Nov 20 2009 3:32pm

Review: New Moon

There’s a moment early in New Moon where Edward walks up to Bella in painfully-extended slow motion for their morning “No, I love you more”s. Proto-werewolf Jacob Black materializes to wish Bella a happy birthday. As Bella and Jacob talk, Edward stands a few feet away, glowering; when Bella hugs Jacob goodbye, Jacob makes a face at Edward over Bella’s utterly oblivious head, as music pounds behind them all.

This pretty much sets the tone for New Moon, a sequel to last year’s angsty steamroller, Twilight. Twilight was unevenly acted, awkwardly constructed, and so blue-tinted it might have been filmed through a bottle of Windex.

New Moon is worse.

Part of this disaster, admittedly, is not the fault of the filmmakers. The pushcart plot that teetered along carefully in the Twilight novel begins to wobble off the rails almost immediately in New Moon, as the series removes the pivotal Cullens from Forks, introduces a werewolf pack, retcons a powerful coven of vampires who live in Italy (come for the pasta, stay…for eternity, muahahaha!), and pulls two of Twilights feral vampires back into the mix.

Even with all Twilights flaws (and oh, they were legion), Catherine Hardwicke did manage to catch the kernel of the story—the teenage obsession with something better, more devoted than what life usually provides—and build a film that didn’t exceed its scope. In Hardwicke’s hands, the story was about a girl who falls in love with the Best High School Boy Ever, with some bad vampires handwaved into the last twenty minutes just to coast through a conflict on the way out.

New Moons kernel is the story of a girl whose entire life revolves around having a boy in it, and when the one she loves skips town, she takes up with the one she knows is waiting in the wings, until she can convince the other one to reappear. It’s a pretty tough sell, so I can understand where director Chris Weitz tried to up the Epic Storytelling ante in an attempt to give the movie some scope. However, if you’re going to do that, you should be good at it, and the last epic Weitz made was The Golden Compass. (Awkwaaaard.)

Weitz peppers the film with dream sequences that look like perfume-ad parodies; he blasts the soundtrack under dull shots to try to establish mood; he paints his leading man chalk-white only to the jaw, then gives him a ghostly apparition that looks like a Scooby-Doo villain; he creates werewolves whose close-ups are expressive but who move like the Heat Miser. (As if to distract from their wolf forms, he makes sure each pack member has a limitless supply of cutoff jeans - and no shirts. Werewolf packs don’t give a crap about your fast-food guidelines, okay, McDonald’s?)

Once, by accident, Weitz stumbles on a cinematic sequence, in which vampire baddie Victoria gets chased through the forest by the pack of werewolves. The scene has an otherworldly quality that suggests the true scope of this conflict. Luckily, that never goes anywhere, so we’re in no danger of sitting through a good film.

Weitz’s birthday-party-magician efforts to impress are palpable; however, it takes nothing away from the essential repulsiveness of the three characters at its center. Bella gets dumped by Edward (for her own safety, naturally), and spends thirty minutes grieving via night fits normally seen in three-year-olds. Edward’s spirit appears at random intervals to scold her like she actually is one. Jacob wants her to be his girlfriend—except it’s too dangerous—except she’d better not go back to Edward Cullen or else. Thank goodness her vampire BFF Alice shows up to bring Bella back to poor Edward before Bella has to stand up for herself!

Sadly, that’s not even an exaggeration; the underlying misogyny of the first movie has dropped all pretense, and is backpedaling to 1550 full speed ahead. Bella is a cipher, defined entirely by whichever male character is currently trying to dictate her behavior. And it doesn’t stop there! Of the two female characters introduced in the film, one is vampire Jane, a baby-faced Volturi enforcer, and the only character who calls its leader “Master.” The other is Emily, girlfriend of werewolf-pack leader Sam, who bears a faceful of scars from a time she made Sam angry and he turned into a werewolf and attacked her. The anecdote is told with sympathy—for Sam, whose guilt is presented as the tragedy of the incident. (I don’t know what to tell you; I just report the news.)

There are some bright spots in the form of supporting characters like snarky Jessica, disgusted with Bella, and goofy Mike, mocked at movie night when he can’t handle excessive violence and gore (like a real man should!). Meanwhile, Michael Sheen (an excellent actor who has a bad habit of saying yes to anyone who hands him a check) swans through his scenes as vampire leader Aro with the finger-licking delight of a Tim Curry University alumnus who’s confident no one will hold this film against him. Normally he would be wrong; however, when the three leads deliver performances so stilted they’d get you kicked out of a high school play, Sheen’s gleeful hamminess is a welcome relief.

New Moon, an uneasy balance between small-scale love story and chapter of a larger vampire/werewolf arc, handles neither well; the good news is, it ends up the funniest movie of the year. Weitz, you’ve succeeded at last!

