Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Drama,Romance The Twilight Saga: New Moon

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

After “Twilight” sunk its teeth into a considerable chunk of box office receipts in 2008; one year later the follow-up film that left many a female moviegoer anxiously awaiting its release finally arrived. The release of “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” to theaters created an even greater feeding frenzy (as it were) regarding the books, merchandise or anything else remotely related to Twilight than its predecessor had managed to cultivate. With all of the pandemonium surrounding this film’s release to theaters in late 2009, and its subsequent release a few weeks ago on DVD and Blu-ray, I was left wondering, “Does this latest installment really live up to all the fuss?”

“The Twilight Saga: New Moon” finds Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward’s (Robert Pattinson) romance running into trouble after a mishap leaves Bella injured and one of Edward’s vampire brethren in a momentary bloodlust. Fearing for her safety Edward exiles himself from Bella’s life, vowing never to return. As Bella struggles to cope with the loss of her love, she begins to find solace by testing fate in dangerous and deadly ways. Not wishing to see Bella injure herself over the memory of some vampire, Bella’s friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) steps up his attempts to woo her to his side. However, the timing for Jacob couldn’t be worse as he is undergoing a supernatural metamorphosis of his own that will unleash the animal within.

From the viewpoint of a person who found very little enjoyment from the original movie, I had little expectations that the sequel would prove to be much better. My wife told me that she felt I would probably like this movie a little bit more than the previous one, but she wasn’t sure how much. Truth be told, she was right. I did like this one just a little bit more than its predecessor, but not by a whole lot.

What makes this entry work a little better than the original? Well let’s look at the first one’s primary weaknesses. The first film was comprised of an incredibly weak storyline, wooden acting from most of the cast, amateurish dialogue, and barely TV worthy visual effects work. All of this left me with maybe ten to fifteen minutes of enjoyment in the movie. In essence, it shouldn’t take too much to make a slightly better movie than what has come before.

For the sequel, we are given a somewhat more interesting storyline, written once again by Michelle Rosenberg and based on the novel by author Stephanie Meyer. The story focuses upon a different side of the supernatural world, namely werewolves, which inhabit the area surrounding the city of Forks. There were times where this aspect provided some interesting moments and one could almost forget all the sappy clichés that consume the rest of the movie, but these moments were few and far between. Generally speaking it was the same old teenage angst angles being played out like any number of the CW Network’s TV shows or the previous movie for that matter.

Bella and Edward’s story takes a bit of a backseat, which thankfully lessens some of the cheesy romance that dominated the previous film. Instead, replacing their nauseating romance is a bunch of scenes showing Bella screaming in the middle of the night. Apparently this is caused by the heartache of losing Edward being so horrendous that it manifests as an almost physical pain. Although that was never truly addressed in the movie, but I’m told it is in the novel.

Plus, there are a plethora of scenes showcasing Bella’s new daredevil side that she’s embraced whole-heartedly, because it’s the only way she feels close to her beloved. Her entire story arc is so ridiculous that I actually felt a semblance of the apparent pain Bella was feeling, because while watching her scenes unfold I felt like I was being tortured.

To be honest, the only aspect of the story that really sustained my interest was when the Volturi (the elite of the vampire world) arrive on the scene. While only featured briefly, their scenes were the most dramatically engaging, filled with mystery, and an underlying malevolence that left me curious as to what all they had in store for future installments.

Sadly, even during the film’s strongest points, the screenplay runs into issues. Once again Melissa Rosenberg is guilty of not divulging enough detail from the books in order for those in the audience that haven’t read the novels to fully understand the how and why of what’s occurring. For a movie to truly work, at least for the non-readers, the story must not rely on inside information gleamed from the novels; instead, this information needs to be presented in the film’s story. However, I’m fully aware that I am not the target audience; the predominantly female readership is, so I doubt this issue will ever see resolution. But, I digress.

The cast for the film performed almost completely as I had expected. Robert Pattinson is as wooden as ever in his continuing quest to usurp Hayden Christensen from the throne of worst actor ever. Robert’s lines are delivered so lethargically that one wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out he had been reading off cue cards. I know Edward is a vampire, meaning he’s a member of the undead, but he claims to love Bella (meaning he clearly still feels emotions), so one would expect him to react with some semblance of an emotional range. However, one would be wrong in this expectation and I don’t believe this is a result of a poor script. I believe that Robert Pattinson couldn’t act with any truly convincing range if his career depended on it, which it apparently doesn’t, so he has nothing to fear there.

Actress Kristen Stewart turns in a similar performance to her previous attempt; except this time she includes many overwrought and unbelievable scenes of agony and heartbreak. Her acting wavered between slightly unenthusiastic and just downright bored (except when screaming, then she was enthused), which could almost be considered a step up from her previous performance. Once more for such a high-profile role, I’m surprised by her apparent lack of interest in the character. If she is acting this way based on some cue from the books regarding Bella’s personality, then perhaps that should be addressed somehow in the movies. Otherwise she just appears to be handing in another terrible performance.

Then we have Taylor Lautner rising up from the ranks of barely utilized supporting cast member to third lead in the movie. His performance is the most consistent amongst the primary players, but even then, he’s not delivering anything really worthy of note. His character’s bogged down with as much angst and weak dialogue as the other two (Kristen and Robert), except Taylor does his level best to overcome these short-comings. His was a commendable effort to be sure, but one that was destined to fail from the get-go.

Lastly, in the minor supporting roles, the same two actors manage to outshine the other cast members, despite their minimal screen time. Billy Burke continues to provide some of the best moments and cheese-free lines of dialogue out of the entire cast. Just as before, whenever Billy’s character appeared in the movie, those tended to be the most enjoyable scenes. Which is quite sad considering his total time in the movie is maybe ten minutes. As for the other reliable member of the cast, Peter Facinelli in the relatively thankless role as surrogate father to the Cullen “family” of vampires. This time however, he’s relegated to next to nothing in terms of screen time, but he does the best he can with what little he’s allotted.

Now, on to the primary reason for which my wife thought I might enjoy this installment more than “Twilight”… the werewolves. The inclusion of the werewolves into the story brought more action into the mix, along with even more visual effects (both elements were sorely lacking in both quantity and quality in the previous film). While the action scenes in this film were fairly entertaining, they were marred by sub-par CGI which detracted from them every step of the way. Most likely the core fan base for these movies doesn’t really care too much about the visual effects work for their beloved characters. To me there’s no excuse for such a weak effort to ever be put on display from a major Hollywood production.

This film was released in the same year as “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and “Avatar”, both CGI-intensive movies and for this one to come out with such a weak offering is unacceptable. Obviously the “Twilight” movies have made a lot of money and will continue to do so, meaning the budget shouldn’t be an issue. What it boils down to is this, in this day and age, CGI characters can look incredibly realistic, but if done wrong they will stand out like a sore thumb. In the end, Summit Entertainment needs to provide a bigger budget for the remaining films. Especially if they plan to use the werewolves or any other CGI-created characters in the later installments, otherwise the end result will be just as inferior as it was in this movie.

Finally, to address the question I posed at the beginning, does this movie live up to the fuss? In my estimation, even though this entry was slightly better than its predecessor, I would still have to answer with a resounding “No!” However, I must say again, that I am not the target audience for this franchise. So, based on my wife and daughter’s undeniable enjoyment of the movie; I would have to say that if you are a fan of the previous movie or the books, then this installment will definitely entertain you and leave you thirsting for more.

“The Twilight Saga: New Moon” is rated PG-13 for violence and brief language.

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