Sunday, April 4, 2010
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Genre: Fantasy, Drama, Romance
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Robert Pattinson, et al.
Director: Chris Weitz
Release Date: November 20th 2009
New Moon, the second installment of the hit series of Twilight adaptations, opened in US theaters to poor reviews and a fan following that can only be described as fanatical. The plot from Twilight of a teenage girl, Bella Swan, moving to gloomy Forks, Washington, where she befriends and falls in love with 17 going on 100+ year old vampire Edward Cullen, takes many twists and turns in this next chapter.
After a birthday party gone awry, Edward and the rest of the Cullens leave Forks suddenly, shattering what little grip on reality the every angsty Bella may have had. Only her friendship with Quileute tribesman Jacob Black keeps her from falling completely off the deep end. There's one problem with that, though. Jacob and several of his fellow tribesmen are Werewolves, and to add to that, they are the sworn enemies of all blood suckers. Sounds like every other love triangle, right?
I feel it prudent to say early on that I read all four Twilight books some time ago (that's right, I really WILL read anything once). Therefore, there was not a single plot twist that I didn't see coming. Since I'm not an impartial judge of their effectiveness on New Moon virgins, and in the interest of fairness, I am excluding them from my discussion and rating of the movie. Instead, I'm going to jump straight to the actors. Really, all special effects and plot twists aside, this is a love story, and the actors are the heart and soul of it.
What can I say about Kristen Stewart that doesn't violate the "If you can't say something nice..." rule? Unfortunately, not much. I don't know where she studied acting, but someone really needs to tell her that scoffing, mumbling, sighing, and making prolific use of the "awkward pause" do NOT make you an actor. They're called levels, folks, and she lacks them entirely. She is so bad, she borders on he point of being physically painful to observe, and through both of the first two installments, I constantly found myself wondering what the fuss was about. These two are nearly invulnerable, powerful, mythical creatures, and they are obsessing and fighting over someone with the emotional range of a soft taco.
Playing her bloodsucking suitor is Robert Pattinson. Let me say up front that I do think Pattinson is a talented actor. Maybe it was the material, or his costar, or his lack of screen time, but it simply doesn't come through for me in this at all. He very nearly played Edward as a statue, and it is really disappointing for me to see.
On the other side of the triangle is Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black. While his acting isn't stellar, he at least shows some depth and emotional range. Also, his physical acting (including his stunt work) stands out so far beyond that of his costars that it starts to look award worthy. In fact, the Quileutes/Werewolves as a whole really stood out for me. The actors all had such life, he really seemed like a family, like a bunch of kids thrust into a strange situation and trying to cope. They were very convincing, and the necessary familial and tribal bonds of the characters were present and a very nice touch.
As for the Vampires, they were hit and miss. Some were pleasantly surprising, like Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) and Esme (Elizabeth REaser). They did nice jobs in this, as they did in Twilight. Some, like Emmett (Kellan Lutz) and Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) just came across as wooden and forced (as they did in Twilight). And some, like Alice (Ashley Greene) were good or bad depending on the scene. I will say that Michael Sheen , who you may know as the Lycan leader Lucian in Underworld (yep, he played a werewolf, now he's a vampire) was genuinely creepy, but he is an outstanding actor. I almost think it was a mistake to have such a heavy hitter as him in the mix, as it really just highlighted for me the shortcomings of much of the rest of the cast.
The effects were outstanding, to say the least. The wolf transformations and vampiric speed effects in particular were top notch. The directing and cinematography were certainly better than Twilight, (though the music was NOT), but not by much. This is, after all, the director who brought us the abomination that is American Pie.
Overall, it was definitely an improvement over Twilight. Even Stewart improved, albeit minutely. In fact, only Pattinson really seemed NOT to improve, though again, that may have been the fault of the script or his minimal screen time. It is an effects driven movie, and if you go into it from that perspective, (or are a Twilight nut), you will not be disappointed. If only I fell into one of those two categories.
Acting: 2 out of 5
Effects: 4 out of 5
As An Adaptation: 3 out of 5
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5