In terms of using the right kind of connective tissue that works for the story and for the audience simultaneously, New Moon (Summit, 11.20) isn’t half the film that Twilight was. It’s slow and infected with the sequel virus. It’s gaseous and flatulent and meandering. This won’t matter box-office wise, but it pretty much sucks. That swoony romantic current that Twilight had has taken a powder this time out.
Firing Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke was a lousy idea, and so was getting Chris Weitz to take her place. I don’t know what tricks Hardwicke used to make Twilight play as well as it did, but I do know that Weitz isn’t nearly as good with this kind of material as she was. Twilight is to New Moon as Star Wars is to Return of the Jedi, or even The Phantom Menace. I mean, it really blows.
Where Twilight felt curiously absorbing and true and plugged into something relatively fresh and exciting (for me anyway), New Moon is slow and draggy and ponderous with dialogue that occasionally smells to high heaven, and laden with seriously crappy (i.e., “pony”) CGI and a running time — 130 minutes — that is way, way too long.
The acting is fine, or at least not too distracting. Hard-wired Kristen Stewart pretty much carries it; hunky Taylor Lautner, surprisingly, delivers a taut muscular vibe and isn’t half bad for a young stud-muffin type; and Robert Pattinson seems to be acutely disinterested and sleepwalking, even, when he’s on-screen (which isn’t often) and is otherwise missing for most of the film.
The main problem is that Melissa Rosenberg‘s sceenplay, based on Stephenie Meyer‘s book, has a draggy, yeah-yeah, so-whatty tale to tell, and the pacing is slack and the story tension is nil. I began to feel bored less than 15 minutes in.
I sat up, slouched down, put my hand over my face, went to the bathroom, cleared my throat, groaned, tapped my feet. The girl sitting next to me sat like a bag of coffee beans off the boat from Columbia during the whole film. “Does she have a pulse?” I wondered to myself. I couldn’t stop shifting around. I actually began to feel a little bit sickly after an hour or so.
Stewart — my favorite younger actress these days — is sufficiently focused and fiercely talented enough to make more than a few of the scenes work, but I mainly felt sorry for her. “She’s stuck in a sequel and doing the best she can under the circumstances,” I told myself.
The thing that defines the badness of New Moon is an extended circular tracking (or Steadicam) sequence that Weitz shot of Stewart (i.e., Bella Swan) sitting in her room, immobile and depressed after her vampire lover Edward Cullen (Pattinson) has broken things off and moved away. Weitz moves the camera around her three times, which gives the audience three views of her front lawn as it changes with the seasons — greenish brown during October, totally brown with leaves being raked in November, and finally snow-covered in December.
Except someone in the Summit high command decided that this visual information wasn’t explicit enough for some in the audience, and so little white titles have been inserted, appearing each time the camera moves around and behind Bella’s back, that say “October,” “November and “December.” Just stunning. Unbelievable! Truly one of the most embarassing passage-of-time sequences ever included in a major motion picture.