Monday, November 23, 2009

Review: The Twilight Saga: New Moon

A new moon hangs high above the dense cloud cover in Forks, Washington where Bella Swann turns eighteen, her birthday goes all wrong and Edward, who swore never to leave her, does. The contrived separation of the central couple feels as forced in the film as it did in the novel, yet from the moment of Edward’s departure, the film picks up the pace with snappier dialogue, interesting cinematography and the story of Jacob Black, Bella’s best friend who has a secret of his own.

Be wary of spoilers following the jump.


New Moon has Teeth

Young Taylor Lautner has earned many labels over the last two years. He is Sharkboy (from “Sharkboy and Lavagirl”). He’s a kid. He buffed up and put on thirty pounds of muscle to hang onto a role that takes Jacob from being a boy to a man in a short span of time. In the meanwhile, like his co-stars, the gossip rags are full of stories about him and the speculations about who he is dating and what his new sex symbol status is like, you know, since he’s just 17. (Note to paparazzi: He’s not the first 17 year old to garner this much attention).

In the meanwhile, there’s the off-screen are they or aren’t they about Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart (For the record, I really don’t care) and splashes on the front covers of magazines ranging from the Enquirer to Entertainment Weekly. You literally can’t go anywhere without smacking into their pretty faces on the covers of books, journals, calendars, pencils, cups and buttons. Like Harry Potter before it, Twilight seems to have inescapably permeated through pop-culture to the saturation point.

Still, all of these thoughts roll away as the film begins. The scriptwriters followed the novel closely, hitting the measured beats that lead to the Cullen exodus from Forks. The swirling camera angles around Bella as October passes to November to December, as she sits in a depressed funk were a little nauseating.

Kristen Stewart put more into her performance as Bella struggles to come out of her malaise, but it’s Lautner who shines as Jacob Black. The young actor’s talent has grown considerably since the first film. Lautner owns every scene in which he appears. His natural charm, boyish good looks and smile inspired smiles from the audience. His affection for Bella is plain to everyone, except Bella, but the puppy dog hopefulness threaded through the story of a man coming of age is very potent.

Parallels

The director paralleled some of Catherine Hardwicke’s choices – particularly when Bella is at the reservation and the wolf is out of the bag, so to speak. She and Jake go for a walk on the beach, to talk in private. Bella leads the way, Jacob shadowing her steps just as Edward did in the first film when she learned of what he was.

How the characters and the actors handle those choices, however, was as different as night and day. Giving credit where credit is due, both Lautner and Pattison own their characters, understanding that Jacob’s face and eyes are a riot of emotion, flashes of anger, jealousy, love and affection while Edward is still, cool and remote with the emotion buried deeply beneath the marble surface. They convey this without description – so job well done.

In the end, Bella chooses Edward and I feel so bad for Jacob and I know that Edward has his fans, but I don’t think Bella chose wisely. Because by the end of the film, I wasn’t watching Sharkboy up there or Taylor Lautner – I was watching Jacob Black and I wanted Jacob to get a happy conclusion.

Great Moments

The CGI for the wolves impressed me. I know some people complained, but the wolves were supposed to be larger than life, looking more like a cross between a wolf and a bear. They succeeded at that quite nicely. The moments when the camera would close in on Jacob’s ‘eyes’ in the wolf’s body – the emotion in them was just exceptionally well done.

The shopping trip with Jessica that turned into watching zombie movies. Anna Kendrick was a scream as she went off on the existentialism of the zombie and how it relates to a materialistic society. Even as Bella fades out on listening to her, it was funny.

When Jacob whipped off his shirt to blot up the blood on Bella’s forehead, the entire theater tittered with a “Whoo hoo” that terribly inappropriate and hilarious at the same time. When Jacob told her she was bleeding, Bella mumbled sorry. Jacob tilted his head, one corner of his mouth turning up and his eyebrows raised a touch in incredulity. “Are you apologizing for bleeding?” Priceless line. Fantastic delivery.

Jacob’s fury at when Mike interrupted them at the theater after Mike comes back from throwing up. His amorous affection for Bella turned to rage, shimmering off him in waves. Excellent move.

Bella’s first encounter with the wolves in the forest as they go after Laurent! I’ve never seen her be so smart as she realized that just sitting there wasn’t a good plan. Smart girl ran away.

Graham Greene as Harry Clearwater. Enough said.

Ashley Greene as Alice, sitting in Bella’s living room, wrinkling her pert little nose and saying, “What is that god-awful wet dog smell?”

Final Thoughts

In the end – Bella rushes off to Italy to keep Edward from doing something abysmally stupid, but the break from her life in Forks to racing to Europe is jarring and seems to rip us out of one story and into the next. Sadly, I wanted to stay in the first one. I give New Moon a high marks for being entertaining and laugh out loud funny, for being scary without being gross and for showing us that Taylor Lautner is definitely the star to watch.

What did you think of New Moon?

2 comments:

  1. Hi Heather,

    The snippets of the movie were a nice touch. I loved "new moon's" trailer and now your review helped me make up my mind about WHEN to watch it. I think I'll wait until the mad rush is over.
    Thanks again for summarizing it here. I might take a copy of your blog with me to the cinema to pay attention to each of Jacob's reactions.

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  2. Great recap. I saw it Friday and our audience was blessedly more subdued. Loved NM much more than Twilight & agree that each of the characters were more fleshed out here. I loved that it was a movie that didn't always take itself so seriously. There were some nice moments of humor. I'm glad I saw it :)

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