Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)

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Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner in The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Photo: Summit Entertainment

Assuming the audience has nothing better to do, The Twilight Saga: New Moon struggles to tell its tiny tale over the course of two hours and ten minutes as a world inhabited by vampires, werewolves and who knows what else is pushed to the side in an effort to watch as a girl is prepared to throw her life away following her vampire lover’s departure. To think they could get this film this wrong after the halfhearted first installment is something of an achievement.

Kristen Stewart returns as Bella as she pines for her golden-eye, ice cold vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Unfortunately the Cullen clan has to leave town as their immortal aging process has become something of an alarm to the small town folk of Forks, Washington and Edward won’t be sticking around. You know, for Bella’s sake.

The decision results in Bella turning her attention toward Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), the mysterious Native American boy with the overnight buff physique and habit of stripping down to his jean shorts and running off into the forest with his boys. This, of course, is due to the fact he’s a vampire-hating werewolf, but these are just minor details in the life of Bella and passed off as everyday occurrences. She’s cool with weird stuff as one of the other werewolves says.

These two previous paragraphs take up approximately the first 90 minutes of New Moon — along with briefly reintroducing a couple of loose ends from the first film to add to the running time — before things can shift to Italy, and finally get interesting for 15 minutes or so. No joke.

I’m sorry to say this, but New Moon is a bore. The characters don’t seem interested in what’s going on and director Chris Weitz seems intent on making sure the audience feels the same way. When Bella isn’t screaming in her sleep (over and over again, night after night) we are privileged enough to stare as she sits in a chair and does nothing as the months pass by. Months! And it feels like it.

If looked at as an exercise in patience, New Moon is a gem, but otherwise you are going to be nodding off fairly early. The presumed “love story” gets so bogged down in redundancy and storytelling miscues we never once care for any part of it, especially considering it is all so telegraphed there is hardly a mystery as to how it will all come to an end.

This isn’t to say New Moon hasn’t improved at all where Twilight failed. The action is a vast improvement. There’s an impressive forest chase sequence that brings back Rachelle Lefevre as the vampire Victoria, and the moments in Italy where we are introduced to the vampire coven known as the Volturi are easily the film’s stand out sequences. However, if you noticed the likes of Dakota Fanning and Michael Sheen as part of the cast don’t expect too much as Fanning gets about five words in and Sheen, while impressive as Volturi leader Aro, isn’t given nearly enough time to shine.

The effects are improved, but the same stunted performances by the disinterested Stewart, the waxy bore that is Pattinson and the amateurish turn by Lautner are all still present. Even Billy Burke playing Bella’s father, the lone standout from the first film, is turned into a stiff. The life was sucked out of New Moon either by the lack of story or by the inability of Weitz to tap into any kind of real energy. However, to be fair, the story is so weak it didn’t stand much of a chance and certainly not for more than two hours.

Fans of Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling teen-vampire franchise were tolerant of the first film, and some may have legitimately enjoyed it, but I can’t help but wonder how long they can remain interested if the filmed adaptations continue to disappoint.

GRADE: D+