Directed by: Chris Weitz
Premise: The sequel to 2008’s Twilight. Edward (Robert Pattinson) and his vampire family abandon Bella (Kristen Stewart) to avoid the temptation that she presents to them. In his absence, Bella begins a relationship with Jacob (Taylor Lautner) who has secret of his own.
What Works: New Moon is a much better film than its predecessor. It is much tighter, better paced, and has a better command of the drama, especially in the action scenes. Like the first film, the relationship between Bella and her father (Billy Burke) has the most emotional resonance and acts as an authentic counterpoint to the pretentious soap opera scenarios of Bella’s relationships with Edward and Jacob. The film opens up and expands the dimensions of the story world, hinting at much darker things to come.
What Doesn’t: Despite its improvements, New Moon is still a deeply flawed film. The trouble with New Moon is that the second act of the story has nothing to do with the first and third acts. Once Edward leaves Bella, she spirals into a deep depression, rebounding when she begins a relationship with Jacob. The middle of the film builds up their relationship with Jacob determined to protect her from vampires and her growing attraction to the protection that he presents, but that is all abandoned when the story enters its final act. Aside from the narrative problems, New Moon suffers from obtuse dialogue and stilted acting. Both in plot and performances, the film most closely resembles a teenage soap opera; New Moon likens itself to Romeo and Juliet but misses the point of Shakespeare’s play and why it is the quintessential love story: Romeo and Juliet are so mindlessly in love that they would rather die than live without one other and it is the social structure that drives them to suicide. Bella, Edward, and Jacob are also pawns in a much bigger chessboard, but the film does not provide an awareness of that social context. Without it, the film suffers from an unearned level of self-importance.
Bottom Line: New Moon is not bad but it’s not very good either. Fans of the book or of the previous film may like it but for vampire or love story aficionados, there is very little substance here.
Episode: #267 (December 6, 2009)