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The Twilight Saga: New Moon Disappoints

by Anne Thompson
November 18, 2009 8:37 AM
26 Comments
  • |
Thompson on Hollywood

When new distributor Summit left behind Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke in its rush to push through the second film in their windfall franchise, they took a calculated risk. Abandoning a silly Twilight script that had been passed on by Paramount, Hardwicke and writer Melissa Rosenberg went back to the heart-pounding first-person intensity of the Stephenie Meyer original, which wound up selling 70 million copies worldwide. The dream that inspired Meyer--chapter thirteen in the first book--is a scene in a rain forest between a lovelorn young girl and a sparkling 109-year-old vampire who is restraining himself from biting and killing her. That tension is the heart and soul of the Twilight series.

Meyer always knew that New Moon was an odd book, as Edward abandons Bella, who is depressed and bereft for much of the movie. While the book makes clear why Edward leaves Bella--to protect her--the movie leaves his motivation murky. Forlorn Bella, well-played by Stewart, turns for support to muscle-bound Jacob instead. There's a reason that Summit is pushing Taylor Lautner as fresh bait for tweens. There isn't enough of the central relationship between Stewart and Pattinson to hold this film together. The device of having Edward hover and disappear as a protective warning to Bella is risible. While young girl moviegoers gasp whenever Lautner removes his shirt (which is often), the film's parallel vampire vs. werewolf structure also begs credulity.

[Clips of Stephenie Meyer on Oprah on the jump.]

Hardwicke knew that the New Moon script needed work. While the first film had its weak points, Hardwicke could channel Twilight's throbbing romantic pulse, and pulled strong performances from her two young leads.

Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass) is a flashier filmmaker who works well with actors. (He says he's considering giving up directing.) More conventionally glossy than Twilight, New Moon boasts more male-appeal action (including some cheesy fast-motion CG werewolves) and a short climactic sequence in Italy featuring the Volturi vampire clan, led by the always-entertaining Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning. But the Volturi feel tacked on. It turns out, Meyer admitted to Oprah Winfrey, that her mother told her she needed to beef up her ending. So she brought the Volturi into the series earlier than she had intended for a noisier finale.

Summit's smart to broaden the appeal of the Twilight franchise--the movie is primed for a huge opening weekend--but I wonder how this one will play for the moms, the romantics who fell for Edward and Bella in the first place. And the Saga is headed toward more edgy action-horror, as 30 Days of Night horror director David Slade promises a darker, gorier and more guy-friendly Eclipse. Gosh, there's plenty of that stuff for the boys. Why ditch the women who delivered this franchise in the first place?

Variety likes this one better than I do; their critic reviewed the film from Paris. Roger Ebert writes a funny review. One star.

Here are the Meyer-Oprah interviews, one and two:

26 Comments

  • Koto | November 23, 2009 7:21 AMReply

    Actually I have no intersting to seeing NM though.At this moment,this phenomenon is so huge.It's like tsunami or rolling snowball.You just can't ignore that.Maybe backlash is also huge? But good or bad,I'm sure Twilight movies will make tons of money. I think it's like Summit won the jackpot in a lottery.It also has ultimate success story(Stephenie Meyer).Perhaps this phenomenon itself is sort of fantasy..

  • raqy101 | November 22, 2009 9:22 AMReply

    i havent seen NM as yet but plan 2. Twilight was really gud n i felt the romance. it actually made me wish i cud find a love dat strong. every1 is different, with different opinions but i dont think it was dat bad. i do agree (From the trailer) kristen looked a little off. i guess she had a hard time switching moods btw depressed n happy. dat can be hard n draining. so lets not b 2 harsh wIth our critism.

  • heathermc | November 22, 2009 7:49 AMReply

    Wray, the whole Twilight phenomenon is a surprise to the entertainment business. Not even Summit can understand the implications of its gold mine. I describe their actions as 'high grading' the story, and missing out on the 'mother lode.' (I live near a mining area).

