Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

By s. Thursday, November 24, 2011 , , , , , ,
75/100 (130 min, 2009)
Plot: Edward leaves Bella after an attack that nearly claimed her life, and in her depression she falls into yet another paranormal relationship- this time with werewolf Jacob Black.
Director: Chris Weitz
Writers: Melissa Rosenberg (screenplay), Stephenie Meyer (novel)
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner

When forever ends...what do you live for?

„Based on the worldwide phenomenon”.It is hard not to agree with the statement shown in one of TV spots for 'New Moon'. I have never get any trouble with getting tickets – not for Lord of the Rings, not with Harry Potter movies or The Matrix sequels. But this time, I was attempting to make a reservation 2 days before the movie and I couldn't get any tickets, in any of the cinemas. Everything was sold out. Not just here – all over the world people went to see the movie, daughters and mothers are asking Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattison to sign their panties and there even was a riot in Brazil, where 2000 girls fought with security and tried to get to the room to meet (let's just presume that...) cast members. I have never seen a craze like this. Why is it all happening?

80% of the audience are girls. Because it is so easy for us to relate to Bella.
She is a typical teenage girl. She has goofy friends. She wears stripped shirts. She has divorced parents. And oh yes, she is in love. So much in love. What makes the story a tad different – her love is vampire. And her best friend is werewolf.

The vampire/werewolf element of the story could easily be erased. „The Twilight Saga” is typical story of love and the hardships of it. The author of the series, which became a bible to many people is using the vampire element to actually sneak her own beliefs – for me the books are disgusting propaganda for celibacy, marriage, having kids...the only thing to which I object being celibacy, but I don't appreciate the fact the series is brainwashing girls all over the world. However the series is entertaining, even if written in terrible language and it makes a perfect material for the movie.

I have read „Twilight”, „New Moon” and „Eclipse” a little over 6 months ago, when I found out Michael Sheen is going to be in the movie. I have yet to read the final book. I saw „Twilight” when it came out and whilst I loved the chemistry between main actors, the casting, the music and some of the scenes, the CGI and the quality of the film were very poor, ridiculous even. „New Moon” is so much better, that it actually feels like a separate movie. It isn't that it reached higher level than „Twilight”, it's like „Twilight” is a cartoon and „New Moon” is an actual movie.

„Twilight” was about Bella and Edward falling in love and „New Moon” is about them handling that fact, in a different ways. Edward leaves, convinced he is protecting Bella, but being a guy he doesn't tell her that. Bella is devastated and she finds comfort in Jacob, who she soon finds out is a werewolf.

Now I have to say Kirsten Stewart surprised me. I was not very impressed with her acting skills but her depiction of Bella's state after Edward leaves is a spot on. The series of scenes where Bella cries, stares at nowhere and shouts from agony is excruciating. The break up scene is really devastating – thanks to wonderful cinematography and Alexadnre Desplat's music and some really good acting from both Pattison and Stewart the emotional charge of the scene is amazing. Bella is becoming more and more interesting – she goes through real emotional journey in this film, one that so many girls can and will relate to.

In the book Bella finds out that every time she does something risky she can hear Edward. The director made a good choice, even if only for satisfying Pattinson's fangirls, to actually show Edward in those moments. Very good decision – whilst the ghastly visions of him are well done, there is one scene that is just so beautiful I cannot believe it doesn't get more praise – Bella jumps off the cliff and falls into the water, when the current takes her in deep - Edward appears next to her. Some say it's cheesy, as a helpless romantic I say it's beautiful.

In the first movie we only got few scenes with Jacob and here he is present for the most part – Lautner, barely 17 years old is very convincing and him and Stewart generate a lot of chemistry. He captured his character well – he is both gentle and frustrated and the viewer sympathizes with him. It is hard not to feel sorry for him by the end of the movie. The couple is so good in few scenes that it actually makes the audience wonder if Bella should end up with Edward, but by the time he will walk into the sunlight in Volterra, we will know for sure. I was a bit shocked that near the end they included a tiny showdown between two leading men – I don't remember one being in the book. Bella says to Jacob “Jake I love you, don't make me choose. Because I will choose him. It has always been him”. I loved those lines. I felt that they should be later on in the series, tough.

The movie is very accurate to the book therefore two villains of last movie return – Laurent and Victoria. Whilst Laurent is only present in one scene, it is impressive one – it is the first time we see werewolves – I was astonished how good the CGI was. I suspect 50 million $ spent on the movie went straight to that. The wolves look so real, their movement is not fake at all. The scene with Victoria is the second best sequence in the movie – with Thom Yorke's “Hearing Damage” in the background the pack of werewolves is chasing tiny, redheaded Victoria through the woods, whilst Bella is preparing for her cliff jump.

