New Moon: Werewolves, Vampires and Far Too Much Spinning

Vamp saga soldiers on with some misteps

By Angel Cohn
|  Friday, Nov 20, 2009  |  Updated 5:45 AM CDT
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Weekend Movies: "The Lovely Bones," "Book of Eli"

Summit Entertainment

Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan and Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black in The Twilight Saga: New Moon.

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First things first: I realize that no matter what I say about this movie, the Twi-hards are going to go see it. So if you fall into that category, go. I'm sure you'll love it (and you already got your tickets a month ago anyway), though I did hear quite a number of not-so-young ladies at the screening I attended complaining about the distinct lack of Edward (and Robert Pattinson's hair) in this film. But I'm guessing that most Twi-hards have read the books and are aware that this is the Jacob-centric installment. However, for the rest of the world that reads on here, be warned that spoilers abound.

On the plus side, I found New Moon marginally better than Twilight, so that's something, right? I understand this whole phenomenon and why these films are popular and whatnot, but let's just say there's not a whole a lot of subtlety involved here. Everything is broadcast a mile away; every line is delivered in the most earnest and cheesy way possible. It's fine to appeal to fans that aren't looking for much complexity in their vampire-themed love triangles, but does the actual presentation have to come across as this silly?

At certain moments, it even seems like everyone involved is in on the joke, which is actually refreshing and allows the movie to occasionally work in a campy sort of way. But when it's trying to be serious? Man, it's rough. I wish I was just joking for the sake of joking, but at one point there are disembodied ghost Edwards floating around. How can we take that seriously? Even the opening credits, with big drums pounding as a moon goes through its phases to reveal the title, was laughable.

The new film picks up shortly after the last one. Edward (Pattinson) and Bella (Kristen Stewart) are trying go about their high school lives, even though she's having panicky nightmares about the fact that she's getting old and will eventually be a crinkly grandmother while he still looks 17 and beautiful. It's all tied to the fact that her 18th birthday is imminent and that Edward staunchly refuses to turn her into a vampire.

While she desperately tries to avoid the big day, people insist on showering her with gifts, which she's all ungrateful and annoying about. She even puts up a fight when the kindly Cullen family of vampires throw her a party. Admittedly, she had a right to be skeptical about that, since a paper cut tempts Jasper's (Jackson Rathbone) bloodlust and she ends up getting tossed across the room like a rag doll. Not the way most teens would choose to spend their birthday. This whole scenario (and a lot of talk about souls or lack thereof) leads Edward to ditch her. In fact, the entire family decides to pack up to leave. So naturally Bella sinks into a funk and just sits in her chair for months before finally going out with her hysterically entertaining human friend Jessica (Anna Kendrick). Bella then realizes that Edward still invades her mind when she does reckless things.

She buys some beat up old bikes and visits her friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) down at the La Push reservation. They flirt and rebuild motorcycles as he grows from a skinny kid into a beefy muscle-bound 16-year-old, while she tries to find new ways to cheat death. After a disastrous evening at the movies, in which Jacob tries to hit on Bella and she tells him that she's broken, he disappears for a while. But when dreadlocked vamp Laurent (Edi Gathegi) tries to kill her, a wolf pack appears out of nowhere and rescues her. It turns out that the giant wolves are Jacob and his pals. They are werewolves, and their leader once got angry and clawed his girlfriend's face by accident. So Jacob's been hiding out to protect Bella from a similar fate. Wow, she just has the best taste in guys, doesn't she?

Through a series of ridiculous events, Bella ends up /attempting suicide by cliff-diving, having a run-in with her nemesis Victoria, taking an impromptu trip to Italy and snuggling with her werewolf friend before she ends up reunited with her one true undead love. I know that sounds like a massive spoiler, but 1) it is a love story, 2) this is pretty close to the books and 3) all those crazy RPattz fans need to assured that while he is missing (or a floating head) for 75 percent of the movie, he does eventually return. Have faith.

For all the talk about a new director coming on board for New Moon, I'm not sure it resulted in a vast improvement. Chris Weitz seems obsessed with shooting people from odd angles in order to force perspective: shooting down on Bella to make her look small; shooting up on Jacob to make him look bigger; shooting Edward in such a way that his jaw just looks peculiar. And the spinning. Oh, there is so much spinning. From the scene showing how Bella broods for months, in which the camera just circles her for five minutes, to the fight scenes that are just dizzying and hard to follow (especially the one between the wolves and Victoria), the camera work is shaky throughout. If I ever see the movie again, I'll have to take some Dramamine first. As for the wolves... wow, that's some truly bad CGI. They are laughably big when they first appear and so cartoonish that you start longing for Underworld. And I was hopeful that they would have found a way to make the sparkles more convincing this time around, but... that was not to be.

Granted, there are some decent elements to the film: The scene in Italy with Bella running through a town filled with red-cloaked revelers is stunning. Rachelle Lefevre (who got canned after this film) looks fabulous running through the woods with her enormous red hair flowing as she stops along the way to kick some butt. She doesn't actually have to do much acting -- I don't think she says a single word of dialogue -- but she looks fantastic. And while I still don't think that Nikki Reed is cast properly for her gorgeous vamp Rosalie, she only has maybe three lines in the film. And Elisabeth Reaser talks even less. So that's a bonus. I'd mention Dakota Fanning, in her highly hyped role, but her part amounts to little more than an extended cameo in which she looks pissed off and constipated. If that's what they were going for, she excelled.

As for the leads, while Stewart does this weird shaking thing any time she's trying to be upset (or maybe she was just cold on set), she's actually better here than she was in Twilight. She looks great, her hair is super shiny and she seems to have more of a sense of humor about things. Pattinson is... just what he is. I don't particularly get his appeal, but he's fine, though he makes some truly odd choices like not looking at people when he talks to them or staring directly at them so intensely that it's uncomfortable to watch. It might suit the character, but it comes off as weird.

Finally as for Lautner, while I admire the work he did to physically transform himself, I'd have been far more appreciative if he had taken an acting class or two between films. He's perfectly okay as the sweet puppy dog who follows Bella around, or when he's being goofy and hanging with his friends. But when he's tasked to appear intense or serious, it just doesn't work at all and that's a major issue since much of this film rests on his newly filled out shoulders.

What did you think? Sound off below.

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