A 'New Moon' Destined For A Quick Eclipse
TERRY GROSS, host:
Stephenie Meyers' four-novel saga beginning with �Twilight� set off a rage for lovelorn teen vampires that only escalated after the release of the hit movie. The second film, �New Moon,� set a new record for advance ticket sales. It brings back Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson as Bella and Edward and co-stars Taylor Lautner as the werewolf Jacob and Dakota Fanning as the littlest, meanest vampire.
Film critic David Edelstein has a review.
DAVID EDELSTEIN: �New Moon� is a small, rather turgid romantic horror film that under different circumstances would barely attract notice, yet the hysteria will turn all screenings for the next week into big events. After seeing Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson on every magazine cover, even I, a skeptical 50-year-old male, felt my heart leap at the pair's first appearance. Beyond the frenzy, the movie is endurable - just. I found the last one, �Twilight,� fun but shallow compared to the momentous adolescent hormonal feelings flooding Stephenie Meyers' novel - the idea that Bella's smell drives the vampire Edward to distraction, yet he thinks if he acts on his urges he'll lose control and rip her to pieces.
It's an overwrought view of the peril of surrendering to the flesh. In �New Moon,� director Chris Weitz takes a different tone. He slows everything down. The unrequited lovers stare longingly at each other and just won't say their lines. It's not so much sex this time as florid "Romeo and Juliet" self-sacrifice, a comparison pointed up by actual readings from the play.
This is a movie that begins with Bella telling Edward when he says he can't risk being with her, if this is about my soul � take it; I don't want it without you. Where do you go from there? After Edward leaves her, Bella sits immobile in a chair as the camera circles around her and the seasons out the window change. The hook for young girls is the fantasy of men fighting over them. First, two vampires fight over Bella - one to kill her, the other to save her.
Then two werewolves fight over her. Then werewolves fight two vampires over her. Then a vampire fights a whole slew of other vampires over her. Then a lovesick vampire fights a lovesick werewolf over her. Bella saves Edward, Edward saves Bella, and the Native American werewolf Jacob, played by Taylor Lautner, tries to save Bella from Edward. Jacob does make it a kinky triangle. Whereas Edward is an aesthete with white-marble skin and the highest brow in movies, Jacob is a dark and hairy biker dude with a very low brow and a trapezius the size of a watermelon.
His abs and pecs and deltoids are so well defined he looks like a Nautilized caveman. Bella thinks he has been corrupted by other shirtless Native Americans and confronts them, but when she slaps one guy, all hell brakes loose.
(Soundbite of movie, �New Moon�)
Ms. KRISTEN STEWART (Actor): (As Bella Swan) What did you do?
Mr. ALEX MERAZ (Actor): (As Paul) Hey.
Ms. STEWART: (As Bella Swan) What did you do to him?
Mr. BRONSON PELLETIER (Actor): (As Jared) Easy.
Ms. STEWART: (As Bella Swan) He didn't want this.
Mr. MERAZ: (As Paul) What if we do. What did he do? What did he tell you?
Mr. CHASKE SPENCER (Actor): (As Sam Uley) Both of you, calm down.
Ms. STEWART: (As Bella Swan) Nothing. He told me nothing because he's scared of you.
(Soundbite of laughter)
(Soundbite of slap)
Mr. SPENCER: (As Sam Uley) Paul, don't.
Mr. PELLETIER: (As Jared) Too late now.
Mr. SPENCER: (As Sam Uley) Bella, get back. Paul. Paul, get back now.
(Soundbite of roar)
Mr. SPENCER: (As Sam Uley) Bella!
Ms. STEWART: (As Bella Swan) (Unintelligible)
EDELSTEIN: All that snarling came after the guy she slapped turned into a wolf the size of a bear and went after her. But in the end, werewolves are protectors of humans. �New Moon"'s real villains are the Volturi, a regal murderous body of vampire lawmakers Edward travels to see, led by Michael Sheen with bulging eyes and a giggly voice that recalls Tiny Tim. The Volturi sequence takes place in an impressive rotunda in a medieval Italian hill town. But it still feels B-movie cheesy.
The best part is Dakota Fanning with blazing red eyes as some kind of psychic executioner. She is growing up nicely. Robert Pattinson is better in gorgeous repose than when he speaks, but since most of his performance is posing, that barely matters. Kristen Stewart is, as always, lovely and believable � and with her long white face and too-big front teeth, she looks like she'd fit right in with the vampires. The movie has a few good flourishes, like the werewolves' whooshy, syncopated, overhead chase of an evil red-haired vampire woman toward the cliffs.
But Weitz's compositions have no spark and his pacing is so slow you're going to need to watch it with the electricity generated by a live first-weekend audience to stay charged up.
So line up now, before �New Moon� goes into permanent eclipse.
GROSS: David Edelstein is film critic for New York magazine. You can download podcasts of our show on our Web site, freshair.npr.org, and you can follow us on twitter at nprfreshair.