The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner
Director: Chris Weitz
There was an outcry among teenaged girls last winter when Summit Entertainment announced it was replacing independent filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke, director of the wildly successful Twilight, with Chris Weitz, co-director of college fartbag flick American Pie. How could a male director, infamous for abandoning then rejoining the box office failure Golden Compass in 2007, possibly know how to bring a gushy teen romance to the silver screen?
Perhaps a man's touch was pivotal to bringing New Moon, the second instalment of the four-part Twilight franchise, away from Twilight's single-minded love story and into the more complicated sequel of a lonely girl forced to choose between her immature lover and her dependable best friend.
New Moon begins with some unintended humour as Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart, right with Edi Gathegi) frets over her 'old age': she's turning 18, and officially looking a year older than her never-ageing vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Bella reluctantly attends a birthday party thrown by the Cullen family, where she gets a paper cut and narrowly escapes a fatal chomp from Edward's bloodthirsty, newly 'vegetarian' brother, Jasper (Jackson Rathbone).
Distraught by his brother's behaviour, Edward dumps Bella and disappears in hopes of giving her a normal life. This leaves Bella in a depressive funk, as she is reluctant to forget about her lover despite pleas from her sheriff father and clueless school friends. Then Bella discovers she can see visions of Edward when engaging in reckless behaviour, which Stewart pursues with eerie conviction.
Then along comes Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), Bella's childhood friend, whose sunny disposition and attentiveness slowly drag Bella out of her annoying self pity. Watching their friendship blossom into whispers of co-dependent romance is the most satisfying part of the film (followed closely by Lautner's eight-pack abs). Stewart's sullen expression suits her moody character perfectly, while Lautner's wholesome buoyancy is so winsome he has enticed many women to Camp Jacob.
At this point, a miscommunication leads to Edward thinking Bella has killed herself, so he flies to Italy where the vampire royalty, the Volturi, can grant his death wish. Bella flies (by plane) after him. Her devotion is tested when she encounters villainous vampires Aro (played by Frost/Nixon's Michael Sheen) and Jane (Dakota Fanning), who are corrupted by supernatural powers.
For better and for worse, New Moon has lost all traces of the budget-constrained, independent filmmaking edge of Twilight, which reportedly had less than half the budget. There is plenty to admire from a cinematographic point of view, with Spain's Javier Aguirresarobe (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) replacing Hardwicke's blue-toned colour palette with vivid colours from the woods of Vancouver and Italy.
The film is filled with incredulous lines such as Edward's, 'You're my only reason to stay alive' and Bella's, 'I'm not like a car that you can fix up ... I'm never going to run right'. Cringe. But to enjoy New Moon like a true Twi-hard, those obsessive fans whom Weitz has singled out as his target audience, will require one to recall one's inner, emo teen.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon opens today