    I think that your run-of-the-mill reviewers don't want to be outliers, they like to be part of the intellectual elite (they are writers, after all), and the Twi phenomenon is a low status girly thing, marked by screaming girls (altho even Rob Pattinson has noted that a LOT of fans are older women). Therefore, for most reviewers, their very low ratings reflect a disdain for the phenomenon itself, rather than a fair assessment of the movies' value. Or, I might add, disappointment over their comparison to the books.

    It isn't a 'conspiracy', Wray, it is more 'common knowledge' that is at work here.

  • Wray | November 22, 2009 5:39 AMReply

    Point taken. None of this explains the thrashing this movie is taking by critics - few of which (I'm guessing) are fans of the book(s). I did not expect the film to get high marks, but I just can't understand the universally negative ones (someone gave it a zero on RT).
    Is there a conspiracy of which I am not aware? Kidding! Really, though, I've seen many a bad movie, and this one just doesn't qualify as THAT bad. What gives?

  • heathermc | November 22, 2009 2:25 AMReply

    I totally agree with the previous poster who said that she is interested in Twilight as a "Phenomenon". My own theory is that it is a quest, first. Quests seem to attract humans (like soap operas, only with a definite and elevated ending, within a fantastic world.) And, it is a WOMAN's quest. This is extremely unusual, especially in our time. Add to this the very old fashioned hero as a 'gentleman' in a modern small town highschool, and it just is amazing.

    Summit has never known what it has stumbled upon when it produced this movie. Dropping Hardwicke (instead of backing her up with lots of money for CGI techies) was their first error. Remember, she chose the actors. And as posters on the eonline board note, she knows about 'romance' in a woman's way.

    And then let's drag in sexism here. It is EMBARRASSING to make a girlie movie, to act in one, and to be fans of one (I should know, I love the books, and am embarrassed to talk about them to ANYONE.) So, it isn't only about widening the demographics to include more guys. Not really. It is really all about becoming more 'respectable.' Less girly. Would Simone de Beauvoir have fun with this. Remember when she said that 'human' means 'men'; while 'women' means 'women.'

    And Wray, the word is, Weitz DID deviate from the book, by whizzing by such things as the trip back from Italy, I guess so he could have more scenes with werewolves (sarc.)

  • Wray | November 21, 2009 9:26 AMReply

    In response to the male/female director thing, I worried about this quite a bit when Summit replaced directors. I'm not sure if that was the problem with New Moon, it may be something as simple as Weitz not wanting to "rock the boat". He seemed to have been very careful to correct the "mistakes" of the first one, while being very careful (maybe too careful) not to deviate from the book.

    Anyway, I would like to point to Joe Wright as an example of a male director who (I think) did a great job on "Pride and Prejudice" including lingering shots of an alabaster bust of "Mr. Darcy" and an extremely long shot of "Darcy" walking towards "Lizzie" in the early morning. The latter shot could have been a really over-the-top, cheesy, romance novel-y touch, but it worked. I just think Weitz was less willing to take chances and I think that was one of the reasons he got the job.

  • heathermc | November 21, 2009 8:11 AMReply

    ANOTHER COMMENT FROM THE SAME BOARD:
    "I know it's still kind of early, but I'm getting worried for Eclipse. I keep hearing how it's faster and has more action from interviews I saw from Kellan and Rob. Faster might be better because NM was a little slow at times, but I hope they don't rush the Edward/Bella scenes because I think those are the parts the majority of the fans want to see. Actually, that's all I want to see"....(p 387)

  • heathermc | November 21, 2009 7:40 AMReply

    Now here is a very intelligent analysis of the female vs male director:
    "Here's a small beef of mine re NM. Personally, I enjoyed Chris Weitz adaption of NM tremendously, but I agree with you on on a couple points. In my opinion I think movies such as this, romantic love, geared towards women, should be directed by a woman, who will make it her main priority to emphasize that aspect. The sensuality of it, the emotion of it. I say a woman, because frankly, a woman is more inclined to be comfortable and at ease and eager, to not only gaze passionately thru the lens at the male actors but the females as well.

