Director: Chris Weitz
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Anna Kendrick with Dakota Fanning and Michael Sheen
Plot: Believing Bella (Stewart) to be in danger, because of their relationship, Edward Cullen (Pattinson) dumps her and moves out of town.
New Moon is probably the low point of the saga, even from a Twi-Hard’s point of view. The rest of the movies/books find the saga in full swing, the story hitting a peak that keeps it soaring forward, non-stop. The original perfectly captured the central romance, symbolising the love story at the heart of this franchise. New Moon however charts the break-up between Edward and Bella, wallowing in a thick set of misery and removing the best character, Edward Cullen, from the story for a large part of the running time. As a result, it is a strange creature, bridging the original to its sequels, but struggling to stand up on its own two feet.
It also brings Taylor Lautner into the fray in a bigger way, something which really makes the Twilight saga the three-pronged lead that it is known as. Lautner is an actor that I struggle to get on board with. Kristen Stewart has her own set of haters, but I feel that a lot of her problems stem from an obsessive character, trapped wallowing in love, rather than the actress herself. Lautner is simply not as adept an actor as Stewart or Pattinson, bringing a weak link to the main cast. He does well with the charming side of things and as Bella and Jacob get close, we seem to be on fine form. Jacob Black is a strong opposite to Edward Cullen. Edward is a savagely romantic soul, obsessed with the eternity of his love for Bella, while Jacob is the fun-loving ‘seize the day’ kind of love interest. For a long while, you almost forget about Edward, finding the character far more fun, as he impressed the ladies with his lack of shirt and bad boy atmosphere. Lautner struggles when the character is asked to do more. Seeing as, spoiler alert, he turns into a werewolf, a pack hunter with the ability to turn into an over-sized vampire-hunting wolf at will, his character becomes very aggressive, prone to fits of anger that put Bella in danger. Lautner struggles to convince in these angry swings, which is a shame because they are a large part of what the character is, and what New Moon’s central story is about. There are other moments that fail to impress. The opening scene where Bella is attacked by Cullen’s family, namely an unhinged Jasper, because she cuts her finger in a room full of starving vampires, doesn’t quite hit as strongly as you want it to, especially because it is the catalyst that kick-starts the plot. It feels like it should be a stronger moment. The rest of my problems with the movie just come with the epicness of the whole affair. The romance is meant to be powerful, but can become over-bearing. The dialogue is in-your-face. Thankfully Weitz direction is less try-hard than Hardwicke’s. That might have been just too much.
It gets better when the action switches to Italy (another moment where location design is the series’ strong point – god, it is beautiful!). Namely this is because the franchise actually starts getting somewhere. We are introduced to two fantastic villains, Michael Sheen’s camp vampire overlord and Dakota Fanning’s sadistic torturer, who has a superpower to inflict pain on anyone with a single glare. In the last film, the bad guy foot note failed to stir up the correct emotions, but with two great actors at the helm here, it was impossible to make the same mistake. The movie is simply better with some villainous vamps threatening the leads, taking it away from the romance of it all and beginning to create a sense of impending doom. In the book, this film suffers from an anti-climax, the final showdown petering out miserably, but Weitz improves the scene here, giving it added kick with the thick tension. Its conclusion mends the problems the cumbersome build-up had, by promising a meatier third film. Cullen and Black face off over Bella’s safety, Bella’s father swears to hate Edward relentlessly and Bella makes Edward agree to a promise he can’t possibly keep. Stuff like this makes Twilight far better than the critics tell you it is. You just have to bury past the few dud performances and over-played love story.
Final Verdict: Weaker than the last movie, but a few promises tucked in the narrative makes it thrilling by default.