How you feel about The Twilight Saga: New Moon seems to be dividing along the lines of how you feel about the first film, last year’s Twilight, and its director, Catherine Hardwicke.
In the first film of this female-oriented vampire franchise, Hardwicke evoked an impassioned teen-age swooniness among its damply metaphorical forest setting. The problem for some: that’s all Hardwicke brought to the severely budget-crunched debut, and even that was double-edged. Each viewer thus had a choice of heartily succumbing or rolling their eyes.
Directed by Chris Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy), The Twilight Saga: New Moon definitely cuts down the eye-rolling…but that also means that New Moon is shorter on the Gothic romanticism that has sparked such devotion from the franchise fans.
The word you keep hearing with New Moon is “polished.” That means the look, pace, effects, and all things technical are vastly improved. But even someone who liked the film – and ultimately I did – can see that it has lost a chunk of its heart in the search for that polish.
New Moon revives the tale of Bella Swan (the always moody Kristen Stewart), the girl with the fairytale name and the most complicated love-life ever to be persistently interrupted by an all-seeing telephone. She continues to date her way through the James Whale/Val Lewton MGM horror film catalog, circa 1940. New Moon finds her torn (but not really torn) between a sweet werewolf trainee who looks like Fabio and a vampire who looks like James Dean and dresses like Leonard Cohen. This isn’t just a rivalry for affection, but one with blood, teeth, and ancient animosities. And rabid fan clubs.
Edward Cullen, the vampire who can definitely see himself in the mirror, quickly makes like a bat and flies off. That drives a wooden stake through parts of the film. Unfortunately, it is star Robert Pattinson who provides the wood – the cool sense of removal that made him such an elusive attraction last time here makes him seem cold and distant.
Bella dries her tears on the newly buff shoulders of the affably irrelevant teen wolf Jacob. A romance that looked plausible when the ink was still drying on the paper is here presented more clearly only a prelude to the next chapter. While Taylor Lautner is game in trying to keep up the ruse, we know where Bella’s heart really lies: Poor Jacob never really had a chance.
While Weitz is being criticized in some quarters for various indecencies, it should be noted that the second film in the Twilight Saga looks and moves much better than the first. There are some nifty visual sequences — an impressive vampire werewolf chase set to Radiohead, and a circling time-elapse shot revealing the passing of the seasons that is damn near brilliant.
Weitz also brings a welcome touch of the Grimm. New Moon is less of a romance and more of a fairytale, and included in the revised approach is a macabre sense of humor about how, the viewers are all, ultimately, a potential dinner.
For all the minor issues a fan might have with the liberties taken with their beloved text, New Moon is nothing but enjoyable, and on first look, it is a far better film for film-lovers than the first episode in this Saga. Yet, like its central vampire, while I know it is designed to be more appealing to me, the non-teenage viewer, I therefore am slightly suspicious of my assessment. But as I am pretty sure you’re going to go and see this film anyway, please write and tell me if I am eternally right or just dead wrong...
Summit Entertainment's 'The Twilight Saga: New Moon' is in theaters nationwide now.