AKA New Moon; Twilight: New Moon
Even before Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene) zooms through the twists and turns of the streets of Italy in a breathlessly fast yellow Porsche, filmmaker Chris Weitz's sequel to Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight reminded me of another big screen adaptation of a bestselling series in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.
Italian connection aside, the two seemed like ideal companions since both have a passionate following of readers and the debut films in each respective series were not only duller than even fans would've expected but in fact suffered such lows that they were unintentionally funny and lacking in quality special effects.
While neither of the two series are my particular cup of tea and the flaws stem from the original source material, I must admit that both Da Vinci and Twilight were vastly improved by 2009's still weak-- yet far more watchable-- sequels, Angels and Demons and New Moon respectively.
Despite an overly long running time for both titles, both works delivered a terrific twist that only the avid readers of the books would've seen coming and while Demons was additionally bolstered by the scope of its far more involving plot, New Moon fights its relatively simplistic pouting tween plot of heartbreak by leaving us knocked out at the mindblowingly gorgeous cinematography and production values that were ratcheted up several steps from the first one.
Although it's still pretty unintentionally amusing that every time we see the rather androgynous pretty boy vampire Edward (every tween girl's swoon worthy poster boy Robert Pattinson) walk towards Bella (the talented Kristen Stewart), he seems to be moving in slow motion for laughably smoldering effect, the series gets bonus points for finally letting us non-readers nor Twilight-believers in on just why there is a Team Jacob in the first place when Edward saunters off the scene, believing that his continued relationship with true love Bella is jeopardizing her life.
Nearly comatose and about ready to star in Girl, Interrupted, the crushed Bella reluctantly comes out of her room after what feels like months of pouting to forge a much stronger friendship with Jacob Black (Tyler Lautner) as she charms him into working on a motorbike.
Discouraging his puppy dog crush on her without bothering to stop touching his bare chest and abs as he turns into a toned golden god overnight, Jacob is hopelessly smitten and agrees to help fix the motorcycle without realizing that she's become a senseless adrenaline junkie upon the discovery that every time she takes a major risk she can see Edward however fleetingly.
Fully establishing the love triangle in a long drawn out teasing way that firmly plants this reviewer directly into Team Jacob since Bella's chemistry with Jacob just feels more natural than the stilted dialogue, one second kisses, and intense looks of Edward who lusts for her blood (hello, creepy romantic, anyone?), all characters are in for a major surprise when we learn more about Bella's non-vamp friend.
Although the pacing of the film still moves along like a snail and as director Jason Reitman joked in an Up in the Air Q&A in regard to his Oscar nominated Twilight star Anna Kendrick, overall the films are “a graveyard of acting” since talented performers are given so little with which to work that A-listers like Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning actually feel like they've lost their edge just based on the sleepwalking, phone-it-in style of the performances required.
Of course, it's so amazingly popular that even with cardboard cutouts of Stewart and Pattinson remaining still for two hours it would probably send teenage girls into a Beatles-like screaming frenzy. And while the Blu-ray presentation in particular really overtakes the senses and hides some flaws with its immersive audio and glorious imagery along with endless extras for devotees, overall one still wishes that either plots of the books could be combined to move faster or some liberties could be taken to make the films better meet the expectations of the cinematic medium.
Nonetheless, while it's safe to say that this won't occur in the upcoming adaptations of the rest of the books in the series (including Eclipse and Breaking Dawn), at least with New Moon, Weitz and company took a step in the right direction by hitching a ride in a Porsche that-- stolen by Alice – may as well have belonged to Da Vinci Code characters, the Illuminati.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.