Genevieve went to the midnight show. The derisive laughter from the die-hard fans was music to her ears, and almost made up for the people who stampeded when the theatre opened.

Dayle McClintock
1. trinityvixen
Meanwhile, Michael Sheen (an excellent actor who has a bad habit of saying yes to anyone who hands him a check) swans through his scenes as vampire leader Aro with the finger-licking delight of a Tim Curry University alumnus who’s confident no one will hold this film against him.

And we won't. I can't even hold Rise of the Lycans against him. He's far too adorable. His good projects are good, but his bad projects (with the exception of New Moon because no good can come from anything Stephanie Meyer had a hand in) are FABULOUS. No really, Rise of the Lycans. He had sex with Rhona Mitra on top of a castle while his top half was hanging over the side. I can't make up the stuff this man is able to make watchable. (Again, with the caveat that not even making the only other option "or death" makes anything Twilight watchable.)
2. Chimera
Ok -- that part about "come for the pasta, stay... for Eternity" had me laughing out loud and showing it to people I work with. At a public library. On a public desk. Lucky for us, it was a slow time, so only 2 people looked up when we all started laughing.

Great reading!
Richard Fife
3. R.Fife
Miss Valentine, thank you (as ever if tacitly then) for bringing some good from the indelibly bad. I almost might go watch New Moon (which would actually require that I watch Twilight first) solely to have this snark sitting in the back of my head while I watched it.
4. Michey
It sounds like you have a problem more with the plot of the book than the movie. If you don't like the plot, that's not Chris Weitz's fault for aligning closely with the book. Also, it's awful mysoginistic of YOU to assume that Bella can't have friends that are just boys and it always has to be romantic. Drawing a line between her inability (in your opinion) to have boy friends and her ability to have girl friends is a complete chauvinistic move.
Rikka Cordin
5. Rikka
I laughed more than I should, which is kind of the theme for Twilight so far.

My friends are going to see New Moon this weekend and have told me they are not inviting me because I will ruin it by laughing but damn if these aren't the best comedies I've seen in a while. (Also, I see no reason to pay for entrance to the movie theater, that would make it seem that I enjoy them as drama! D:)

Can they just make Twilight porn and call it done?
Michael Curry
6. mcurry
@Michey: Errr...Genevieve was talking about Bella letting herself be defined by men (namely Edward and Jacob), not about whatever it is you read into it all about Bella somehow not being allowed to be just friends with men or needing female friends.
Richard Fife
7. R.Fife
@4 Michey

First off, what @6 said, also:

Bella is a fictional character, which means she /is/ what we see on the page or the screen. If she is presented as only having interactions that suppress any individuality in herself, then that is who she is. That is to say, "Labeling" and "Stereotyping" in fiction are done* by the author, not the reader.

* For the most part, I guess if one was to have a discussion that trespassed into the realm of Fanfic where you are presuming what a character would do in a situation, that is different, but at the same time, that makes the reader the author now. So... yeah.
Mitchell Downs
8. Beamish
Twilight was unevenly acted, awkwardly constructed, and so blue-tinted it might have been filmed through a bottle of Windex.

New Moon is worse.

Now I know I have to see New moon. I recently sat through Twilight for the first time and laughed until I cried. Your three point summary is brilliant and to know that New Moon ratchets up the awfulness makes me giddy with anticipation.

And I will fully throw my endorsement behind the "Michael Sheen Can Do No Wrong" argument. His presence in this move can only heighten the acting awfulness of the leads.
Richard Fife
9. R.Fife
Also, just cause I can: Bel(l)a is a Darkfriend.

Chuk Goodin
10. Chuk
My daughters were watching Twilight on TV last night and even they asked me "Why is everything so blue?" (They are 9 and 12).
Alejandro Melchor
11. Al-X
My sister and I just came out of watching 9 and walked past a New Moon still with the baddie vampires. We laughed all the way to the parking lot...
Elizabeth Coleman
12. elizabethcoleman
@5 Can they just make Twilight porn and call it done?

Hate to say it, but it's already out there, and it ain't even the quality Hustler variety.
13. cytherea
@9 Bel(l)a is a Darkfriend

You, my friend, win the thread. XD
14. Graceo
I also saw this last night, at a special screening arranged as a joint effort by two of the student organizations at the high school where I teach. So I got to see it before midnight (which was nice, because I had to get up and teach this morning). I think if I had watched it by myself I would have hated it, but sitting in a theater with 450 wildly over-enthusiastic students, I could see why they liked it.

Given the source material, the movie offered some surprising moments of insight into adolescent relationships. Bella's attempts to appear to be socializing normally are met with adorable skepticism from her cadre of hipster human friends, most notably Jessica, whose adorable deconstruction of the Zombie genre helped this thing pass the Bechdel test. The shot of Bella sitting stiffly with her arms crossed in a movie theater between Mike and Jacob, who are both casually resting their hands, palm up, on the armrests beside her, was priceless.