    Some men, most men - not so much. With NM, you can subtly see the differences between male and female style of directing.

    It's less sensual.

    Simply put, there is no guy director, who would have let the camera linger over Edward's face in Bella's bedroom as Catherine H did. Nor, in my opinion would they have gotten the tender explosive slow kiss like we got in Twilight (a guy would NEVER have taken that time). Or Edward lying in bed, and Bella cuddling up to him, his face both wondering, and fearful at the contact.

    Weitz even says he basically didn't even WANT to direct the kissing scenes. Now of course, we all realize that Kristen and Rob are perfectly capable of kissing on their own, but and still, there is certainly going to be a bit of self-consciousness that might seep in, when a director says, 'hey, you two just do what you want, let me know when your done.' lol

    A lot of people like to say CH was pervy, but look what we got for it! I think female directors, especially those like CH are far more aware of their actors as sensual beings, and more aware of what the Twi-saga is at it's heart (a romance) and so will direct them accordingly, as opposed to what straight 'action oriented,' guy directors might do.
    The twilight saga is about passionate love. End of story. ...."

    (There is more of this comment at a board devoted to "Robsten":
    http://boards.eonline.com/Insider/Boards/thread.jspa?threadID=73005&start=5730&tstart=0 page 383, by "scandienq")

  • twilightfatigue | November 20, 2009 11:07 AMReply

    Scummit Entertainment knows they could cast a bunch of stick figures in this film and the fangirls would show up anyway.

  • heathermc | November 20, 2009 7:38 AMReply

    Well, the board I frequent is filled with thrilled reviews, esp for Kristen and Rob; some downtime during the middle part. The reviews are definitely mixed, but they would be, wouldn't they, for a girly film??

    I'm going to wait for the dvd, tho.

  • heathermc | November 20, 2009 12:24 AMReply

    It is so nice to come across this thread. On another one, I flat out said that the Twilight Saga was as good a work as Lord of the Rings, and there was (electronic) horrified silence. But look at it: they are both quests, both worlds are three dimensional. I started Harry Potter, but stopped with the 'muggles' as I don't like "cute". Neither Twilight nor LOTR are "cute."

    Now, they are different, because one is a man's quest and the other is a woman's quest. The one features huge wars, ending with a war to end wars. Twilight ends with Bella's shield protecting her world and her future. From this point of view, Twilight does NOT need a 'battle' to finish it.

    I am refusing to see NM at the theatres, but will probably buy the DVD if only to see the Volturi scene. I came across a pirated last part of NM, by the way, and from what I can see, Weitz has managed to completely ignore one of the great comic wedding proposal scenes in favour of yet another wolfie Jacob trying to jump on Edward.

  • Koto | November 19, 2009 9:34 AMReply

    Anne's review,not Ann's review.
    Sorry for my misspelling in my previous post.

  • Koto | November 19, 2009 9:17 AMReply

    Wray wrote,
    >This Twilight phenomenon is fascinating to me too

    Me,too! I'm from the country where Twilight has no buzz(for both books and films.There are some die-hard Twilight fans in here though,they are minority) I never saw the phenomenon like this(I found some die-hard fans are obnoxious though).It's fascinating. Now I'm interesting to see how will end this phenomenon at the end.

    By the way,I think Ann's review is fair-minded review.Other than Ebert review,there are more harsh reviews all over the world.

    *Daily Mail review(UK)
    "Slightly less scary than an X Factor performance by Jedward, the film is blatantly aimed at girls between 13 and 15. That’s IQ, by the way, not age. "
    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1500155/board/thread/151736333?d=151736333#151736333

    *Marg and David - respected Australian critics
    Margaret - **1/2
    David - *1/2
    David Stratton
    " But the pacing is sluggish, the film lacks both suspense and romance, and the climax, which is set in Tuscany, with Michael Sheen acting like Tony Blair on steroids and a weird-looking Dakota Fanning just standing by, is pitifully weak."
    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1500155/board/thread/151767157?d=151767157#151767157

    It seems like second one is not as good as first one..
    Sorry for my poor English.

