The reviews for New Moon are terrible, with critics trashing the script, director, actors, CGI, and even Twihards themselves, saying the film panders to fans who wouldn't know a good movie if it bit them.
Most critics didn't directly insult Twilight fans, but they clearly resentd the fact that they'll flock to the film regardless of what the reviews say. The Twilight Saga: New Moon was already a box office success before the reviews below were written, with fans camping out to see midnight screenings and Movietickets.com announcing earlier this week that the film had already broke Star Wars — Episode III: Revenge of the Sith's record to become the top advance ticket seller of all-time.
The film may have suffered because Stephenie Meyer's second novel isn't the strongest of the series. In New Moon, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is celebrating her 18th birthday with her sparkly vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and his family, when she cuts her finger and the scent of her blood makes his brother nearly kill her. Edward breaks up with Bella so that (as the AP puts it) "he doesn't complicate their relationship by giving her a fatal hickey." For the next few months Bella mopes and hangs out with her werewolf friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) and his overly-developed torso (which "should be given its own credit line.") Bella starts putting her life in danger in an effort to reconnect with Edward, and eventually they both wind up in Italy. There they meet the Volturi, a group of red-eyed vampire royalty that includes Aro (Michael Sheen) and Jane (Dakota Fanning).
Chris Weitz, who previously directed About A Boy and The Golden Compass, took over for Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke, who some critics say understood her teenage characters better. Reviewers say that Weitz "paid no attention to pacing" and was more focused on ticket sales than artful direction. The leads don't fare much better. One reviewer writes: "I can't comment on the acting because I didn't catch Pattinson, Stewart and Lautner doing any." Several critics report that their melodramatic acting, as well as several slow-motion shots of Pattinson, result in "unintentional laughs that lighten the movie's relentless gloom." Twilight fans, brace yourselves.
Constrained by the plot of the novel, the film keeps the two lovers apart for quite a spell, robbing the project of the crazy-in-love energy that made Twilight, the first entry in the series, such a guilty pleasure. New Moon... marks the franchise's entrance into the self-protective, don't rock the boat phase of its existence, which is inevitable but a bit of a shame... A smooth professional whose credits include such adaptations as The Golden Compass and About a Boy, [Chris] Weitz makes the vampire trains of Melissa Rosenberg's capable script run on time, but he almost seems too rational a director for this kind of project. This lack of animating madness combined with the novel's demands give much of New Moon a marking time quality.
New Moon is supposed to be an exciting love story plus monster action. So where's the excitement? Where's the action? Bella (Kristen Stewart) and vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) stare longingly past each other (Pattinson, who keeps entering in hilarious slo-mo, is so intent on smoldering at the camera that he seems to forget there's another person around) and swap excruciating love-chat: "You can't (long pause) protect me (longer pause) from everything." Bad dialogue, like bad news, doesn't get better with age. This movie moves like the line at the post office.
Pattinson is not given as much to do in this installment since he removes himself from Bella for her own protection. Bella spends an inordinate amount of time pining away. Unless it's a Ingmar Bergman film, watching an expressionless person stare out a window or trudge around alone in the woods is simply a drag.
The lovelorn Bella has little to recommend her as a heroine. She's sullen, self-absorbed and stubborn. That such a bland and passive character elicits the amorous devotion of both Edward and Jacob is rather mystifying. Almost as incomprehensible is the huge appeal of this series, beyond the obvious timeworn fascination with vampires and werewolves.
The soap-opera melodrama of Stewart, Pattinson and Lautner's performances provides some unintentional laughs that lighten the movie's relentless gloom. Yet Stewart is on screen almost all the time, and her Bella is just a drag to be around. With her flat speech and listless presence, it's unfathomable how two different sets of monsters could fixate so completely on her. All three lovers are so joyless, it's hard to imagine why any of them would want to spend eternity together. They're here for two more movies, though. And that sounds like a real eternity.
Stewart is the heart and soul of the film, and not only because her Bella is surrounded by characters who literally have neither one nor the other. She gives both weight and depth to dialogue ("You're just warm. You're like your own sun") that would sound like typical chick-lit blather in the mouth of a less engaging actress, and she makes Bella's psychological wounds seem like the real deal.
At one point, a character wearily deconstructs zombie-cinema symbolism while bemoaning the lack of hot guys. Is this sequel defending its fan base and preempting criticism about its transparent agenda? This is a soap opera, folks-and acceptable escapism for those old enough to see it yet still young enough to shriek at undead dreamboats.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon takes the tepid achievement of Twilight, guts it, and leaves it for undead. You know you're in trouble with a sequel when the word of mouth advises you to see the first movie twice instead. Obviously the characters all have. Long opening stretches of this film make utterly no sense unless you walk in knowing the first film, and hopefully both Stephanie Meyer novels, by heart. Edward and Bella spend murky moments glowering at each other and thinking, So, here we are again.
While I don't want to upset anyone here, [Lautner and Stewart] share a genuine spark that's missing between Stewart and Pattinson. Still, we all know where Bella's heart really lies. A cynical adult might note that it's easy enough to see where Weitz's heart lies, too. His job is to sell as many tickets as possible, which means hitting all the right notes. He does that well enough, despite some difficulty juggling every subplot. A trip to Italy, in which Bella and Edward face a vampire council... feels particularly squeezed in. And while Stewart has deepened her portrayal of Bella, Pattinson has little to do but brood. Then again, if you've come to this movie looking for fancy filmmaking or an original voice (other than Meyer's), well, Weitz frankly doesn't care. You're not his audience. He's got a franchise to keep running, and he does that with workmanlike precision and minimal intrusion. Which, most likely, is just how fans will want it.
