By Clint Morris
Like it or not, the vampire movie has forever changed as we know it.
No longer are the undead all about preying on humans, raiding blood banks, sharpening their teeth on neck cartilage, sleeping in closed coffins, dodging garlic, and donning shadowy trench coats. Nope, thanks to teen sensation â€˜â€™Twilightâ€™â€™, the legendary bloodsucker has evolved from a frightening creature of the night to, well, the perfect man – hence, they’d rather doze in your cradle, not in a dark tomb by themselves.
The folkloric beings of author Stephenie Meyer’s â€˜â€™Twilightâ€™â€™ books are steadfast, loving, compassionate, beautiful and, er, sparkly. Interested in sucking on your neck? Hardly, unless it’s to give you a hicky. The heartless (and I mean that literally) inhabitants of Forts, Washington (the real-life city the books are set) enjoy a glass of squirrel blood as much as the next vein-drinker, but when it all comes down to it, they like to love, not lunge.
…. Cue the girly squeal.
And that’s â€“ I think; Iâ€™m still a little confused why women are going ape shit for it – why â€˜â€™Twilightâ€™â€™ has captured the heart of near every girl (and fully-grown woman) with a working ticker – because it’s a yarn more concerned with the romance, rather than the ravaging (heck, both films start with a quotation from â€˜Romeo & Juliet’ – that should tell you everything) of the human body.
(You fellas looking for â€˜â€™Near Darkâ€™â€™ or â€˜â€™The Lost Boysâ€™â€™ will have more luck at Blockbuster).
A gothic love story that takes the mush of a Nicholas Spark novel and blends it with fantastical Harry Potter-esque fantasy elements, â€˜â€™Twilightâ€™â€™, the book, and consequent film, focuses on the development of a personal relationship between human teenager Bella Swan (Gorgeous Kristen Stewart) and vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), and the subsequent efforts of Cullen and his family to keep Swan safe from a separate group of hostile vampires.
The highly-anticipated (and I mean, highly-anticipated! My wife has been marking off the days til its release on the calendar, and hundreds are camped outside the theatres in the U.S in anticipation of its premiere!) sequel, â€˜â€™New Moonâ€™â€™, is here!
Ok, girls, here it is in a nutshell : â€œNew Moonâ€ is a better film than â€˜â€™Twilightâ€™â€™. Youâ€™re going to be in Edward/Jacob heaven! (You’ll be cherry-red when Jacob makes his long-awaited move on Bella, And blowing your nose with your sleeve when Edward reclaims his love). There’s a much deeper, and more complex story, to – excuse the pun – sink your teeth into this time. But mainly, itâ€™s fluffier than a basket of freshly-washed towels.
Boysâ€¦ Not much here for you. Youâ€™d be better off playing the arcade games next door for a couple of hours while the other half dampens up a cinema cushion. Not to say thereâ€™s not a couple of good action sequences in the film, because there is (The â€˜Wolf Packâ€™ feature in the majority of them), just that, at its core, this is a romantic drama.
A film about a love triangle (between a human, a vampire, and a werewolf) more so than a forbidden romance (as the first was), â€˜â€™New Moonâ€™â€™ sees the distraught Bella seeking solace in the ever-dependable and newly-muscular Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner, who – as you’ll see in the topless scenes – packed on quite a bit of beef for the part), when her beloved Edward decides it’s no longer safe for her to be mixing with vampires like himself.
While Bella struggles to get herself together, so does the lovesick Jacob who, like Edward in the first flick, harbours a monstrous secret of his own.
Director Chris Weitz (replacing â€˜â€™Twilightâ€™â€™ helmer Catherine Hardwicke â€“ she left over â€œcreative differencesâ€) has crafted a very loyal interpretation of Meyer’s book – and that’s to both the movie’s advantage and disadvantage.
