Director:Chris Weitz Release Date: 20 November Review by Lindsay Robertson New Moon is an improvement on Twilight. However, this is a bit like saying oral herpes is preferable to genital herpes. I had every intention to compose a fair and objective review of the latest instalment in The Twilight Saga; however the unfortunate experience of being confined in a darkened cinema with a particularly rabid sect of “Team Jacob” may have upset the balance somewhat. Perhaps if the bourbon in my hip flask had held out until the second half, the ordeal would have been less traumatic (actually I doubt that anything less drastic than a frontal lobotomy would have made for a pleasant experience). Still, the point is that I survived and can now warn the rest of the population who might be wondering what all the fuss is about. For the record, I would like to state that I’m not about to jump the Twilight/Stephanie Meyer bashing wagon for the sake of an easy target. I’ll throw my hands in the air and say that I read the books. Yes, all four of them. Call it morbid curiosity or whatever you want, but I read the books and what’s more I didn’t hate them. I’m not about to claim that it’s quality literature or even that there’s anything inspired or clever about the series, however there was a compulsion to find out what was going to happen next. The story reads as thinly veiled wish fulfilment and the level of self indulgence only reachable during a person’s teenage years but I wasn’t pretending it was anything else. Besides, it serves as a reminder of how it feels to be in a high school romance and for this purpose it reads with a sense of honesty, kind of like Mills & Boon for the pallid youngster albeit with a supernatural twist and a bit more heart. But I digress – we’re talking about New Moon the movie and not the Twilight franchise as a whole. Admittedly, it feels pointless to try and separate the two.
The second film in Meyer’s vampire series, New Moon focuses on the love triangle between the human Bella Swan, vampire Edward Cullen and werewolf Jacob Black. (In order to save the Twilight fans the bother, I’m aware that Jacob and the rest of the pack are not technically werewolves – I read Breaking Dawn. I also don’t give a toss. As far as the film’s audience is concerned, he’s a werewolf okay?) I would have put a spoiler alert before Jacob’s species was listed but this would seem a little redundant as 1. It’s shown in the trailer 2. It’s referred to constantly up until that point and 3. In spite of Bella’s surprise at the revelation she was more or less told this IN THE FIRST DAMN MOVIE! Anyway New Moon, as the title’s lunar phase suggests, tells of the darkest period in Bella’s life as her first love tears himself from her world with barely any warning. She finds some solace in her blossoming friendship with the freshly buffed up Jacob, who becomes a werewolf – the antithesis of the vampire race. Bella also becomes something of an adrenaline junkie as she attempts to fill the void left by Edward’s absence, leading to a misunderstanding among the Cullen family that she has taken her own life out of sorrow. A race against time ensues to stop Edward doing likewise, complicated by the romantic feelings that have emerged between Bella and Jacob. In terms of production, New Moon is a far superior film to its predecessor Twilight. This is not the highest form of praise as some of the effects in Twilight were downright terrible, not just for the film’s relatively small budget but even for a low budget TV series filmed in the early nineties. It’s true to say that good effects do not make the film but these were just plain ridiculous. In New Moon most of the worst ones have been ironed out (the vampire run in particular, which originally looked like something from The Muppets) but some of the new creations look altogether uninspired. The wolf forms appear flat and unrealistic, especially the more significant characters for some reason. Apart from the special effects there are at least a few nice visual touches to break the monotony of the film, such as the Italy scenes and the ‘3 months pass’ sequence, but there’s just not enough to keep the audience’s attention. Unless the audience is comprised of pre-teen girls still reeling from a glimpse of a semi-nude pretty boy, in which case this may be something of a moot point. New Moon certainly flows better than Twilight but again this is bound to draw a favourable comparison as the first movie had the feel of a poorly edited high school film project. At the very least New Moon feels more like a movie, but when this actually seems like a compliment then there’s not much to be said for the franchise. The dialogue still feels clunky for the most part and the motivation behind some of the lines and actions of the characters seems questionable at best. Conflicts frequently arise totally