to stop myself. I remembered, as Bella experienced it, the tightness in my chest and how my throat felt like it was closing up and the place where my heart had been felt full of fire. I hurt for her. Watching it on screen, I felt nothing but eye-rolling near boredom.
On the page when Jacob turns off the radio and comments to Mike, his post-Edward rival for Bella's affections, "Bella doesn't like music," and she realizes this is true and he has noticed something about her she hadn't really been aware of herself, it's a sweet and meaningful moment. This is one of those little things that you do for someone you love, like how my husband only buys creamy peanut butter, although I never ask him to, because I once mentioned it was my preference. Through the filter of Rosenberg's script and Weitz's direction, that scene becomes a throw-away in which Bella turns off a radio and says, "I don't like music anymore," to which Jacob nods. They managed to strip even such a simple scene of meaning and depth and render it pointless. Way to go, guys.
New Moon is the weakest book of the Saga, and my least favorite, so it should have been far easier to make me like this movie. But paying lip service to the book's storyline won't do it. Saying New Moon is a good adaptation of the book is like saying skating on its surface is a good way to experience the depth and breadth of a lake and all the wildlife therein.
It is slightly better than the first film. There were some brief bright spots apart from Lautner's performance. Michael Sheen as Aro promises to be inspired casting as the films progress. I can't wait to see him in Breaking Dawn as Aro's kind façade begins to wear thin. Dakota Fanning as Jane also made me look forward to her expanded part in Dawn. And there was, it should be mentioned, a teeny tiny miniscule almost missable moment when the werewolf thing was done to good effect … as Bella lays traumatized on the darkened forest floor and groggily looks up to see only the black outline of a shape against the darker night and sees glowing eyes and hears the huff of its breath. Other than that, the CGI wolves look cartoony and two-dimensional – which sums up the rest of the movie as well.
1 1/2 out of 5
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