Friday, November 20, 2009

Review - The Twilight Saga: New Moon

In the second story within The Twilight Saga, Edward and the rest of the Cullen's leave Forks Washington after an minor accident that could have costed Bella her life. Edward decides that being away from Bella is the safest thing for her and travels to Italy staying with an ancient clan of vampires known as the Volturi. In his absence, Bella becomes severally depressed leaving her only to find solace in reckless living and her childhood friend Jacob. Jacob and Bella's relationship however, becomes strained when Jacob is pushed into becoming a part of his tribes protective clan of werewolves who are hunting vampires, Victoria and Laurent, still seeking retribution from James death. Back in Italy, Edward believes that Bella has died and seeks to rid himself of his immortality, a decision that will forever change Bella and Edward's relationship.

Before giving you all my thoughts on "New Moon" I thought it important to explain my initial reservations about the entire Twilight Saga. Frankly, I hate the books. On the surface they are nothing but a teenage romance novel at it's worst. I read the half of the first book and just could not stomach all of the Danielle Steele dribble spewing from it's pages. That doesn't mean I discredit the millions of fans who love the books, they just aren't for me.

When "Twilight" released last year in November, I steered clear figuring if I hated the book, then I'd hate the film. All that changed however after a friend of mine saw the film and began to re-build my interest. I later saw the film and enjoyed it. I still had a lot of problems with the dialogue, not to mention the stiff performances by Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, but enjoyed the mythos and a new perspective on vampires and werewolves. Yes, it is okay for vampires to sparkle! Since then, my intrigue for The Twilight Saga films is a whole different beast. I have grown ecstatic about seeing "New Moon" so much so, I even contemplated buying a Team Jacob t-shirt to show off my loyalties.

While I enjoyed Twilight, I loved "New Moon." It is a superior film in every way. It takes the setup from the first film and runs with it, granted, Twilight has a ton of setup between Edward and Bella's relationship. "New Moon" has some of the same with Bella and Jacob, however here in "New Moon," it flows much better. This can be accredited to Taylor Lautner's performance, which feels far more natural than Robert Pattinson's stiff persona as Edward Cullen. Also credit, Chris Weitz for pulling the right tone and performances from all of his actors, something that I felt Catherine Hardwicke failed miserably at in Twilight.

Director Chris Weitz and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg are able to minimize a lot of the cheesy dialogue and while it isn't gone, it feels very much toned down compared with the last film. Time after time in Twilight, I found myself chuckling at dialogue delivered, but here in "New Moon" the only laughs come from dialogue intended to do so. This could have a lot to do with that fact that Edward and Bella's screen time together is very minimal in "New Moon." Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) is in a constant struggle between his emotions or love for Bella and his urges to feed on her blood. Pattinson has never played this well. He has always looked like he has an upset stomach while fighting these urges, which does make for unintended comic relief in moments.

Kristen Stewart does an able job as Bella Swan. Stewart seemed more relaxed in the role than her previous effort. Whether it was director Chris Weitz ability to pull the right performance out of her or Stewart's own acting abilities, she seemed to have a far stronger control to the range of emotion necessary for Bella's character. Bella's father Charlie, played by Billy Burke is once again a great character and a charming performance. I love the father/daughter scenario's that are played out between them and furthermore Burke, nails those awkward moments between him and his daughter. It should be noted that as a father, I embellish the fact that The Twilight Saga isn't all about sex. It takes a refreshing approach to teenage sexuality, unlike too much of television and films today.

Being a Team Jacob loyalist, I have to express my love of the wolf pack! The Quileute tribe has always been my favorite aspect of The Twilight Saga and the build up of them is spot on. All of the actors cast as members of the wolf pack are great and do an able job in their performances. Particularly Taylor Lautner (Jacob Black), Kiowa Gordon (Embry Call) and Chaske Spencer (Sam Uley). I will say that the CGI animation done on the werewolves could have been better refined, but overall their look is right on with the books. Each of the wolves are very domineering and I really got a kick out of each one of the battle sequences throughout the 130 minute running time.

Despite "New Moon" having a longer running time than Twilight, it moves much faster rate than the previous slow burn. The action within "New Moon" plays a huge part in that. In Twilight, we were limited to tree jumping and baseball for our action, where as here, there are several battles between the wolf pack and vampires or vampires amongst themselves. All of the sequences are thrilling with a strong sense of intensity. So much so, they had me shouting out loud along with numerous other theater goers during a few of the heated battles.

Technically "New Moon" is beautiful. I love the Pacific Northwest setting and cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe does a fantastic job capturing it's beauty. He does retain a bit too much of the 360 degree angles circling Bella and Edward (or this time around Bella and Jacob), but overall the cinematography seemed far superior when compared with it's predecessor. It should be noted that all of the footage shot on location in Italy is stunning.

On the subject of Italy, I loved the Volturi, but I wanted more. There wasn't enough of them. That said, I know that this was merely a build up, something that we will see more of in the future. I just hope Summit Entertainment is able to retain both Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning, who were wicked in their performances as Aro and Jane.

Finally "New Moon" is everything I could have hoped for in a sequel. It upped the ante. It developed a majority of the supporting characters in connectable ways, while still leaving room for more. It was thrilling and did a fine job of retaining all the emotional themes outlined in the books. It breaks the mold in vampire and werewolf mythology, without becoming unrecognizable. In the end, "New Moon" is a perfect mix of romance and action, one that I would watch again and again.


wow, you really dug it, huh? i def liked it more than the first one, but still think this series is weak. i chalk a lot of that up to the source material, though. the direction here was better, but there's still something oddly stilting about the TWILIGHT franchise as a whole. maybe it's summit, maybe the producers, who knows. they still need better writers to adapt this pap, but at least they found a decent actor in jacob. mothafucka was scene-stealing, for sure. really dug the soundtrack for the most part and desplat's score, but thought the final bit in italy felt very much like the unnecessary 4th act (aka "MISSION CUBA") in BAD BOYS II.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed it honestly. I hate the source material and totally agree better writing would make the series even better. I thought it was a perfect transition from the first film. It had some solid setup and expended the story with enough intrigue. Ironically, I wanted more of Italy and the Volturi, could've been a whole separate film.