I think one of the privileges of adulthood is the possibility of forming stable and satisfying romantic relationships. Adolescents really struggle with that. I know that, for me, even though I work with teenagers every day, it can be hard to remember why their relationships are so fraught and why they keep doing the same stupid things that people have been doing in life and literature since time began. New Moon has some respect for that specific brand of adolescent angst (and the supernatural elements grant it a sense of importance).

On the other hand, there's a moment at the beginning of the film where Edward kisses Bella, and I think he's probably supposed to be struggling with the urge to bite her, but he looks like he's just realized that he's going to have to have his pants dry-cleaned. There's a moment when Edward takes off his shirt. Both of these moments were met with derision by the audience I was with. I don't think they swallowed the movie whole. I hope the presentation of Emily's injury was one of the parts they rejected, but I couldn't tell from today's discussions which mostly revealed a lot of converts to Team Jacob.
15. CPike
I absolutely agree that New Moon lacked the romance that was so heavily portrayed in Twilight. It is always hard, and nearly impossible to compare Stephanie Meyer's books to the movies; but at least in Twilight my heart fluttered like how it did when I read the book. In watching New Moon, I came prepared with a box of tissues, and yet it felt more like a comedy. Tragic, because in the book, I felt sad, it brought me back to my memories of my first heart break. In the movie, I couldn't channel the love and extreme, almost insane, passion Bella and Edward have for each other. Edward leaving Bella should have made my heart break into a thousand pieces. And the use of the soundtrack to try to set the mood was disappointing. Overall, I feel cheated. I wanted to experience what I did the first time. I blame it on the director for lack of passion, has he ever been heart broken??? So sad.
16. Brad21088
I don't know, I enjoyed the movie. I haven't read the books, but the movie was pretty entertaining (and I will definitely disagree that New Moon was worse than Twilight. That movie suuuuuuucked, no pun intended). It had flashy special effects, attractive "actors" (for the most part, the acting IS pretty terrible), and a semi-coherent plot. It wasn't the best thing I've ever seen, and I certainly laughed at a few parts that weren't supposed to be funny, but it was an entertaining experience.

Oh, and I don't know that I agree with you about the part about Emily and Sam. I thought the point was that, being a werewolf, it's so much harder to control your strength than it is for humans. But maybe I'm missing something?
jazz tigan
17. tredeger
I got to see this with some jaded adults (who worked on the wolves). Lots of laughter all around as we watched those kids act really hard. My favorite moment is during the clever montage when they rebuild the bikes and Bella tosses Jacob a slice of pizza which then cuts to him catching a wrench. Before my brain thought "oh, weird artsy montage cut", it thought "hey, is turning pizza into steel tools a werewolf super power?" then it thought "hey, she just threw a slice of pizza at that guy like it was a frisbee. Wait, who does that?" That montage should have a 'potential anurism if you think about it too much' warning. Actually, maybe the whole film. And yet, fun.
Melissa Ann Singer
18. masinger
My 13-yo daughter was very entertaining when she came home after seeing this and ranted about the movie's flaws and ills.

My favorite comment of hers was about the period of Bella's mourning, where she sits on the bed and the camera spirals around her for several months . . . dd said she whispered to her friends, "I don't care how depressed you are, CHANGE YOUR OUTFIT!"
19. Kara Noir
The movie is just as bad as the book. My BF say's its worse.

We were talking on the phone once and I asked "Well, writer's change. Maybe the writing got better -" the next day she had the chance to go to the store, she picked it up and read the prologue, and she told me later "No, it still sucks."

This review just sinches it for me. I all ready vowed off anyhing that even remotly had to do with Twilight. Instead, I went against what people were telling me and started read Ann Rice's "The Vampire Chronicles". My favorite being Lestat and I really love the movie 'Interview with a Vampire Even though Louis puts Lestat in a bad ligh, for the character, it is reasonable.

The next thing I hate about Twilight is that all the characters, at least Edward and Bella, are Mary Sues. I despise the Mary-Sue-Syndrome and I refuse to read it in my fan fic, so why the heck would I pick up some book, with horrible writing and Mary Sues dacing all over the place?

AND - where the heck did the 'Strong female' characer go? hello! Sure, Elizabeth Swann started out as a Damsel in Distress, but you have to admit that there was a lot of character growth for her, between the first POTC movie and the last one. She became the Pirate King with one extra vote from Captain Jack Sparrow! She's a strong character because she never has to ask Will if he loves her, she's assured of it, and even though they have their moments of dubts, its normal for any relationship.

If you pit Bella against Elizabeth anyday, Elizabth would win! Bella is just a girl who's been taught that she needs a man to define her (hahahaha!) and Edward has Pedophilic tendencies. 0_o*

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