New Moon (2009) dir. Chris Weitz
Starring: Kristin Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Robert Pattinson, Michael Sheen
By Alan Bacchus
I was extremely lenient on the first ‘Twilight’ film, enjoying it on its very surface level of campy vampire soap opera romance. Sure the action wasn’t well directed and the acting was spotty at the best of times, but there was something passionate and so very clear about the characters needs, goals and desires. 'New Moon' improves on all fronts, advancing character and story with more production value.
The films picks up at the Forks high school populated by Bella (Kristen Stewart) and her red hot flame Edward (Robert Pattinson) who is also a member of the local friendly vampire family. But when one of Edward’s brothers attacks Bella after she cuts her finger, Edward comes to realize the danger he and his family poses to the woman he loves. And so Edward has to break her heart and leave the Forks with his family. This leaves Bella alone and shaken to the core, until she develops and romantic possibilities with Jacob (Taylor Lautner), a member of a werewolf family and rival of the vampires.
Unfortunately like Edward Jacob provides just as dangerous a threat to Bella. Meanwhile a false premonition of Bella’s death causes Edward to confront the vampire high council in Rome to appeal for his own death. But Bella saves the day in time and is thus reunited with Edward. But with Edward back in town, Jacob, who now sides on the vampire’s rivals, threatens to divide Bella’s allegiances.
The decision to go with a different director for each of these films is welcomed. Its fun to watch the same characters walk around with a different cinematic style. While Catherine Hardwick employed her wideangle naturalistic handheld look, Weitz opts for a traditional locked down approach. He appears to take his time with his scenes, slowing the film down appropriately to ponder the gravitas of his character’s decisions. For example, Weitz shows Bella in mourning over her breakup with Edward with a flashy 360 degree shot around Bella, sitting in her chair watching the seasons go by stuck in her severe depression.
The added budget available for Weitz in his action scenes is palpable. His key set pieces are executed with panache, employing super slow motion to emphasize the emotions of the characters in the action. The key beat in the first act, Bella’s finger cut which sparks a ravenous action by the vampire Jasper, is drawn out for a hyper-stylized dramatic effect. The scene is only about 10 second of real time, but it’s so critical to Bella and Edward’s relationship Weitz embellishes every reaction, growl, and snarly look.
The werewolf confrontations are obviously computer generated but creative sound design brings out the violence and anger from the menacing CG-creatures. And like the Cullen confrontation these scenes are slo-mo enhanced for visually-pleasing action.
Though the acting is almost as precarious and the plotting hampered by the same narrative flaws ‘New Moon’ turns out to be a better film that ‘Twilight’. Chris Weitz’s assured eye for action, CG effects and his experience with youthful actors elevate the material that necessary notch higher required for tentpole sequels.