Friday, November 30, 2012

The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009) - Is it Possible to Please the Fans?

Twilight New Moon
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009).

After the release of "Twilight" in 2008, a common refrain from many fans was, "It's not enough like the book!" Movies are very time-limited, so it's difficult to cram a long and winding story into just a few films, a heretofore typical trilogy. Given the huge success of that first movie, though, Summit Entertainment quickly revised its plans and added a couple of additional sequels to the two that it had planned originally. This resulted in a total of five "Twilight" films in all. These, the executives figured, would be sufficient to satisfy the fans and tell the story of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and (Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). This was a daring decision: if the screenwriter (an overworked ) couldn't plot out a somewhat faithful version of 's remaining books in four more films, well, she just couldn't be trying that hard. Most people think she succeeded. However, expanding the series had its risks: if public interest in the saga flagged, it also could turn into a disaster.

Twilight New Moon
Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black in "The Twilight Saga: New Moon."

The studio thus hurried out the films one after another on a rigid annual schedule, hoping to capture the mania before it faded like all manias do. Due to this decision, many fans think that this sequel, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" (2009) is much more faithful to the source material than was the original film. Based on the successful business results of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," Summit's decision to expand the series was wildly successful.

Ashley Greene and Kristen Stewart talking in The Twilight Saga: New Moon 2009
Ashley Greene and Kristen Stewart in "The Twilight Saga: New Moon."

This time around, Bella is worried about getting older while her love, vampire Edward, always stays young like Dorian Gray. With her feelings already shaky, an accident at her birthday party causes her to bleed, sending Edward's brother, Jasper (Jackson Rathbone), into a feeding frenzy. Seeing where this was all going - or not going - Edward abruptly ends the relationship and the Cullen clan leaves Forks, Washington.

Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner in The Twilight Saga: New Moon 2009
Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart.

Edward's departure sends Bella into an orgy of self-pity, and she secluded herself and lost all of her zest for life (or what passed for that, for Bella as played by Stewart is a singularly dour person even in the best of times). After a threat of banishment from her dad (Billy Burke), Bella agrees to go out. Unfortunately, every time she does anything remotely dangerous, she sees visions of Edward warning her to be careful.

Charlie Bewley and Ashley Greene in The Twilight Saga: New Moon 2009

Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) becomes Bella's special friend as she responds to his cheerfulness and astonishing good looks. Unfortunately, though, Taylor becomes a werewolf, the deadly enemy of vampires and begins avoiding her, though he still wants her. There is one benefit to Bella of his transformation, though: he and his pack are constantly protecting Bella from Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre), a vampire who wants to avenge herself on Bella for the death of her dead vampire beau, James. This, incidentally, is Lefevre's last appearance in the series despite the fact that her character continues, as she is replaced in the later films.

Dakota Fanning in The Twilight Saga: New Moon 2009
Rachelle Lefevre in "The Twilight Saga: New Moon."

Edward, meanwhile, hears a rumor that Bella has committed suicide. Distraught, he travels to Italy to provoke the Volturi into killing him (the Volturi being like the Murder Incorporated of vampires, sort of led by Aro (Michael Sheen)). Bella finds Alice (Ashley Greene), Edward's sister, and rushes to Italy to saver her love. However, Bella's human state proves a problem for this plan.

 Kristen Stewart and Edi Gathegi in The Twilight Saga: New Moon 2009
There are many exploitative scenes in "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" (2009).

Catherine Hardwicke bowed out after having directed the original, so Chris Weitz ("The Golden Compass") took over that duty. The two films were released so quickly, one after the other, that she didn't have time to do both.

Kristen Stewart and Peter Facinelli in The Twilight Saga: New Moon 2009

Like the first film, this was a huge financial success. It broke the record for the highest domestic one-day gross at $72.7 million. Many theaters sold out two months before the premiere. As usual, though, reactions were mixed. Some important scenes and even entire relationships had to be left out. Anyone looking for a scene-by-scene filming of the book will be disappointed. However, many would agree that it is much more faithful to the book than the first film.

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in The Twilight Saga: New Moon 2009

One could quibble with some of the acting, and non-fans might have some difficulty catching all the nuances, especially if they didn't see the first film. The fight scenes were better than in the first film, though too short, and overall the pacing was better. Pattinson and Stewart may be in love off-screen, but their chemistry on it is debatable. 

Kristen Stewart in The Twilight Saga: New Moon 2009
There are many colorful costume scenes in The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009).

Some of dialogue is a bit precious - "I didn't want to live in a world where you didn't exist" may just make you gag if you aren't a fan - and what little heat got generated was between Stewart and Lautner. The score by Alexandre Desplat was good enough (the soundtracks for these films automatically go to No. 1, and if you think that's because the songs are so timeless, well....), and the CGI was above-average.

The wolf pack shirtless in The Twilight Saga: New Moon 2009
The producers of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" know their audience, and appeal to it.

The general sense is that "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" was intended for emotionally sensitive people. All others without that sensibility are likely to feel bored. It is all about how Deeply these folks feel about each other, how Intense and Passionate and Throbbing their relationships are. It's all So Important. This is the film version of a 1970s romance novel.

So, if you want to feel deeply about Bella's pain, if her deep love resonates with you, if this intense commitment is what you want to experience vicariously, then "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" will be a ten out of ten for you and you should run, not walk, to rent or buy it. Otherwise, you likely will be bored stiff by "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" and start  making snarky comments about all the shirtless guys and the wildly emoting females. Make your decision whether to see "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" and you'll be happier in the long run.


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