Directed by Chris Weitz
You probably needn’t have read the book to know the general plot of the sequel by now, but it opens with Bella worrying about aging while being romantically involved with an immortal vampire. Edward refuses to change her, and an incident at a birthday party thrown for Bella’s birthday reminds us all why vampires and humans shouldn’t mix. Edward and his family leave Forks, Washington in order to protect Bella from themselves. After months of hiding out in her house moping over the break-up, Bella starts hanging out with her Native American friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner), who also has fallen in love with her, and she starts being more reckless, after realizing that she has visions of Edward whenever she’s in danger, one of the ideas introduced in “New Moon” that reinforces the idea that author Stephenie Meyers is literally throwing every idea she has at the wall to see if any of it sticks.
The writing is godawful, trite cliché ridden, and not even up to the par of most soap operas, and despite his “American Pie” roots, Weitz doesn’t have Hardwicke’s chops at pulling strong performances out of the cast of young actors. One might excuse some of it, since Weitz was essentially stuck with the cast hired by Hardwicke for her film, a similar challenge faced by the various directors of the “Harry Potter” series who actually worked harder to turn that cast into great actors, but Weitz isn’t able to get any of the leads to step up their game even a little from the first movie.
The grueling pace of all the incessant and mostly unnecessary exposition and drama might not be so bad if Kristen Stewart could pull any of it off with even the slightest amount of emotion. Instead, we have to endure over two hours of her moping, mumbling lines through gritted teeth in the same bored monotone she seems to be incapable of getting away from, putting big gaps in every statement in order to try to give them weight. Pattinson’s presence in the movie at the beginning, end and in Bella’s visions, mainly consists of him standing around with an ever-present smirk, casually delivering a few lines with very little gusto. In just two movies, he’s been relegated to eye candy for teen girls to swoon over rather than a character anyone else could truly care about.
Taylor Lautner wasn’t very good in his small role in the first movie, but his role has been expanded to create another leg in Bella’s supernatural love triangle. It’s more than a little odd when we see the long-haired Jacob cozying up with Bella at a movie theater then a few minutes later, he’s sporting cropped hair, walking around shirtless (as he’ll be for the rest of the movie) and looking and acting completely different. We have absolutely no idea how much time has passed, but apparently, it’s been months, something we learn in conversation about how Jacob has fallen in with a bad seed from his tribe named Sam who is leading a band of werewolves in a crusade against vampires who breach their treaty by entering Forks.
While not even mentioned in the first movie, the shirtless Wolf Pack are everywhere in the sequel, as they try to protect Forks from all these invading vampires. Fortunately, they look far more menacing in their wolf form than any of the vampires, but the action choreography is weak and sloppy, not that we spend more than a few minutes in action mode, before we’re right back to more talking and exposition.
The film gets infinitely more interesting when Bella travels to Italy to stop the despondent Edward from committing suicide after he thinks Bella has been killed, allowing us to admire the strongest additions to the cast: Michael Sheen as the head of the Volturi, sort of a vampire Pope at the head of a vampire Mafia, while Dakota Fanning is particularly underused, saying a few lines and showing her powers then done. Who knows why the talented actress thought that was a good career move after starring as the lead in countless movies? Neither of them have very much to do until roughly the last half hour of the movie, but they’re easily a leap above the rest of the cast.
In trying to remain faithful to the source material, “New Moon” allows for a lot of unnecessary fat in the storytelling. Rachel LeFevre’s Victoria is back so briefly, going after Bella now that the Cullens aren’t around to protect her, that one wonders why she’s even in the movie. (She’s actually quite good in those brief moments, so why is she being replaced for the third movie?) The cast was already fairly unwieldy for the first movie, and the amount of time Bella spends with her human friends does nothing for the overall story, except to add some weak comic relief, which feels completely out of place with the dark romantic tone of the rest of the movie. Because the story is meant to be about the love triangle between Bella, Edward and Jacob, there is no need for another love interest to be introduced as Bella’s friend Mike also spends much of the movie looking at her all moon-eyed. One starts to wonder whether the blatant “Romeo and Juliet” references early in the movie are meant as a boast about Meyers replacing Shakespeare’s classic love story in young girls’ hearts?
To her credit, Hardwicke created a gorgeous looking movie that greatly took advantage of the Vancouver locations where it was shot, and the music was used well. While “New Moon” has an impressive soundtrack album, most of the pop-rock tunes don’t mesh as well with the visuals or what is taking place in the story, making it clear that Weitz may not have been the best match for the franchise.
To add insult to injury, we don’t even get an entire story; like in Weitz’s “The Golden Compass,” the movie ends with a cliffhanger. Not that any of the fans will care since they’ll patiently wait the seven months for the continuation whether they like this installment or not.
The Bottom Line: