A 'New Moon' Destined For A Quick Eclipse

Stephenie Meyers' four-novel Twilight saga set off a rage for lovelorn teen vampires —-one that only escalated after the release of the first hit movie. The second film, New Moon, set box-office records for advance sales, but critic David Edelstein says it's too turgid for the excitement to last.

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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.

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Under A 'New Moon,' A Surprising Lack Of Passion

W: Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in 'New Moon'

Such Sweet Sorrow: Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella (Kristin Stewart) take a break in the second Twilight film. hide caption

itoggle caption

The Twilight Saga:
New Moon

  • Director: Chris Weitz
  • Genre: Drama
  • Running Time: 130 minutes

Rated PG-13 for some violence and action

With: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Michael Sheen

"This is the last time you'll ever see me."

That's vampire Edward Cullen talking to melancholy high school student Bella Swan in New Moon. And as far as on-screen promises go, it's one of the least likely to be kept in movie history: With most of the film still to unfold, and two more parts of the teen-friendly Twilight series in the works, we're all of us going to see as much of Edward and Bella as we can take. Maybe more.

In the short term, however, Edward proves as good as his word, leaving town for Bella's own good, and New Moon suffers as a result. The film keeps the two lovers apart for quite a spell, robbing the project of the crazy-in-love energy that made such a guilty pleasure out of the first entry in the series.

New Moon marks the franchise's entrance into the self-protective, don't-rock-the-boat phase of its existence, which is inevitable but a bit of a shame. In place of Twilight director Catherine Hardwick, a filmmaker of flamboyant emotionality who seemed to feel these teenage characters in her bones, New Moon has gone with the more polished Chris Weitz, who doesn't deliver as much passion.

Yes, I know, New Moon's emotional energy is supposed to come through Bella's attachment to newly buff best friend Jacob Black. And audiences will gasp when Jacob rips off his shirt and reveals a torso that would make Charles Atlas swoon. (Not that anyone in this movie's audience would know who Charles Atlas was.)

Taylor Lautner in 'New Moon' i i

He'll Be There: Bella gets closer to her friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) after Edward leaves — but for all the substantial shirtlessness involved, their scenes don't produce much chemistry. hide caption

itoggle caption
Taylor Lautner in 'New Moon'

He'll Be There: Bella gets closer to her friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) after Edward leaves — but for all the substantial shirtlessness involved, their scenes don't produce much chemistry.

But there's not much evident connection between the two, and ultimately Jacob's physique proves less interesting than his recently discovered ability to turn into a wolf at a moment's notice. Bella certainly has unusual taste in friends.

There's a bit of back story about an age-old rivalry between Jacob's werewolf clan and the vampire faction, plus a certain amount of brooding (on Bella's part) about that breakup. Ultimately it all gets to be so confusing that Edward decides to sort things out with a dramatic appearance before the Volturi, the closest thing vampires have to a they-who-must-be-obeyed ruling class.

These folks are so powerful, they get to be played by high-profile actors like Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning. Two more films to go, remember — and as Jimmy Durante might have said, where vampires are concerned, everybody wants to get into the act.

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