Movie Review: New Moon (2009)
New Moon, the second film of the Twilight Saga, is a solid sequel to a popular franchise. It will no doubt please its hardcore fan base, but there’s also enough satisfy the casual film-goer (who (1) isn’t out to savage the film for the sake of it and (2) judges it in its appropriate context). 3.5/5 stars!
I have caught Twilight fever.
Well, not really. I am more intrigued by why the Twilight Saga has captivated so many people as opposed to the story itself.
And after watching the second movie in the Saga, New Moon, I must admit I still don’t really get it. Is it the seemingly perfect love between a teenage girl and a vampire? Or is it the fact that their relationship is dangerous and forbidden? Or is it just because the vampire is (according to most sources) an incredibly hot dude? Or is it all of the above?
I don’t know the answer, but what I do know is that New Moon is actually a pretty decent movie. An average film overall, but in context, a fairly strong sequel. In my humble opinion, it’s certainly not worthy of the 1-star status it has been receiving from some critics. In any event, hardcore fans will undoubtedly lap it up and box office numbers should be strong simply from multiple repeat viewings from young girls (and from what I hear oldies too).
New Moon picks up from where Twilight left off, with teenager Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her dreamy, ‘perfect’ vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson, aka ‘Rob Patz’) rolling in the bliss of love. Those who have read the book will know what happens next, but I was quite annoyed with how the previews effectively show you the essence of the first half-hour of the movie and then reveals the major twists and secrets of the entire film! If you’ve been lucky enough to avoid the previews then I’m sure you will find New Moon a more pleasurable experience.
Anyway, I will start with the bad. New Moon is a film that first and foremost tries to satisfy the desires of its fans, and that means romance comes before everything else. While this may be great for its target audience, the problem with this is that if you’re not into the romance then the film falls apart very quickly. Or alternatively, the movie may start to feel boring and tedious. There’s a mushiness to Bella and Edward’s relationship that only a limited section of the public can truly appreciate, and I can totally understand why viewers might be turned off by some of the painful dialogue (especially at the start) – but bear in mind that most of it is apparently reproduced verbatim from the novel. Besides, dialogue is always less excrutiating on the page than it sounds on the screen.
New Moon also assumes that you know the story (or at least the first film) quite well. There are several references to characters, abilities, relationships and specific incidents from its predecessor, and your recollection and knowledge of these things are somewhat taken for granted. With my shocking memory, it did take a while for me to remember what the heck was going on.
There are also some things that weren’t explained very well by the movie which may or may not turn out to be gaping plot holes. I’ll have to reserve judgment on that until I seek clarification from a genuine Twilight fan. And there’s of course a few unintentionally funny bits simply because the film takes the whole vampire hierarchy thing so seriously.
And now the good. At its heart, New Moon is a good story. It might not be entirely original but there is a charm to it that makes it so appealing. It’s almost entrancing. For me, a big part of the film’s allure was the development of Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who is effectively the male lead in this one. Apart from his amazing physical transformation (which prompted him to remove his shirt at every opportunity), Jacob’s emotional growth is also well-developed. With the two lead characters (Edward and especially Bella) exhibiting selfish and unimpressive personality traits, Jacob becomes the character that viewers can empathise with the most.
I may have said earlier that New Moon is heavy on the romance, but there was still plenty of room for action. There were a number of exciting sequences littered throughout the film, most of them involving ample amounts of CGI. I wouldn’t quite call New Moon an action film, but from what I can recall it has a lot more action than Twilight. And the final climatic scenes were done much better in the sequel than the original.
Another strength of the film was its minor characters. Again, with Bella and Edward being so serious about everything (as demonstrated by the constant heavy breathing from Kristen Stewart and the permanently pained expression on Robert Pattinson’s face), comic relief came in just the right doses from an assortment of other characters. From the members in Jacob’s clan (Chaske Spencer, Tyson Houseman, Alex Meraz, Kiowa Gordon and Bronson Pelletier) to Bella’s friends Jessica (Anna Kendrick) and Mike (in terrific performance by Michael Welch) to Bella’s dad Charlie (Billy Burke) to the rest of the Cullen gang (in particular Jackson Rathbone as Jasper), almost every one of these minor characters hit the spot in their brief moments on screen. On the other hand, unfortunately, the talents of Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning were criminally underused in their respective roles, leading to weird, comical appearances that just didn’t feel right.
At the end of the day, New Moon succeeds in what it set out to do, and that is to please its fan base. For non-hardcore fans, I think there is still enough for an enjoyable experience. There’s romance, friendship, action, suspense and a dash of timely humour. What more could you ask for in what is, essentially, a teen flick?
3.5 stars out of 5!
[PS: For the record, I have read the first book, Twilight, and watched the corresponding film. Both were okay, but neither did much for me. It just felt a little too much - too saccharine for my liking. But I could definitely see the appeal, especially to teenage girls. As a result, I skipped the remainder of the books (including New Moon), but continued to be fascinated by all the hype surrounding it. And I am looking forward to Eclipse, the next film in the series, especially as it will be directed by David Slade, director of Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night.]