without prompt, presumably just to give the scene some fleeting moment of interest. Saying that, “interest” should be read as “imminent adolescent hissy fit” (usually amounting to absolutely nothing) and these parts only stand out against the rest of the scene because up until then everything’s been so uneventful. The driving force behind the novel, for the majority of these scenes, is the emotional experience depicted in a no-holds-barred manner through the narrative – this just doesn’t translate well to film. All that we’re left with is a series of sequences filled with longing looks and extended silences, between which little else seems to happen. In a movie centred on vampires, giant wolves and adrenaline sports this seems unlikely but you’d be forgiven for thinking the action scenes were only filmed to have something to put in the trailers. For a movie built around a love triangle, the central characters come off as very weak indeed. Ever wonder why there are no “Team Bella” shirts on the market? Because she’s barely a character in this movie - if anything she’s more of a human narrative/plot device. The powerful emotions she is supposed to be undergoing (loss, abandonment, rejection) barely come across, not even when she’s hurling herself off the edge of a cliff. Edward is barely present for the duration, save for the odd ghostly appearance in Bella’s mind when she’s about to do something stupid (I thought he wasn’t allowed to apparate until his senior year at Hogwarts), each time feeling like a wink to the Edward fangirls to say “don’t worry - he’s still in this movie”. Jacob manages a lot of openly cheesy lines with tongue-in-cheek delivery but seems to exist for the sole purpose of whipping his shirt off at the drop of a hat (as the squealing herd of Jacob fan-girls in the cinema confirmed by bursting my eardrum afresh whenever he appeared onscreen. Oh God, the pain!). As for the relationships between these characters, Edward and Bella come across as stoic and unconvincing for the best part, with the reunion scene acting as the high point, in that it’s the only moment where the couple’s emotional intensity is visible at all. Around Jacob, Bella is portrayed a bit of a manipulative hussy. I’m not saying that a platonic relationship between a boy and girl is not possible, neither am I saying that she’s “leading him on” by spending time with him... but does she have to touch his bare chest quite so much? I’d forgive young Mr Black and his lupine brotherhood for using the phrases “mixed signals” and “almighty prick tease”.
The supporting cast are a mixed bag. There’s just not enough onscreen time for the recurring characters to develop any as it’s been taken up by all the long drawn out silences between the principle trio. Guaranteed that when Eclipse is released and any of the Cullen Coven bar Edward, Alice and (possibly) Carlisle receives a mention, there will be a considerable percentage of the audience asking “Who?” The high school clique is a ludicrous and at times vile caricature of the way a middle aged focus group might imagine teens to behave (hint: no teenager in the history of education has referred to Romeo and Juliet as “R and J”, not even in the wake of the Baz Luhrmann interpretation). However, a few entertaining bits of acting can be salvaged from the wreckage that is New Moon. The scenes with the Volturi (head honcho vampire squad) are probably the most entertaining in the film, with Michael Sheen appearing to relish every moment of being a vampire (ironically after playing a werewolf in Underworld) and Dakota Fanning enjoying her most unsettling role since I Am Sam. I must add that Harry Clearwater (Graham Greene) and his deadpan style did make me laugh for the few lines that he spoke, yet this would not have stood out in any other film. The few tolerable moments in New Moon are actually quite jarring to see as the rest of the movie is so terribly dull and, more than often, cringe worthy. Criticising The Twilight Saga seems akin to shooting fish in a barrel and I’ve been trying my damndest not to sink to that level. We were all teenagers once and the world once seemed like it revolved around our relationships, romantic or otherwise, so this has to be taken into account. All things considered, Meyer’s novels can be passed off as a guilty pleasure but New Moon the movie is just plain awful. In trying to say something complimentary about it just for the sake of balance, the barrel (the one with the dead fish? Never mind) must be thoroughly scraped and there’s little to be found at the bottom but the words “not as bad as Twilight”. Still, I can’t say there’s nothing to relate to – personally I’m bound to find myself waking in the night during a fit of screams, Bella Swan style, at several points over the next few years. Only because there are two more films to go. Rating: 2/10