Catherine Hardwicke, who directed the first film, better caught the virginal yearning in Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), the high school girl torn between both monsters. Chris Weitz, the director of New Moon, pumps up the action as Jacob turns into an unconvincing digital wolf. I can't comment on the acting because I didn't catch Pattinson, Stewart and Lautner doing any. They basically primp and pose through the same humdrum motions they did before.
There's more - the book is another doorstopper - crammed between the weeping and dolorous gazes, including a pack of snarling, not terribly effective CGI wolves. They're amusing if not as diverting as either Dakota Fanning or Michael Sheen, who pop up in a late-act detour to Italy, where the vampires, unlike their puritanical American cousins, still like to drink. (In a rare moment of narrative wit, Bella flies Virgin.) Mr. Sheen, who's carved out a twinned specialty playing Tony Blair (in three movies) and vampires (four), preens with plausible menace. But it's Ms. Fanning, with the cruel eyes and sleekly upswept hair suggestive of an underage dominatrix, who shows real bite. Mr. Weitz doesn't know what to do with her, but when she smiles, you finally see the darker side of desire.
Bella's eyes pop when she gets a load of [Jacob's] chest, and she gets to see a lot of it, as we do. Forget that wan Victorian valentine Edward — the movie only wants to hammer on the notion that women feel conflicted between sensitive, skinny pale guys who'll protect them with their mad vampire skilz and brawny bruisers who'll protect them with muscle, either the wolf or the human kind. In the New Moon world, there's no in between. These movies, and the books they're based on, are all about veiled sexuality, with all its thrills and threats: There's no sex in these pictures, only the vague, gauzy promise of it — predicated on the way young girls often dream of being swept off their feet by a handsome, laconic hunk but don't want to think about what might come after. But the problem isn't that New Moon takes an uncomplicated view of sex; it's that it doesn't even bother to take a romantic view of romance. Weitz appears to have paid no attention to pacing here: The movie is essentially a string of brooding speeches, often delivered in the woods, with very little interesting connective tissue in between. The dialogue consists of numerous variations on two lines, the first being "I love you, but I'm a vampire, and I can't protect you," the second, "I love you, but I'm a werewolf, and I can't protect you."
As Edward, Pattinson is all pale passion and tortured restraint; his eyebrows, like muskrats determined to mate, hunch together in the middle of his sunken face; the few times he smiles, it looks as if it hurts, and he still seems reluctant to move his mouth when he talks... Where Pattinson's Edward is cold, bloodless and trapped in his head, Taylor Lautner's Jacob is warm, tawny, genial and able to get Kristen Stewart's shrink-wrapped Bella to stretch out and relax a little onscreen. It's as though the sun can come back out once Edward leaves; there are genuinely funny moments in their scenes together, not to mention sexual tension. Expect an eruption in the theater during the scene in which a thrill-seeking Bella wrecks the motorcycle Jacob rebuilt for her and he strips off his T-shirt to tend her bleeding head. From that point on, his torso remains so central a character it should be given its own credit line.
In most other respects, the movie's a drag - paced like a dirge and cursed with dialogue and a goopy musical score (Alexandre Desplat, how could you?) that bring out the book's worst daytime soap tendencies. But what can you expect from an installment that keeps the central duo of human Bella and vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) apart for an extended 500-page sulk? Even my impromptu focus group (two adolescent daughters and one friend) voted New Moon the least involving of the four books.
Lautner helps break up Stewart and Pattinson's overwhelming dourness, as do New Moon's occasional attempts at humor. However, while Lautner is the only one of the three principals who can smile without looking exceedingly uncomfortable, his wooden carriage and delivery add up to all the onscreen appeal of a Ken doll, and the film still turns in more unintentional, forehead-slapping laughs than scripted ones, particularly for audiences who haven't been inoculated by the books. New Moon was clearly made with its disturbingly loyal fans in mind, and while its cheesy, melodramatic charm is unlikely to win any new converts to the series, it succeeds in giving its intended audience exactly what it wants.
Mopey, draggy, and absurdly self-important, the movie nonetheless twangs at some resonant affective chord. This viewer, at least, was catapulted back to that moment of adolescence when being mopey, draggy, and absurdly self-important felt like a passionate act of liberation. The Twilight movies are schlock, but they're elegantly appointed, luxuriously enjoyable schlock, and the world they take place in-the densely forested, perpetually overcast, vampire-and-werewolf-ridden town of Forks, Washington - feels like a real, if fantastical, place. It's as specific and evocative a location as the fictional Washington town of Twin Peaks. It's this sense of place that elevates the Twilight films above the best-selling books by Stephenie Meyer, made up of impenetrable blocks of descriptive yet curiously featureless prose.
Twilight was a pleasant surprise, a dish of cream-heavy teen romance that had at least been made with a guiding sensibility behind it. New Moon, on the other hand, merely follows a dictated formula. It's a cheap, shoddy piece of work, one that banks on moviegoers' anticipation without even bothering to craft a satisfying experience for them. Its pandering is an insult. New Moon moons its audience, and makes them pay for the so-called privilege.