2009 | Director: Chris Weitz (“The Golden Compass”) | Writers: Mellisa Rosenberg (Screenplay, “Step Up”) and Stephenie Meyer (novel)
It’s no surprise: the second entry in the Twilight saga is a better film than its laughable predecessor. But that should have been expected; Catherine Hardwicke’s amateurish camp classic set the bar so low that “New Moon” could have been about three terrible, beautiful young actors who do nothing but blink, mutter and twitch at each other and it would have still dwarfed “Twilight.” It turns out that “New Moon” is exactly that which I just described, and though the horrendous acting and special ed-level dialogue do indeed make this a negative review, the film’s superior visuals and much-improved direction provide a huge step forward for this inexplicably popular franchise.
Picking up the school year following the glittery shenanigans of “Twilight,” “New Moon” finds bland, nervous downer Bella (Kristen Stewart) psyched to continue her abstinent love-fest with vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson). But when a paper cut fiasco occurs at a birthday party, as they do at most, Edward realizes his undead, undying love for Bella only serves to endanger her life. Thus he and his clan bail to paler pastures, leaving Bella to mope around with old buddy Jacob (Taylor Lautner), a newly six-packed secret werewolf replete with Lou Ferrigno-grade breasts.
However, her closeness with Team Jacob doesn’t diminish her unspeakable longing for Team Edward, and when she finds that reckless behavior induces hallucinatory images of her chiding boyfriend, she starts living an x-treme lifestyle. As always, dangers without prove to be more dangerous than the dangers within, and not even a third-act sojourn in Italy can ward off the dangerous dangers of living dangerously.
As the odd Native American lycanthrope out in the love triangle, Lautner proves to be a much better actor than jittery Stewart or marble-mouthed Pattinson, but that’s like calling Jeffrey Dahmer a much nicer serial killer than John Wayne Gacy or Ted Bundy. If anything, “New Moon” shatters the theory that bad acting is the result of bad directing–if that were the case, then Summit Entertainment was unfortunate enough to hire two of the worst directors on Earth in Hardwicke and this movie’s helmer, Chris Weitz (“American Pie”).
But we know that last part isn’t true, because “New Moon” stands head and shoulders above “Twilight” in terms of visuals, effects, and pacing. Heck, excise the many scenes where Bella and one of her male leads stammer at each other, and “New Moon” becomes a sleek, stylish mood piece, more like a music video than a lumbering, tween-aimed cash cow. In its best sequences–such as an ethereal chase scene in the woods set to music by Thom Yorke, and a surprisingly creepy climax in Italy–“New Moon” demonstrates how an effective director can turn lead to gold. At its worst, it’s a harrowing reminder that a pretty face in lieu of acting talent will always undermine a film’s potential.
Rating: Two of Five Stars