  • ginger Liu | November 19, 2009 8:25 AMReply

    Sad to hear that the gals and women who backed Twilight will be left in the cold once more as another movie for the boys gets churned out. It happens all the time of course but this time it makes no sense when female fans proved to be the force behind Twilight's success. And with Mr. Pattinson as THE heartthrob phenomena of more than a decade (he's the real deal. e.g. John Travolta and Grease), producers choose to ignore and milk it. But none of this matters. These films are huge and the next one will be huge -the fan base is there, the PR is massive. Us gals get let down again -it's like another bad date.

  • Wray | November 19, 2009 8:01 AMReply

    Forget negative criticism - have you read some of the patronizing comments leveled at the fans and at the author of the series? Now that's interesting.

  • 4_ARTS_sake | November 19, 2009 7:06 AMReply

    i have not seen NM yet, but i give high credits for CHs hard work. it was cooked according to her taste with pure dedication on it. she was an indie director, so expect the movie to be raw, and hands on. i was even relieved when i first heard she's not having any CGIs (with the low budget) to the film. imagine now the hw movie trend with overflowing reliance to the technology to make it even times better- but still looked fake and too fancy for me. as a visual artist myself, i chew more for raw, indie, low-budget films that every detail is simply real to me and thus make you feel the movie better. even the blue tint color palette for twilight was way better for me as it brings out the artsy look, than the gold in nm (as i have seen in pics and trailers) in which the story is about bella being depressed so why make the tint "happier"? it also makes the vampire make up more obvious, not good when lighted too much. i love twilight for the fact that the people behind it were dominated by women, and kristen being the REAL LEAD actor. i fell in love with the first movie, though it wasn't close enough to the book, but I FELT IT..i don't feel sorry for CH if she's refused doing nm(she thinks the prep time is too short) but i hope nm with CW will not be as commercialized as i imagine wd be. but how do i know with nm? i'm keeping my hopes for CW. in a matter of hours i will see nm and i'll see if I'LL BE AS DEPRESSED AS BELLA AFTER.

  • heathermc | November 19, 2009 4:28 AMReply

    Your remarks re trying desperately to get the guys into the theatre exactly matches my problem with the NM and Eclipse (the latter will be, I predict, a gorefest, with little or no understanding of the tension between Bella and Edward).
    Part of this desperation to make it more 'guy friendly' is (I think) sexist, ie, that it is not quite respectable to make a 'girly' movie. Also, throwing over Hardwicke was part of this, and I think a major mistake. I think they will find that the 'girly' audience will slip away and DVD, etc sales will slowly die.

    I also believe that the romance centers the story, but the books hold our attention through 4 books because it is Bella's quest, a quest to save the Cullen family and their 'vegetarian' ways from the Volturi. There is something so fundamental about a 'quest', it is so human to be drawn into it. And Twilight is, of all things, a 'woman's quest'. How about that?

  • Wray | November 19, 2009 3:22 AMReply

    Here's my take, for what it's worth.
    Fans of the series will go to see their heroes/heroines on the big screen, but they will not see it multiple times nor will they buy the DVD if the movie is not a faithful adaptation. The first Twilight movie, despite all the bickering and complaining WAS faithful and it worked because of Stewart and Pattinson. Much of the rest of the film did not work as well, but it got points for being interesting and taking chances. What I'm hearing is that New Moon is too slick for it's own good and Pattinson is missed. Is that about right?
    This Twilight phenomenon is fascinating to me too, although I can't claim it's for professional reasons (I'm a biologist by trade, not a sociologist or Hollywood insider). There's something to be learned from the intensity of the fandom and the equal intensity of the backlash.
    Films and film-making interest me in general, but I have never had the opportunity(until now) to witness something explode the way this "franchise" has - and it seemed so unlikely at first...

