With the weight of expectation (to put it mildly), the second of the Twilight franchise has been unleashed on the world.
And it comes after what seems like months of speculation over RPatz, Kristen, the Wolf Pack, and rabid fan love.
So with director Catherine Hardwicke off Stephenie Meyer’s sequel, there was a lot for Chris Weitz (American Pie, The Golden Compass) to deliver.
Given the arguments over whether you’re Team Jacob or Team Edward, there was a lot resting on this- especially given the tangible absence of Edward in the book, New Moon.
So did it?
The Twilight Saga: New Moon opens with a shot of a full moon and ends with Bella taking a breath – and, in between for the fans of the saga, there’s everything they could want. But for those who are probably not 100% bona fide Team Edward/ Team Jacob, there could be a lot of eye rolling and wondering what on earth the continuing obsession is about.
The story takes up where Twilight left off – with Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (R Patz) deeply in love and on the eve of Bella’s 18th birthday. Despite her protestations, the Cullens throw Bella a birthday party – but a paper cut sees Bella shed some blood, which sees Edward’s brother Jasper try to take her life.
As Edward ends up hurting Bella while trying to protect her, he decides it’s safer for him to be out of her life – for good.
Destroyed by the rejection of her first love, Bella falls apart – enter Jacob (Taylor Lautner) who plugs the hole in her heart (despite hiding a secret about himself) with companionship and sworn oaths of fidelity.
But Bella finds he’s not enough and when she discovers that thrill seeking and becoming an adrenaline junkie allows Edward to appear to her, Bella chooses to live life on the edge to be with her one true love.
Danger for Bella is just around the corner though – with vampire Victoria out for revenge after the death of her mate (whom the Cullens despatched in the first Twilight) and hot on Bella’s trail. A series of miscommunications leads Edward to believe Bella’s dead and forces him to sacrifice himself at the hands of the vampire clan, The Volturi (a la Romeo and Juliet.)
Can Bella save Edward in time? And more importantly, will she sacrifice her burgeoning relationship with Jacob for the star crossed love of her life?
Some films are review proof – and the latest in the Twilight franchise is one of those. Regardless of how we critics see it, New Moon will be a box office phenomenon.
Sure, I could spend time telling you how there’s a gratuitous excess of abs on slow-mo show here (both with Jacob and Edward) – but that’s what the fans want to see (certainly judging by the lusty cat calls and wolf whistles at the NZ premiere); I could reveal there’s some horrendously corny teen love lines – such as Edward’s “You gave me everything just by breathing” to Bella, but the audience’s swoons suggest to me that that’s just pandering to the fans – and I could tell you that parts of the film play like music videos as the soundtrack swells over aching teens caught up in their relationship and during the Wolf Pack chasing Victoria the vampire – but again, that’s what the diehard fans of the franchise want.
Whereas Twilight introduced the franchise and set the characters up, you’d expect a sequel to ramp up the action and the stakes. However, New Moon is a slight side step on that franchise path as it’s about setting up the Jacob/Edward/Wolf pack/Vampire issues which will play out through the rest of the novels/films. So, while there is a bit more action than the original film, there’s still a lot of foreboding, plotting and signposting to be done.
And that’s perhaps where director Chris Weitz fumbles the Twilight ball a little (in the eyes of a non-obsessive Twihard) – there are scenes of aching moments of love and loss, balanced by a sweeping tinkling piano score – which to the casual viewer seem cliched and unoriginal; some of the newcomers in the Wolf Pack are not the strongest actors – but given their buffness and penchant for wandering around shirtless, you would imagine they’re no more than eye candy.
To be honest, the biggest disappointment is the Volturi – early on they’re alluded to as Vampire aristocracy who rule with power and fear and yet it’s only Dakota Fanning’s Jane who comes off as powerful and menacing; Michael Sheen’s Aro verges on hammy creepiness – his early menace is soon lost by a lot of clasping hands and wide red eyes.
Yet, there’s also much to admire in New Moon – the final fight scenes are a cool, blurry mix of Matrix style bullet time action and sweeping camera work.
But it’s Kristen Stewart’s stand out performance as Bella which impresses the most. Once again, she commands a powerhouse performance as she falls apart after Edward’s abandonment. It’s this pivotal acting which gives Bella an edge, a vulnerability and a rawness which shows why she’s such a talent; the Wolf transformations and appearances on screen are pretty damn good (though some may feel they’re not how they should be when compared to their background in Stephenie Meyer’s books); and Team Jacob certainly receives a boost from Taylor Lautner’s much improved performance this time around – although given the slightly controlling edge to his character, I somehow doubt there will be many defectors from Team Edward.
New Moon is by no stretch of the imagination a disaster – as an example of its genre, it’s perfectly pitched to its audience and its core fan base.
I just suspect the non-fans (yes, there are some out there) may be somewhat bemused as to what all the fuss is about.