Rating: 2.5 of 5
It’s amazing what a good director can do.
When I saw New Moon, I have to admit I was afraid to get my hopes up. Twilight was just so poorly done and the books are so badly written, but the characters are incredibly engaging and the trailers look fun and exciting. Also, I felt sort of silly because at it’s core it’s part of the Twilight Saga so how could it possibly be well done? But this actually was.
Chris Weitz made such a difference as a director. The pacing of the film was exceptionally better than the first and handled the material of a 500 page book well without things feeling rushed or left out. The action was good and exciting, the cgi was mostly well done which is sort of impressive with the wolves. Chris also allowed the actors time to be in the moment with one another, to pull their performances from a genuine place rather than manufacturing some contrived emotion because the fans expect it.
All of this leaves room for the story to unfold. Taylor Lautner was surprisingly good as Jacob. I read this one quote in several interviews: he’d be asked about getting buff for the role and he’d say, yeah and I worked on the character a lot and I think people kind of scoffed. But he really did. The transformation of Jacob from sweet kid to strong and tough werewolf was subtle and believable and totally differentiated. His desire for Bella was so pure and so sweet and easy but also palpable and strong. His performance kind of impressed me.
Any credit for performances is entirely due to Lautner. well, and Dakota Fanning because she’s a brilliant actress. She didn’t have much to do, but she’s really awesome.
Kristen Stewart’s, however, did not. In the first movie I attributed her bad acting to the director. But in this one, with a good director and good performances from everyone else, her one note, kind of shaking, sighing and biting her lip was even more obvious. She didn’t muster any real grief or pain when Edward left. She curled up in a ball and covered her face because she couldn’t even manage to cry. The whole scene I kept thinking of Shiri Appleby in Roswell, who is not a great actress herself, but in Cry Your Name she’s sitting there looking at pictures of Alex and crying from this place deep within her, consumed by the pain of his loss. Kristen Stewart couldn’t, didn’t go anywhere near there.
She was able to pull off the hollow grief stricken Bella only because her entire performance is dull and lifeless, even when she’s back with Edward and supposed to be happy it’s the same performance. She was the weak link in the film which is disappointing because she’s Bella.
Just to round out the top three I’ll say that Robert Pattinson’s performance was pretty good. I think he’s handicapped by a character made of stone so he can’t play a lot of emotion or create substantial variances. But you could see his pain in leaving Bella, and he was happy and confident in the beginning when he was walking toward her, his animosity toward Jacob and his incredible relief somehow fused with pain when he’s reunited with Bella. It was a lot of the same, but with subtle moments that I thought worked.
The other weak link in this film was the score. There were two or three times where the music was completely discordant with the tone of the film. When Jacob and Paul are fighting and when Alice and Bella are racing to Italy the music had a foreign different sound, like it belonged in a different movie, the energy was off and it was just wrong.
The best thing about having two different directors (aside from being free of Catherine Hardwick’s incompetence) is that the films did have different looks and it really, really worked. The first one was blue and stark and grey washed which fit her falling in love with a cold and lifeless vampire. This one was warmer, with richer color and life and fit with the heat of a werewolf.
Aside from the technicalities of what worked and what didn’t work in the film, I think there was a lot of interesting things going on with the story and the characters.
Jacob and Bella’s relationship really got to develop naturally and we got to be a part of it. We heard and saw and experienced their growing closer to one another. This was in stark contrast to the last film where the development of Bella and Edward’s relationship was glossed over with music montages. Kel pointed out that it’s almost a disservice to the Bella/Edward relationship. They’re just these people pulled together magnetically without context or substance; passion without love.
But Bella and Jacob have context and life and breathe in their relationship. It’s such a powerful difference that as much as I loved Edward in the books and completely understood why Bella chose him, in the films I like Jacob so much more. It’s a stronger relationship, more real and whole and Jacob is sort of awesome. I found myself thinking, “This really sucks that he’s such a great guy and his consolation prize is going to be to fall in love with an infant.” That never bothered me in the books but now it really sort of does.
The other interesting thing is that I didn’t miss Edward at all. When I was reading the book I raced through 2/3 of it just to get to the end when Edward shows up again. But in the film Jacob filled his absence so fully that I didn’t miss him and wasn’t anxious at all to get back to him.
And yes, I’m kind of already excited for Eclipse to see what happens next.