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"New Moon" review: An anemic **

Posted by Ty Burr  November 18, 2009 11:54 PM

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The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Directed by: Chris Weitz
Written by: Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Anna Kendrick
At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs
Running time: 130 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (violence and action)


By Ty Burr
Globe Staff

Sorry, girls: The thrill is gone.

“The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” the second installment in Hollywood’s adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s mega-selling vampire romance series, is an anemic comedown after the full-blooded swoon of last year’s “Twilight.” Where the first film’s director, Catherine Hardwicke, plugged into Meyer’s vision of supernatural teenage lust with abandon, Chris Weitz is stuck with a sequel that’s a morning-after mope-fest.

The new movie has two things going for it: a relaxed and likeable Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black, the newly buff Native American kid with a hairy secret and a crush on Bella (Kristen Stewart), and a wicked sense of humor about the story’s sexual subtext that doesn’t surface often enough.

In most other respects, the movie’s a drag – paced like a dirge and cursed with dialogue and a goopy musical score (Alexandre Desplat, how could you?) that bring out the book’s worst daytime soap tendencies. But what can you expect from an installment that keeps the central duo of human Bella and vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) apart for an extended 500-page sulk? Even my impromptu focus group (two adolescent daughters and one friend) voted “New Moon” the least involving of the four books.

In the film, Edward leaves Bella after a birthday party goes horribly wrong – funny what a little paper cut can do to a room full of vampires. Stewart’s an actress of narrow abilities, to put it kindly, but in “Twilight,” she worked beautifully within her limits, lighting up with newly discovered love. In “New Moon,” she’s playing a spurned and devastated woman, and Stewart just doesn’t have the skill set to do much more than stare woodenly into the middle distance.

Just when you’re about to give up on her, Lautner’s Jacob appears on the scene, helping Bella rebuild a junkyard motorcycle. (Why? So she can drive recklessly and somehow make the spirit of Edward appear to her. Trust me, kids, this does not work in real life.)

The raging hype around “New Moon” has divided the planet between Team Edward and Team Jacob, and everyone's forced to take sides. On the basis of the movie itself, it’s not much of a contest. When he’s onscreen, Pattinson’s Edward is all emo posturing under a trembling bouffant – the actor suddenly seems to be embarrassed to be here. Lautner’s performance, by contrast, has the warmth of an actual human. (And, yes, when he takes off his shirt to aide the wounded Bella, the crowd goes nuts.)

All right, there’s that little matter of Jacob being a werewolf – oops, did I spill the beans? This is taking the old Betty-and-Veronica dichotomy to new levels, and when “New Moon” breaks out the special effects, placing a frazzled Bella between wolfmen to the left of her and bloodsuckers to the right, the movie rouses itself to an enjoyable lunacy.

Other castmembers lift the movie’s pulse above the standing level. Michael Sheen takes a break from playing historical figures like David Frost and Tony Blair and gets to overact shamelessly as Aro, the head of the vampire council known as the Volturi. Better yet, there’s Dakota Fanning, God bless her, showing Stewart how it’s done in one nifty scene as a vampirette with sadistic mental powers and old-school movie presence.

Anna Kendrick also walks away with her one scene as Bella’s tart high school pal, Jessica. (It’s a thankless role but no one will remember after the George Clooney drama “Up in the Air” comes out in a few weeks and Kendrick picks up a supporting actress Oscar nomination. You heard it here first.) Too bad the humans get short shrift in “New Moon,” taking a back seat to overcooked vampire-fu and supernatural Hatfield-vs-McCoy booshwah.

The “Twilight” books are all about sex, of course – about wanting it but not having it, and about the tension that comes steaming up from the cracks between. About boys who can ravage you but insist on protecting you from the beast within, even when you don’t want them to. About chastity and its discontents. Hardwicke got that; the first movie was about a shy nobody ennobled by a lust that dared not speak its name.

In “New Moon,” the stakes are both more obvious and sneakier. Bella wants to be bitten so badly, and why shouldn’t she when female vampires like Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene) and villainous Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre) are such self-confident hotties? Poor girl – when she gets on an airplane to rescue her lover, she’s stuck riding Virgin Air.

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18 comments so far...
  1. Kirsten really can't do Bella. Its far too late now to change her but when i see her talking and moving even its just retarded and makes Bella seem much more pathetic than the book portrays.

