Rated PG-13 for some violence and action, 130 minutes
Dull "New Moon": Vampires vs. Werewolves, teenage style
OK, I'll admit up front that I haven't read Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series of books and thus not a fan. I didn't like the overly simplistic, angsty feel to the first film but the second installment, "New Moon," continues on with a different director and (thankfully) a bigger budget, hoping to attract a wider audience. Since I do enjoy a decent vampire story from time to time, I went into "New Moon" genuinely giving it a chance really, really hoping I'd like it, but came away once again disappointed that I still don't find the story all that appealing.
Talky, dreary and slow, "New Moon" has a few energetic scenes but otherwise doesn't have much to work with except showcasing the bulging biceps of new hunk Taylor Lautner, which may be enough for some. Accept "New Moon" for what it is: a dull, empty and overly hyped exercise in franchise movie-making that's directly aimed at young teenage girls, who'll propel it to even bigger box-office returns than the first one.
Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is still very much in love with vampire, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). She's become pals with Edward's sister (Ashley Greene) but the vampires still thirst for Bella at the sight of her blood. Trying to avoid danger, Edward takes the Cullen's away to Italy to find some solace, which breaks Bella's heart. Thrown into a deep depression, Bella exempts herself from most social activities, until she finds herself spending time with childhood friend, Jacob Black (Lautner). As usual for Bella, things aren't what they seem, and newly buff Jacob has been hiding his own secret that he's now a werewolf. This causes some problems when Bella and Jacob begin falling for each other, all the while realizing she's still deeply in love with Edward, who's facing his own challenges with a new set of vampires, the Volturi.
"New Moon" is a vampire vs. werewolves film that needs far more bite, energy and a better script. I don't really blame Chris Weitz ("The Golden Compass," "About A Boy") who took over directing duties from Catherine Hardwicke, who's a competent director to handle the story. I also don't blame the lovely Kristen Stewart, an intelligent, capable actress who's inspired casting as Bella and the best actor in the film. Meyer's tremendously popular but mediocre, simplistic books are the real culprit, which lack a certain inspiration and complexity to turn into great films.
The initial chapters of the movie "New Moon" get off to a rough start too: slow, talky and very downbeat. Pattinson leaves and is gone for the most of the movie (as in the book) except for his Obi-Won-like spirit (an obvious trick to keep him more in the film) and Bella sulks way too much. Things do perk up when Lautner shows up on screen, gets a haircut and goes shirtless for most of the film, showing off an impressively sculpted body and a lack of real acting skills (as if he needs it). His stale, lifeless line readings indicate he's spent way too much time on the California waves than honing his acting skills ("like, we're here to protect you" he tells Bella).
It's also quite disappointing of all the talk building up Dakota Fanning's role in "New Moon," but her scant role quite late in the film amount to little more than a cameo, though Michael Sheen ("The Queen") has fun in a small part as a demented, powerful vampire, and his role will likely be expanded in future films. The decent CG special effects of "New Moon," primarily the werewolves, give the film much-needed energy in the film's last act and show an improvement over the first film.
I've accepted that in spite of what critics say about "New Moon," legions of young girls and "Twilight" fans will turn out and see this vacuous, uneven adaptation anyway. Fans of the novels may not be pleased with this disappointing version (especially the ending, which is really part of the third book), though the young girls will more easily overlook the film's obvious shortcomings (icky dialogue and bad acting) and be eagerly awaiting the next time Lautner shows up on screen.
In the end, "New Moon" is really just a mediocre teenage soap opera about a girl in love with a werewolf and a vampire, lacking the edge, suspense and fun I was hoping for, namely a bloody, climactic fight between vampire and werewolf. So I leave another "Twilight" film a little bummed, a film who's plot could easily be summed up with a quote from an '80s Def Leppard song: "Watch out, love bites..." Could also very well describe how I feel about the "Twilight" series in general.