The Twilight Saga: New Moon

twilight_new_moon_poster_0509I sat next to my fiancee in packed a theater full of young teenage girls just oooing and ahhhing over the opening title sequence of the highly-anticipated sequel to last year’s major blockbuster romance “Twilight.”  Soon enough, however, the excitement seemed to subside as “New Moon” descended into a monotonous bore of a film where so little happens for 130 straight minutes.  Even my fiancee and her best friend (huge fans of the books) felt shorthanded by the stupidity onscreen.

To the series’ credit, I enjoyed the first “Twilight” on its own terms.  The film actually had a serviceable romance and two solid lead actors out of Kirsten Stewart and Robert Pattinson as two young lovers with their own mortality (or lack thereof) doing battle.  The obligatory physical threat of competing vampires showed up far too late in the game, but the chemistry of the two stars and interest of the story carried the film.  Outside of choppy hit-or-miss visual effects sequences, I can see the appeal.  Director Catherine Hardwicke deserves far more credit than she earned as the movie took off into phenomenon-status, and the studio began to search for a more spectacle-driven director.

Summit Entertainment found Chris Weitz, fresh off his stateside box-office behemoth of a flop–“The Golden Compass.”  That film turned out to be a worldwide success coming close to $400 million and earning an Oscar win for its special effects.  Let’s forget it was an awful movie.  “New Moon” is about as much of a disaster, if not more.

The story picks up right after the last film.  The Cullen vampire family throws Bella (Kirsten Stewart) a birthday party, and through a course of events, the young lady cuts her finger which sets off Edward’s (Pattinson) blood-thirsty brother.  Edward enters into a brief tussle to protect Bella, and winds up realizing that she, as a human in his world, will find nothing but danger.  He decides to leave her, giving her a chance at a normal life, abandoning her in a forest which sends her into a state of depression.  Months go by before Bella develops a friendship with her childhood pal Jacob (Taylor Lautner).  He has secrets of his own, and wouldn’t you know it (for the only two readers who don’t know), he turns out to be a werewolf.  Now who is Bella to choose?  And does anyone really care when the movie moves at a turtle’s pace, throwing up incalculable volumes of awful dialogue, and implausible teeny soap opera nonsense?

In theory I could be chastised for falling into the first film’s trap of teeny-bopper romance fodder and then turning around to complain about this chapter, but something struck me with the two lead actors in the last outing, and I liked the film solely for their work which rose above anything I would’ve expected for such fluff.  I have to conclude that Catherine Hardwicke knew how to put the focus on the two actors, and inject some passion into the film’s proceedings.  That so-called ‘passion’ is completely absent here.  ‘New Moon’ is a 130-minute bore of massive proportions. So little happens, and the dialogue and much of the plot developments are excruciatingly painful.  Hardwicke made the sap-crap watchable.  Chris Weitz simply hits the gag-reflex.  Perhaps, the void comes from the fact that this story isn’t much about Pattinson and Stewart’s relationship.  Once he leaves early on in the film, Stewart is left to wallow and moap, while developing a new connection with Taylor Lautner’s character.  Lauter is a disappointment.  Whether his lacking talent as an actor has more to do with it than his terrible dialogue remains to be seen in further chapters.  But much of the film focuses on an awkward relationship between the Bella and Jacob characters that never fully works because she obviously doesn’t want to be with him.  She longs for Edward, and sets herself up for death-defying situations to catch a glimmer of his watchful apparition that appears when she finds her way into danger.  Needless to say, the attempt at establishing the Bella/Jacob relationship doesn’t work and feels like a waste of time for the audience when the real chemistry exists only between Pattinson and Stewart.

Eventually, Pattinson does return in the film’s ‘climax,’ a howler of sequence as he attempts to end his life in front of the head governing vampires over odd plot developments.  Too little, too late.  The sequel suffers without the Pattinson/Stewart romance.  No amount of spectacle that Weitz tries to amplify this time around can save the movie’s lack of a pulse.  With the lead characters seperated, Weitz could have possibly saved the project by delving further into vampire/werewolf mythology, and tying in some more mature storytelling and exploration of the major assortment of characters he’s been given (something Hardwicke missed as well in “Twilight”)–but why do something interesting when you can make a bare-bones cadaver of a movie?

“New Moon” undoubtedly blew up at the box-office, grossing $140 million in its first three days, and $72 million of that total on its first day alone.  Sitting currently at $270 million, it has been dropping pretty hard since its release, but it’ll still wind up in the $300 million range, making it a walloping success for the studio backing it (and far bigger than its predecessor last year with $192 million total).  Too bad it’s a stale installment.  Hopefully Director David Slade of the bloodbath vampire thriller “30 Days of Night” can develop a much more mature and exciting film out of “Eclipse” due in theaters June 30th of next year.

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