    Posted by Ami November 19, 09 12:43 AM
  1. Love it. This is a great article and I couldn't agree more that Edward and Bella were separate for too long but at least it gave us an opportunity to enjoy a little Jacob.
    I'm sorry Kristen but I have to agree with the commentary about your skill set. I think you were brilliant in Panic Room but currently you seem to exude a feeling of insecurity on screen. It's like you're acting...which you are but we shouldn't be able to feel it. It makes me uncomfortable. Having said that, you did have great moments in Twilight, among some other uncomfortable ones. I think that you could be great someday, when you find your comfort zone and get over the 'everyone is watching me' thing that is painfully aparent in your performance.
    Loved the books....not so much the movie for New Moon..well we'll see.
    R-Pattz.....the same goes for had some great moments in Twilight but again, there was some discomfort there. Get over it....and you could be great.
    Love the Virgin Air finish.....too funny!

    Posted by Maggie November 19, 09 12:44 AM
  1. True, Kristen Stewart is apathetic and zombie-ish, but she plays Bella well... Bella is a boring, self conscious, withdrawn, depressive teenage girl. Duh. And Robert Pattinson is 'emo'? Course he is, he's a morally tangled up vampire who doesn't even get in on the fun stuff Anne Rician vampires get, like sexy bloodbathing. I think it's pretty harsh criticizing Stewart and Pattinson when all they're doing is trying to be true to the soppy, two-dimensional characters created by Stephanie Meyer. And I also think that New Moon is way more enjoyable than Twilight was as a movie... maybe the better director/use of budget has something to do with it. Or maybe I just prefer angst. Ha.

    Posted by Eva November 19, 09 01:00 AM
  1. I'm not really a Twilight fan - I thought the first movie was ok, but most likely won't see the rest of the series - but the comment on Kristen's acting was dead on. She was much better when she was younger, but the older she's gotten the more one note her acting has become. I saw her in Adventure Land the other day and it's like all she can do is look awkward. It's not even acting at this point.

    Posted by Cate November 19, 09 01:02 AM
  1. wow whoever wrote this was a ***** BITCH! god did she have one nice thing to say about it no.....****** loser if you ask me she should get a life and start looking on the bright side of life....not putting down other peoples work just because she clearly CANT WRITE A ******* ARTICLE!!!!!!

    Ty responds:
    Um. I'm a guy.

    Posted by rose November 19, 09 01:03 AM
  1. Um, did you read the book of New Moon?? it IS slowly paced, depressed, and sad. Thats the point which you just apparently missed... completely.

    Posted by Amber November 19, 09 01:17 AM
  1. The writer's assessment of Pattinson compared to Lautner makes no sense. Lauter is human/werewolf. Pattinson is not. Why do you want him to act human wouldn't that be weird? I liked Robert in Twilight because he didn't overdo it. The season of overacting aka Oscar season is not here yet. The oscars is nothing more than a marketing convention run by the hollywood machine to hype whatever they want to hype. There are a lot of great actors who never win that ridiculous award.

    Posted by alice November 19, 09 01:27 AM
  1. Just saw New Moon, I didn't really like Kirsten in Twilight, but she won me over in New Moon

    Posted by Therese November 19, 09 01:29 AM
  1. Couldn't have said it better! I love the editing and the CGI, great audio and cameras and lighting. Amazing what a bigger budget can do. Didnt pick up as many continuity errors off the bat and makeup did a much better job, remembering to airbrush pale the vampires ears and necks and was good not to make Bella so pasty and pale and leave that to Breaking Dawn. I felt that there was really no passion with the 'breaking up' of Edward and Bella. There was no emotion from Kristen and you kind of felt like Bella didn't give a crap, I just dont think she has much range. The other scene that was horribly awkward to watch was the Alice, Jacob, Bella scene in Bells home when Edwards calls then Alive comes in 'worried' about the vision. Its just was off, there was no real panic or fear in either Bella or Alice. It was rather lame to watch. I get Jacob the young, emotionally driven teen discovering his heritage and his softness and I get Edwards tortured and pained but Bella just never seems to give a rats ass whats happening. I dont look forward to Eclipse but hope with a bigger cast Breaking Dawn should be a hit. Kudos to Dakota who I thought would irritate me, she was the best female actress in the movie. And very glad everyone else balked at the Virgin plug!! HAHAHAHA!

    Posted by Kika November 19, 09 01:37 AM
  1. Of course Kristen Stewart looks uncomfortable and awkward! That is who Bella is!

