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"Superficial soup for the teenage soul."
 
"The main characters have no feeling and no sense of purpose other than to pout, brood, and whine incessantly."
"The magic will have to remain in the minds of the readers as this translation fails to inspire or connect beyond the pages."
The Twilight Saga: New Moon  

Cast

Bella Swan: Kristen Stewart
Edward Cullen: Robert Pattinson
Jacob: Taylor Lautner
Alice Cullen: Ashley Greene
Aro: Michael Sheen
Review November 2009

Following in the footsteps of Catherine Hardwicke's successful adaptation of Stephanie Meyer's teenage fantasy, Twilight, director Chris Weitz takes the reigns for the saga's second installment. And much more heartache ensues as Bella Swan is rudely dumped by Edward, her vampire boyfriend, shortly after her eighteenth birthday. Distraught over the break up, Bella finds solace in longtime friend, Jacob. But the anguish over Edward's sudden departure proves to be too great. Unwilling to let go, Bella's desperation sets off a chain of miscommunications, resulting in an ultimate showdown with vampire royalty. While New Moon achieves many cinematic moments, from thrill seeking cliff dives to werewolf showdowns, it cannot capitalize on them because of inherent character and plot inadequacies. Self indulgent and unnecessarily overdrawn, New Moon is superficial soup for the teenage soul. Or as Team Jacob might put it - all bark and no bite.

On the evening of her eighteenth birthday, Bella Swan joins Edward and his family for a small celebration. But the celebration takes a nasty turn, when Bella accidentally cuts her finger opening a gift, and is attacked instinctively by Edward's brother, Jasper. The attack is thwarted, but in the aftermath, Edward realizes that Bella will no longer be safe around them. As the Cullens depart Forks, Washington, he makes the difficult decision to leave her behind. A decision that puts Bella into a deep depression for months. Unable to cope with Bella's behavior, her father suggests that she move back with her mother in Florida. Bella insists on staying put and agrees to spend more time outdoors with friends.

As a start, she takes a broken down motorbike to her old friend, Jacob, for repair. And finds instant comfort in his companionship. Is there something more than friendship? Alas, she can't seem to shake her feelings for Edward. In an effort to get his attention, she begins to act recklessly, welcoming dangerous rides with strangers, jumping off cliffs, and taking long walks in forbidden forests. Such efforts not only get the attention of Edward, but also the attention of Victoria, a vampire seeking revenge for the death of her mate, a ferocious pack of territorial werewolves, and the Volturi, the oldest and most powerful vampire coven. After a series of miscommunications, Edward and Bella are finally reunited, but under the watchful eye of Aro, a Volturi elder who puts their relationship to the ultimate test of life and death.

Due to scheduling difficulties, Twilight filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke was unable to direct New Moon. Instead, the responsibilities shifted to Chris Weitz, best known for his controversial adaptation of The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman (look for Bella to carry a golden compass when she's wandering in the woods). In Compass, the studio re-cut the entire film, much to Weitz's dismay. But here, his vision remains final, a faithful adaptation of Meyer's book that sustains the tone and vision Hardwicke painted in the original Twilight. And without any religious or political subtext.

As a faithful adaptation, New Moon will undoubtedly satisfy avid Twihards, but as a product for the masses, the film is about as bland as they come. Featuring overly emotional relationships and excessive personal drama with minimal action, New Moon is a cinematic soap opera for teens. And a bad one at that. For starters, the plot in New Moon lays waste to everything that was sacrificed before it. In Twilight, Edward risks everything to save and protect Bella only to leave her at the beginning of New Moon. Forget the complexities of irreconcilable differences, Edward breaks up with her over a paper cut!

And that's just the beginning. Adapted for screen by Melissa Rosenberg, New Moon is filled with various plot holes and absurdities. Vampires traveling across the globe to commit suicide? Werewolves running around conspicuously without their shirts? And one dimensional characters, like Bella, the tormented young girl, whose only goal in life is to become a vampire? Her father should be so proud. Or how about Edward, the 100+ year old vampire, who repeats high school dozens of times without anyone noticing? I'm sure there is a valid reason for all of this buried somewhere in Meyer's novels, but to the outside observer, this pushes the limits of plausibility, even in a fantasy world.

The dialogue is reminiscent of the clunky romantic banter in Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Remember those loving exchanges between Anakin and Padme? "I'm haunted by the kiss that you should never have given me." And "I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth." In New Moon, the words are equally as painful. Says Bella, "You're just warm. You're like your own sun." What makes this stand out is the fact that it's delivered with zero feeling, as if the characters are mindless, cardboard cutouts. Or students forced to read Romeo and Juliet in home room detention out loud. The main characters have no feeling and no sense of purpose other than to pout, brood, and whine incessantly.

All of that said, there is one actor who understands what it means to portray someone in a fantasy world. And that actor is Taylor Lautner. As Jacob, Taylor shows a depth that none of the others can match. He has charisma, conviction, and concern. Forget the fact that Weitz has him shirtless throughout most of the movie, Lautner's delivery has an element of tongue in cheek, as if he knows how silly things are, but finds a way to ham it up nonetheless. After all, "Age is just a number, baby." Conflicted over his secret identity and his growing love for Bella, Jacob earns the audiences' empathy.

Unfortunately, however, Team Jacob is not enough to save New Moon from a lunar eclipse. The story is full of inexplicable holes, the characters are one dimensional and flat, and the editing is non-existent, leaving virtually nothing on the cutting room floor. Undeniably, Stephanie Meyer has created a phenomenon, centered on the fantasies of mythical creatures and unrequited love. But here, the magic will have to remain in the minds of the readers as this translation fails to inspire or connect beyond the pages. "Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives."



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