Speaking about Victoria, I have to bash the producers again for replacing the actress for “Eclipse”. Rachelle Lefevre, who plays the character beautifully was fired and Bryce Dallas Howard was cast. It is insane given that Victoria only appears in “Eclipse” few times – Bryce is good playing blind girls and Christian Bale's wives (who wouldn't be – if I were to play character like that I'd won a freaking Oscar) but I can't see other reason for hiring her then to gain sympathy of her father Ron Howard. Maybe they need more money, who knows. But I hope Howard won't lay a hand on the next movie - whenever I see Russel Crowe painting umbrellas in the sky from stars for Jennifer Connelly I want to vomit with blood.

The Cullen family returns – the casting is terrific – in the first movie I had a big problem only with Rosalie, supposedly the most beautiful woman Bella has ever seen, Nikki Reed who plays Rosalie is pretty but in the first movie she looked terrible. In this one she looks so much better and finally feels like Rosalie. I was shocked how much Jasper's appearance changed. We get to see a conversation between Carlisle and Bella, known from the book and Emmet finally has some lines. And my favorite – Alice. Ashley Greene is so good – she is charismatic and very memorable. But I guess it's not hard when you play everyone's favorite.

The movie has many parallels with “Romeo and Juliet”, part of which Edward quotes in one of the first scenes of the film (gasps expressing eternal love for Pattison all over the audience) – I know cinematic potential instantly when I'm reading the book and “New Moon” features the most impressive scene in the whole series, scene so good even if the writing is terrible the scene itself is perfect. Nothing could screw this up. The scene so good it is worth to see the movie even for it. I'm talking of course about Bella running towards Edward in Volterra.

The things look like that – Edward thinks Bella is dead. In the book we don't get to read about his reaction – in the movie they show us Edward crushing the phone with his bare hand. Alice sees his suicide in her vision and she takes Bella to Volterra in order to stop him.
"These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume.

Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene VI

I had the vision of the scene in my head and I have to say, they still managed to surprise me. The cinematography, editing, music (Alexandre Desplat “To Volterra” - I was a bit disappointed something stronger wasn't played in the background, I always thought “The Leavers Dance” by The Veils would be a perfect choice) are great, but whoever thought of dressing the crowd in hooded red coats is a genius. Bella is coming to the town of monsters to rescue Edward, after all. The pace in the scene is amazing, the moment when Bella stops Edward and covers him from the sunlight is the most powerful moment in the movie. I was amazed, and the audience was too, although I suspect due to Robert Pattinson's taking his shirt off in extreme slow motion.

Let me stop at Volterra. It is the city where the most powerful vampire clan lives – the Volturi. The casting here is terrific, except maybe Jamie Campbell Bower (you all remember him from singing “Johanna” in high-pitched voice in “Sweeney Todd”). But who cares if Michael Sheen is there.
When I was reading “New Moon” and I got to the scene with Aro, the character Sheen is playing I was petrified. I figured even someone that brilliant won't do anything with material that pathetic. But Sheen is most likely God, 'cause he not only delivered – whilst “New Moon” is getting terrible reviews (frankly I think the critics are hating the movie in advance, after seeing the first part), Sheen is getting praise for his work. I encountered very amusing part about it in one of the reviews:
"Late in the film, a real actor, Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon), shows up as the mind-reading Aro, of the Italian Volturi vampires, and sparks things up. You can almost hear the young cast thinking, "Is that acting? It looks hard." So Sheen is quickly ushered out, and New Moon begins swanning toward certain box-office glory"
Actually, Aro has more scenes than in the book. But for Sheen to actually make this character He is so menacing, so fascinating – so peaceful and so over the top. I tought Sheen will cross Antonio Banderas's work in “Interview with a Vampire” with his own in “Underworld” series, but he surprised me. He's done something completely unique.
Another suprise is Dakota Fanning, who when she was younger was the most recognizable child actress in the world, she was always so sweet and kind. So I didn't believe she can play menacing character, icy Jane who can cause terrible pain with her mind. She was great in that part and I cannot wait to see her again in “Eclipse”.

As for the acting and the lack of balance between actors - everyone is good, nobody is pathetic and that is a huge improvement from the first movie. However there is a scene, where right after Bella's birthday she asks Edward to kiss her and Pattison had such an expression on his face that I was sure, 100% sure he will puke on her any second now.

Back to the visual side of the movie – wow. Some of the set pieces are extraordinary – the first scene, the meadow scenes, previously mentioned run toward clock tower, Victoria chasing Bella underwater...combined with Desplat's amazing score this all creates very delicate atmosphere, which is perfect for the movie. The first movie didn't had any theme or method in visuals and sound – they just put there what they could find, granted the soundtrack was still good. This one is well-thought and it engages viewer, the pace is fine, there is plenty of action and romance in it.

“Eclipse” premieres on 30th June next year and I should probably make reservations around Easter, because with each day the series is making new fans. Is it awards worthy? No. Is it a masterpiece? No. Is it entertaining? Yes. Is it romantic? Yes. Some people will find the dialogue tacky and some of the scenes ridiculous. But the fact is that the movie and the books have both fantasy stuff for boys and romance for girls and I can bet that 50 years from now, even if the books are terrible people will read them and even if the movies may seem silly they will watch them..
(written after New Moon premiere, back in 2009)

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