Monday, November 23, 2009

New Moon: A Review

Okay, I figure instead of whining about how badly others have handled the reviews of New Moon, I should offer up my own opinion on the movie.

I waited until a Monday, at 3:30 to see the show so that I wouldn't have to endure a theater full of squeeing fans. This proved to be a good plan as the theater was perhaps no more than an eighth full and I heard not a single squee the entire duration of the film.

My overall impression of New Moon: I found New Moon the movie to be an improvement on New Moon the book. I genuinely liked the movie. After the cut are my specifics.

Here are the things I feared about the movie based on the many reviews I've read but ended up pleasantly surprised:

1. Kristen Stewart's off-putting personality would make her performance as Bella unbearable. Actually, I thought Kristen Stewart was much better in this film than in Twilight. She still has a tendency to rely on two facial expressions - serious and more serious. But overall I thought she did a great job conveying the depth of Bella's depression. Her chemistry with Taylor Lautner worked well, and I felt a connection between them that conveyed Bella's distress over events at the end of the story much better than I felt the book did.

2. Taylor Lautner's performance would be all about the body and nothing about his ability to act. Again, I have to give props to Taylor. He did a great job as Jacob. Yes, his body is quite the sight to behold. In fact, it almost looked fake it was so perfect. But I thought he did a great job giving his character the right amount of change from the happy-go-lucky puppy in love at the beginning of the story to the world-weary Jacob of the end of the film.

3. The movie would drag given it's based on a book that is virtually 400 plus pages of Bella moping. I thought the pacing was fine. The story moved forward at a steady pace, and I didn't feel that Chris Weitz lingered over long on Bella's months of near-catatonic depression. He captured the gist of the situation and then moved the story forward. Granted, the movie didn't whiz by such that the 130 minutes seemed like a mere half hour - I felt every minute of the story. But I was never bored or looking at my watch wishing we could get on with it.

4. Bad dialogue. Actually, I thought the actors all did an excellent job delivering lines that could come off as incredibly cheezy. Specifically, Kristen Stewart managed to deliver several lines naturally that have been quoted as incredibly bad. I didn't have any problems with the dialogue at all.

Here are things I agree with from the many reviews I've read:

1. The introduction of new characters and a focus on some old ones was a good thing. Bella's human friend Jessica was indeed a scream, and I enjoyed the extra attention on the members of Jacob's werewolf pack brothers. For the little amount of screen time they were given, they did show personality. Too, the Volturi vampires were well drawn, at least as far as Aro and Jane. They very much matched up with my imaginings from the book. Bella's father Charlie stole the scenes he was in and came across as a much more involved father than he ever did in the books.

2. Poor special effects. I didn't have a problem with the vampire sparkle - much, much better than the first film. While the wolves worked well when shown in full-body and as a pack, I thought the close ups of their mouths - snapping and snarling and showing loads of teeth - did look fairly odd. It seemed as if the mouths were out of proportion to the size of the wolves' bodies or something. I thought they did a great job with the "furploding" of the wolves when they changed from human into wolf form.

3. The film was a bit dark. I'm not talking about the tone of the film. I'm talking about a handful of scenes that were so dimly lit I kept wanting to hit the "adjust brightness" button to lighten up the characters so that I could see them.

4. Excellent performance by Michael Sheen as Aro. Not quite sure why Dakota Fanning got such high billing since she had only a handful of lines as Jane, but she did fine by them.

Reasons why I actually liked the movie better than the book:

1. Due to the nature of cinema over literature, we didn't have to endure page after page of Bella's internal depression and self-esteem issues. We were shown in fairly brief scenes that Bella was depressed that Edward left, that she was conflicted over her feelings about Jake, and that she didn't believe she was good enough for Edward and that was the reason he had left her. In the book, we had to hear Bella's feelings about these issues over and over and over again, ad nauseum.

2. The Bella of the movie was a bit more sympathetic than the book Bella as far as her treatment of Jacob. In the book, I became very frustrated that Bella lead Jake on as far as her feelings for him without getting a good sense that she felt really bad about it. Kristen Stewart managed to convey Bella's ambivalence towards her feelings for Jake - that she needed his friendship so badly she wasn't strong enough to walk away even as she knew his romantic feelings for her were one-sided and growing stronger.

3. Overall, I like Movie Bella better than Book Bella.

In the end, I still believe that unless you are a fan of the books you will not enjoy the movies simply because the story is the story regardless of the medium, and either you like that type of story or you don't. Many people don't.

But I have to say that I think the film adaptation remained faithful enough to the book to be very satisfying as well as actually improving on things in general. I'm not sure if the whole franchise is worth half the hype it has received, but after seeing the movie for myself,  I do think that much of the negativity aimed at the film could be backlash as well as jaded opinions of critics who fall far outside the target demographic.

1 comment:

jaclyn said...

personally, I think that kristen wasn't the best actress to play the part of bella and the books are way better then the movies. I am not saying that the movies are bad I love them more then life but the movies leave somthing to be desired.