  • john | November 19, 2009 2:48 AMReply

    Anne: why are you apologizing? Do critics review films to keep people from buying tickets? I don't think so. We do it because events in the culture beg addressing, and the impulse to make criticism is as essentilal as the impulse to make art -- even if the "art" involves teenage vampires. If you're going to review movies (which you do more and more, while claiming not to be a critic) for christ sake don't let numbnuts like zyg make you feel bad about it.

  • mike | November 19, 2009 2:46 AMReply

    to the author, the reason they are making the movie more themed towards males, is because males are more likely to go and spend money on a movie, especially if they can enjoy it and take their gf out for a date. i'm sorry if you find that to be troublesome, but they make movies to make money not to make fans happy, everyone seems to forget that. bottom line, males spend more money on movies, therefor the true target market must include those spenders, hence making what was a very boring movie (twilight) into a more action packed series (new moon, and a darker eclipse)
    oh and i enjoyed all of the books and the first movie, even though it was nothing like it should have been.

  • Marie | November 19, 2009 2:43 AMReply

    What I find the funniest is this:

    "While the first film had its weak points, Hardwicke could channel Twilight’s throbbing romantic pulse, and pulled strong performances from her two young leads."

    Really? The entire movie was terribly weak. Honestly, it gets worse every time I watch it (and I'm a fan). Hardwicke screwed up the first film so badly it's a surprise that it's as well-liked as it is. The romance was rushed (many parts of the book were unnecessarily cut out). Stewart and Pattinson did the best they could with the less-than-stellar directing that they were receiving, but they were nowhere near 'strong'.

    Doesn't matter, anyway. The fans are going to flock to the theatres regardless of bad reviews. It's got the loyal fangirl base that will keep their boat afloat though the roughest storms.

  • Anne Thompson | November 19, 2009 2:34 AMReply

    I know. Fans of the series will go in any case. Hardwicke's film, even with some rough edges, tapped into the chemistry between Stewart and Pattinson. That movie was aimed at women, as were the books. I checked out the first two in the series to see why they worked; Meyer tapped into the idea of the vampire as protective fantasy lover. I felt no need to read further, and recognized that the first movie would be huge and that the second book would face adaptation issues. Much of the attention paid by me to Twilight is professional. What makes something take off like this? How much is fueled by the books, are Stewart and Pattinson stars separate from Twilight? All fascinating to me.

  • ProgGrrl | November 19, 2009 2:07 AMReply

    "Gosh, there’s plenty of that stuff for the boys. Why ditch the women who delivered this franchise in the first place?" -- Very much my question and my worry. From the moment the first footage of NEW MOON started appearing, this was very clearly a different film from TWILIGHT. David Slade's hiring for ECLIPSE does not make me feel any better. It's a damned shame.

    Good thing we ladies will always have those books, and the great casting that Hardwicke did, and our own imaginations.

    And to this commenter mike: why do men spend more money on films? Could it be, possibly, that they find more movies atuned to their interests and feelings and experiences than women do? Hmm. A possibility. Films like TWILIGHT and TITANIC and SEX AND THE CITY and SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE and HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS are a testament to what can happen when Hollywood tends to the other 51% of the US population (per 2007 US census).

  • zyg | November 19, 2009 2:05 AMReply

    couple things that strike me. you're really into this series -- can't help but wonder why. it's cute, though. and, you've filed a review that will have no meaning to fans of the series. they're going to see it no matter... (does anyone care about critics anymore)? [by extension, the review will have no meaning to people who don't care about the series]

    so. as a fan of the series, if you had read your review before you saw the movie would it have stopped you from seeing the movie?

  • Monique | November 18, 2009 10:34 AMReply

    Funniest line in your piece: "...the film’s parallel vampire vs. werewolf structure also begs credulity." File under "Duh".

  • Liz | November 18, 2009 10:10 AMReply

    how do you rate the performances, especially Kristen's? I found her unnatural and uneven in the first one but other critics are saying she's more natural in this one. Lautner, not so much.

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