Weitz, who also helmed the film adaptation of another fantasy novel â€œThe Golden Compassâ€, successfully translates the pivotal moments in the paperback to celluloid : The angst-ridden journey of forlorn Bella, struggling to cope without her 109-year-old boyfriend), the exciting new world of the werewolves (they play an even bigger part in the preceding books/movies apparently) and their surprising new member, and new threat, Italy-based vampire outfit The Volturi (Which Dakota Fanning and Michael Sheen play members of), who enter the pic in the third act.
What doesnâ€™t quite work is the â€˜Obi-Wan Kenobiâ€™ element. Let me explain, Weitz faced a problem when he discovered the character of Edward, who of course was such a strong presence in â€˜â€™Twilightâ€™â€™, didn’t appear in a lot of â€˜â€™New Moonâ€™â€™. But knowing how beloved a character he is and convinced Robert Pattinson is a key reason that the first film was so successful, everyone agreed they should somehow work more of Edward into the film. Fair enough. Solution? Edward hangs around, in a cheesy hologram form, to talk and guide Bella in moments of danger. Even fans are likely to be a bit irked by the ever-so-present apparition. It just doesnâ€™t seem to workâ€¦ but as a producer, I donâ€™t know that Iâ€™d be able to find a better solution. Itâ€™s a hard one.
Acting-wise, thereâ€™s nothing here to call the Voting members of the Academy about â€“ particularly in regards to Stewart and Pattinson, who seemingly sleepwalk through their roles – but thereâ€™s a couple of exceptions : young Taylor Lautner, as Jacob Black, seems to be giving it his all here. He not only totally transformed himself for the part (itâ€™s quite an accomplishment adding so much muscle in such short a time), but performance-wise, his heart seems to be really in it. Heâ€™s actually pretty damn good. While Edward and Bella are a little hard to read at times (and I know Iâ€™ve just opened myself up to a joke about the vampire not being able to â€˜readâ€™ his love), largely due to their largely expressionless and emotively-crippled turns, you really do get a sense of whatâ€™s going on in Jacob Blackâ€™s head. Heâ€™s a good person â€“ in a bad place. Lautner undoubtedly walks away with the movie. Heâ€™s the glue that holds the thing together in many ways.
In addition, thereâ€™s impressive turns â€“ as brief as their appearances are â€“ by Oscar Nominee Michael Sheen (â€œFrost/Nixonâ€) as Aro, the vanilla-skinned rogue in charge of the evil Volturi; another warm turn by Billy Burke, returning as Bellaâ€™s sheriff dad, Charlie; and young Ashley Greene lights up the screen as the bubbly mind-reading vamp Alice.
While Itâ€™s not for the lactose intolerant (itâ€™s dripping in cheese) Weitz has crafted an engaging and much more deeper film than Hardwickeâ€™s. Wouldnâ€™t at all be surprised if quite a few tyro viewers walk in open to enjoying something different, and exit looking for the nearest Twihard application form. This one encompasses a stronger spell.
(On a personal note, I didnâ€™t give two hoots about seeing â€œNew Moonâ€. I enjoyed â€œTwilightâ€, but I didnâ€™t think it was the beeâ€™s knees, as the â€˜Eveâ€™sâ€™ of our world have. But you know what? I enjoyed this one. Interested in seeing whatâ€™s in store for Bella, Edward and Jacob in next yearâ€™s â€œEclipseâ€).
Blu-Ray Details and Extras :
In terms of both the audio/video quality and the extras package, I think this might just be superior to the ”Twilight” Blu-Ray release – which, if memory serves me correctly, encompassed quite a few good extras, but as it was early in the days of the new-fangled Blu-Ray disc, not all machines could play the disc.
Among the bonuses in the colossal extras section are some extended and deleted scenes, music videos, quite a few featurettes (nearly every aspect of the production is covered here), a sneak peek at the upcoming ”Eclipse” (which will no doubt be the first thing a look of fans jump to!), an informative and rather amusing audio commentary by director Chris Weitz and editor Peter Lamber, and storyboard to film comparisons. It’s quite the package.