Like many of you, I was anticipating New Moon with much impatience and not a little bit of apprehension. In Twilight, I saw a movie that captured the essence of the book, but, with its “Indie” budget, was lacking in production quality. With New Moon, I was hopeful that a “real” budget would equate to better production quality and apprehensive that the complex emotional essence of New Moon would not be adequately captured on film. Based on the trailers, I became cautiously optimistic about the former point; I would have to wait and see the movie to find out about the latter one.
So, the movie jumps in pretty quickly and before you know it, you’re in the birthday scene. Overall, it was handled well, though I felt they rushed the “do Vampires have a soul” discussion between Bella and Carlisle. It actually left you with the impression that Carlisle felt as Edward did. Another 30-45 seconds of dialogue there would have built upon that point more.
The Edward leaving Bella in the woods I thought was very well done. I was impressed with the acting of both of them, especially Robert Pattinson as he kisses Bella/Kristen on the forehead in parting and squeezes his eyes in obvious anguish. Nicely done.
The movie then moves (after Bella’s rescue by Sam) to the depression. They tried to be clever and show the months of “nothingness” with Bella at home staring at nothing as the months go past. It was creative, but didn’t do nearly enough to get the audience to feel the deep depression that Bella was going through. This leads me to my first issue with the movie.
New Moon, the book, is an emotional rollercoaster. Bella goes from simple joy, to the depths of the deepest depression, up slowly to “living”, and then finally a quick rise to the heights of exquisite joy. New Moon, the movie, fails to take the audience on that ride.
The initial joy, the summer of the two of them together is all but brushed over. There is no real emotional contrast built between pre-birthday and post-breakup. Spending even 2-3 minutes of time, showing some scenes of their summer together (even with a Bella voice-over), then those first weeks of school, interacting with her friends, but very much WITH Edward and the Cullens. Most importantly, showing how happy she was, how much she’s smiling and alive.
This would have allowed a better contrast with the depression. Instead of a 45 second scene describing those months looking out the window, spend 2-3 minutes and show her doing those same activities (going to school, at home, etc.) in her state of depression. Show her attending school wearing sweats and with no make-up, show her friends greeting her, trying to reach out to her in the first month and then, having given up, show her going through the motions, zombie-like, as she attends school, does homework etc. In other words, let the audience experience a taste of her depression and, most importantly, let them experience the contrast of life with Edward vs. without.
Moving on, I was generally pleased with the Jacob relationship phase. I really liked the visual Edward effect and didn’t mind the change from the book where she gets on the stranger’s motorcycle – it fit with the movie timescale. Taylor did a nice job portraying Jacob and this phase of the movie includes some of the most touching scenes. My only nit here would be that Jacob was SO much bigger than the rest of the wolf-pack. Casting sooner and getting those guys on Taylor’s “bulking plan” would’ve gone a long way to making him look more “part of the pack” instead of like a “man among boys”.
The Wolves are extremely well done – some of the best special effects I’ve seen. Showing the chasing of Victoria was well done and incorporating that activity in with the heart attack of Harry Clearwater was a masterstroke. The cliff-diving was well done, though I thought they risked jumping the shark by having Victoria get so close (in reality, she would have attacked a single wolf in the water to get to Bella) – some more subtlety would have been better there.
Things then transition to the Alice-in-the-House scene. Jacob’s portrayal was spot on here but, while they added some witty dialogue, I didn’t feel there was enough (or really any) tension coming from Alice. In the books, she wanted to fight Jacob almost as much as he wanted to fight her and you just didn’t feel any of that. In fact, instead of having Jacob grab Bella outside the car, to try to talk her out of leaving, he reaches completely over Alice to talk with Bella in the passenger seat. Sorry, but that’s completely inconsistent with how Alice would’ve reacted.
The Italy trip was generally well done, though the use of Virgin Airlines as an obvious visual joke was not in good taste. I thought the scene in Italy was very well captured, the scenery, the pace of the “Bella sprint”, the crowds, etc. I was disappointed with the scene where Bella “saves” Edward. In the books, this is a key point in that Edward initially believes he had died and gone to heaven (as Bella was there). For the first time, Edward doubts his belief that vampires have no souls. This is a KEY, important part of the entire story…and is brushed over in the movie. An extra 2 minutes spent here would have been priceless.
The Volturi scene, I have mixed feelings about. Visually, it was well done, and Michael Sheen is masterful in his role as Aro. Unfortunately, some very important things were cut out, and some things were added poorly.
The missing piece was Marcus informing Aro of the strength of the relationship between Edward and Bella. This could have been artfully done by having Marcus enter, stone faced, and then grab Aros’ hand. With the camera focused on Aro, you could have heard Marcus’s voice saying something like, “the bond between he and the human are as strong as any I’ve ever felt” – that way, the audience could get the message without obviously giving away Aro’s power before it’s explained.
The poorly added piece was the fight scene. Edward and Alice both get manhandled by Felix and Dimitri. Good action sequence, but unfortunately completely inconsistent with the characters. Edward reads minds and can fight both Emmett and Jasper to a standstill. Alice can see the future and can use it to good effect in combat. Both of these abilities are explained and shown in Eclipse and are completely inconsistent with how their fights with the Volturi hunters are portrayed. I have no problem with having a fight scene, but have it be consistent. Perhaps Edward fights off Felix but Dimitri threatens Bella, perhaps Alice foresees that Bella will get hurt if they don’t stop resisting. There are many ways to visually show some good fight sequences without completely ignoring their special abilities.
I was a bit underwhelmed by Dakota Fanning’s Jane. When her powers failed to hurt Bella, you could neither see nor feel any anger in her. The quiet hatred between Jane and Bella is one of the cool subtle subplots throughout the series and it starts at that point. The portrayal of Caius fell flat for me as well. Instead of “crotchety old man” we get “spoiled brat”.
The “Edward and Bella running through the woods” scene was admittedly, and likely purposely, pretty corny. One thing I’d like to point out is that, unless they’ve completely jumped the shark on continuity, it was NOT a scene from Breaking Dawn. Bella’s eyes were decidedly “vegetarian amber”, not “newborn red.” And yeah, I should be embarrassed that I noticed that.
The next big scene was the Bella/Edward reunion back-home (they basically skipped the trip home, which I get). Unfortunately, this too was rushed. For some reason they felt it more important to explain about Bella’s grounding than that she’s holding back from Edward until she reaches her epiphany that Edward actually does love her. This is another KEY part of New Moon, when slogging through dozens of pages of teen depression is rewarded with a moment of absolute joy… and it’s brushed over in the movie. Yay – they’re back together as if nothing happened…no, life’s not that easy, and the movie shouldn’t have tried. 3 minutes here would have been well spent and completely the emotional journey that is New Moon.
The final scene changes things up from the book and, at first blush, I don’t mind the change, though I’ll reserve judgment until I see Eclipse.
Overall, I give New Moon a B+. The acting by the leads, the special effects, and the production quality were spot on. If they’d have spent another 10-15 minutes building on some of the core arcs and, most importantly, building the emotional roadmap, it would have been a solid A, but sadly, they rushed through those aspects.