The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Directed by Chris Weitz. Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Michael Sheen, Peter Facinelli, Billy Burke. (2009, PG-13, 130 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Nov. 27, 2009
Catherine Hardwicke started the saga with last year's Twilight, a deliciously trashy mash of pulp and pop art that managed to take seriously its central lovers – doomy vampire Edward (Pattinson) and his teenage human paramour, Bella (Stewart) – while maintaining a sense of humor about itself. But Summit Entertainment chucked Hardwicke for the second installment (in a projected four-film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling, young-adult vampire series), and her successor, Weitz, brings zero sense of play or sexual energy to the piece. It’s as if everything’s been buffed to achieve maximum banality. New Moon opens with a Romeo and Juliet quotation – “these violent delights have violent ends” – and not long into the film’s turgid first hour, one can’t help but wish that violent end would come sooner rather than later. At the film’s beginning, Edward dumps Bella – like, the day after her birthday, OMG – and scurries off to unknown lands. He’s mostly absent in New Moon, which turns out to be a boon, because whatever “it” quality Hardwicke coaxed out of Pattinson in the first film (a considerable amount, I’d argue – his Edward was a nice mix of creepy and brooding, with a little Brando marble-mouth tossed in for flavor) has completely gone flat here. Bella, incapacitated with grief, turns to her old pal Jacob (Lautner) for comfort and companionship. And, boy, she sure can pick ’em: No sooner can you say "bad-boy magnet" than Jacob starts morphing into a werewolf. The digital effects here are top-notch (as were the ones Weitz supervised in his last film, The Golden Compass), and New Moon excels in two centerpiece action sequences, including one set in Italy, where a coven of vampire royalty, the Volturi, lives. Sheen’s Aro rules the roost there; he’s apparently a first-rate mind reader. But when he tries to read the thoughts of Bella, he’s stumped – “I see nothing!” he marvels – and it’s all one can do not to snicker. Of course he sees nothing. There’s nothing there. The simpering Bella might as well be a cartoon character with tranced curlicues for eyes, her brainwaves emitting an endless loop of edwardedwardedwardedward. I’m told Bella’s helplessness is true to the spirit of the novels, but so what? It’s almost 2010 – let’s get hip, people.