    Posted by Blah November 19, 09 01:47 AM
  1. dude, we get it ty burr.. you're old and don't get or remember what it was like to be 17. we understand that you don't get or like the story. but we're looking for an actual critical review of the movie itself-- the acting, the visual effects, how well the movie did the book justice, etc.-- not your opinion of the story line itself. your sample of 2 little girls is not adequate by any polling standards because the evidence shows that we do like the story of new moon. we appreciate bella's depression after edward leaves and we wanted that in the movie. you'd prefer that the movie skip it? doesn't make much sense. that would make it a different story entirely and we wouldn't appreciate that. please stick to objective criticism, please. thanks.

    Posted by birdy November 19, 09 01:55 AM
  1. We know the movie is never as good as reading the book. The Twilight books are a fabulous escape from reality and the movie was much the same. It stayed as true to the book as it could without running for three (million) hours! So the movie too, was an escape from reality. The special effects (werewolves) were fantastic. They looked way more real than that Avatar creatures I saw in the trailers. There were plenty of pervs and some humour thrown in to. Anytime it got too heavy the mood was lightened with a joke or some sarcasm. Jessica is a crack up and a few one liners peppered here and there. Its a fantasy movie so if you read the books you have foundations in the back of your mind and you can forgive some of the bad acting. It kept my attention and I enjoyed escaping to the fantasy worlds of vampire and werewolves.....Now back to reality

    Posted by SMA November 19, 09 02:02 AM
  1. Listen to yourselves winge and moan!! I've read the books and loved them and yes the movies are different and are'nt as good but it's alot of dialouge to fit into 2hrs and I think they have done a great job! So please let the fans enjoy it. I'm not a die hard fan by any means but really enjoyed it last night and don't see the need to over analize it like some. get a life it's a movie!! Oh and as for the acting I'd really like to see you do better!!.

    Posted by Jaide November 19, 09 02:13 AM
  1. and im pretty sick and tired of hearing how the movie is some sort of allegory for chastity. she's not that clever. stephenie had an idea for a story and wrote it. simple as that. it's just a romance. i hate it when people read so much into something especially when they say stephenie is just a mormon trying to indoctrinate young girls into marrying older men cause edward is over 100 years old or that he's' creepy because he's watching her all the time. dude, ordinary rules do not apply because this is a fictional story with extraordinary circumstances. first of all, edward is a virgin and very innocent about love. he is still a 17 year old boy when it comes to that because he's not experienced at all. in vampire world, edward is still very much an adolescent. second, i would hope that if vampires did exist in the real world and my husband knew that i could be a potential target, that he would watch over me. if he didn't, i'd be pretty angry thinking he didn't care. liek i said, real world rules don't apply here. it's incredibly stupid to judge a completely fantastical fictional story by real world standards because real girls aren't going to be potentially eaten by evil vampires.

    Posted by birdy November 19, 09 02:13 AM
  1. Worst review ever and the two comments suck.

    Posted by b November 19, 09 02:16 AM
  1. i agree with both of you completly. stewart is soooo not bella. and the article spot on.

    Posted by Shonnah November 19, 09 02:23 AM
  1. I read the books first and I loved them. I decided to rent the movie after and was absolutely disappointed by how both Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison potrayed Bella and Edward. They did no justice to the characters. Everyone keeps talking about their chemistry but I see NO chemistry whatsoever. I don't see this "love" that is easily potrayed in the books. Kristen Stewart was also not the best fit for the character of Bella. There is no emotion in her acting. Honestly her acting stinks.

    Posted by Rie November 19, 09 02:23 AM
  1. Well, they have to work with what they are given, both movies do very little to showcase the abilities of the actors. While I haven't seen New Moon yet, Twilight was a severly lacking adaptation of the book. There wasn't nearly enough draw which made the book so intriguing. The allure of Edward and the pull of Bella wasn't explored like it should of been. So while it was entertaining it was severly missing out on those moments that drew people into the book. I also believe everyone in Twilight had their issues, I've seen various movies with these actors which had much better material to work with. Having read a few of the books, I find the roles of Edward and Bella fit with the actors chosen. I much rather find the script and story lacking than the actors. Bella is sometimes quite insecure and unsure of herself and Kristen does well with those traits. I've seen work from her previously that she really worked well with. These franchising don't always bode well for actors. Robert Pattinson on the other had I haven't seen in much beside the obvious Harry Potter movie, he has the look and feel of Edward, there are still moments I can't take him seriously in. Still, I think once they branch out of this "Saga" we might actually get to see them do great things. Anna Kendrick seems to already be doing just that.

    Bella is not this "great" woman in literature she kind of has to be picked up by these guys and her life is surrounded by nothing but them really.

    Posted by Liana November 19, 09 03:36 AM

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

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