10 December 2009

Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: New Moon


The Twilight Saga: New Moon
2009, 130mins, PG-13
Director: Chris Weitz
Writer (s): Melissa Rosenberg, Stephenie Meyer (novel)
Cast includes: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Anna Kendrick, Michael Sheen, Ashley Greene, Dakota Fanning
Release Date: 20th November 2009

Last year’s “Twilight” wasn’t a despicably awful motion picture but neither was it particularly good. My memories of the venture are largely those of boredom punctuated by a few instances of commendable filmmaking and two modestly effective performances by Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. Now after the big box-office haul the sequel arrives a mere one year later, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” adding a love triangle element to the already dramatic romance between its two leads. However whilst the first film had its moments “New Moon” is a consistently ghastly movie, even the teenage girls who cherish this series are unlikely to be impressed by director Chris Weitz’s terrible follow-up. I don’t hate this movie because it’s incredibly popular or because I take issue with the literature from which it is sourced, I despised it because it’s an unbelievably drab and hastily constructed cash grab.

The plot opens after the occurrences of part one, Bella (Kristen Stewart) is turning 18 and beginning to realise that whilst she grows older her vampire boyfriend Edward (Robert Pattinson) will remain forever 17. After one of Edward’s family attacks Bella following a paper cut induced moment of temptation the vampire clan leave town, leaving Bella in a fit of uncertain depression. Comforting her is Jacob (Taylor Lautner) but even he has a terrible secret to keep, he’s a werewolf, and so despite his human desire for Bella his destiny forbids him from romantically embracing her. As Edward hides away to keep his love safe and Jacob struggles to withhold his attraction from her, Bella is once again forced into a life of danger and peril as the blood feud between the two boys slowly becomes clear.

There was a time when I enjoyed Chris Weitz as a filmmaker but after disappointing with “The Golden Compass” and now outright insulting audiences with “New Moon” I fear those days may be over. I haven’t read the book on which the film is based but I doubt it’s as pompously self-interested and fanatically dull as it’s cinematic incarnation, a motion picture that incidentally is a contender for my bottom 10 of the year. The film is a vapid bore, badly written, weakly acted and directed with only an eye for dreary cinematography and moody lingering shots of sulky teen faces. At over two hours it is also unforgivably overlong, I was ready to leave the theatre after 20 minutes, so the thought of having to spend another 110 was mind bogglingly frustrating.

I actually thought Pattinson and Stewart were decent in “Twilight” but things seem to have taken a drastic turn in the last year. In “New Moon” both provide stilted and wooden performances, especially Stewart who large portions of the enterprise are utterly dependent on. She hasn’t the shoulders for such heavy lifting and things deteriorate around her at an astonishing rate. The chemistry between Pattinson and Stewart was average at best in the initial effort but at least it was something, In “New Moon” the characters seem like colourless acquaintances meeting together for about the second time. There is no spark, energy or even tragic potential in the relationship in “New Moon”, the film fluffs the central romance and so the audience can’t get invested or begin to care about the sorry excuse for a narrative. Lautner doesn’t fare much better alongside Stewart but he seems more at ease with the material, and despite copious amounts of unnecessary topless scenes, is probably the best of the key protagonists. It’s faint praise and by no means does it mean his acting is good in any proper sense of the word, but he’s considerably more kinetic and alive than Pattinson or Stewart. Elsewhere the like of Billy Burke, Ashley Greene and Anna Kendrick are forgettable in nothing roles, whilst Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning pop up amusingly as the heads of a mysterious vampire council. Both ham it up big time and at least manage to be entertaining in a cheesy and over the top sort of way.

With the love elements so disastrously hampered by the limp lead duos god awful efforts all that’s really left in “New Moon” are irregular doses of wolf and vampire action spread thinly over the pictures monstrously overwrought runtime. These scenes aren’t much better, the action is recycled and unoriginal and the technical effects are mediocre at best. As the meandering story wanders towards its perplexingly stretched and anticlimactic denouement, Weitz tries to add fizz via these lazy moments of mythical carnage and of course the obligatory broad humour that teenage girls so dearly love. Neither of these aspects appears credible let alone enjoyable; indeed it’s hard to see the appeal in this rancid mess from the first frame. It’s understandable why the first movie hit a chord, it’s fantasy of undying (and fabulously good looking) teen love tapped into an idea that the oestrogen intoxicated were bound to fall for. “New Moon” only serves to display that in actual fact young infatuation can be a rather boring and tired experience.

Visually Weitz sets a dour and permanently melancholy mood, it’s not that the movie looks amateurish but rather that the bleak atmosphere of the film only further compounds it’s listlessness. The languid pacing is an issue especially seeing as the feature actually stops rather than finding a satisfactory conclusion, and the musical accompaniment is a mixed bag. Some of the slow burning tunes played through “New Moon” suit the story nicely but unfortunately Weitz shows little diversity in his musical choices and repetition sets in with sudden and unrelenting venom. One montage which features the villainous Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre – touted as a big baddie at the end of part one but here getting about 2 minutes of screen time) fighting a wolf is nicely composed and strongly executed but otherwise it’s weary business as usual for “New Moon”.

The film attempts to cook several underlying ideas but mostly fails to make anything of them (the concept of Bella’s fear of aging starts with promise but disintegrates alarmingly fast) and as already discussed the love flat lines completely on this outing. “New Moon” is an abysmal feature with practically nothing to recommend it and is utterly undeserving of its box-office success. We only have to wait another 7 months before “Eclipse” the third film moves into theatres, and you know what, I’m dreading it already.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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