The novel demands that Bella and Edward be kept apart, robbing the movie of the crazy love that made 'Twilight' such a guilty pleasure. And about the director ....
By Kenneth Turan
Spoken early on in "New Moon," that promise is one of the least likely to be kept in movie history. With most of that film still to unfold, and two more adaptations of Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series in the works, the next due out as soon as next summer, the world is going to see as much of Kristen Stewart's melancholy Bella and Robert Pattinson's undead Edward as it can take. Maybe more.
In the short term, however, Edward is as good as his word and "New Moon" suffers as a result. Constrained by the plot of the novel, the film keeps the two lovers apart for quite a spell, robbing the project of the crazy-in-love energy that made "Twilight," the first entry in the series, such a guilty pleasure.
"New Moon," which has been grandly titled "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" in honor of that first episode's huge success, 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 Hardwicke, a filmmaker of intense, sometimes overwhelming and out of control emotionality who seemed to feel these teenage characters in her bones, "New Moon" has gone with the more polished Chris Weitz.
A smooth professional whose credits include such adaptations as "The Golden Compass" and "About a Boy," Weitz makes the vampire trains of Melissa Rosenberg's capable script run on time, but he almost seems too rational a director for this kind of project. This lack of animating madness combined with the novel's demands give much of "New Moon" a marking time quality.
Yes, I know, "New Moon's" emotional energy is supposed to come through Bella's putative attachment to newly buff best friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). But though audiences gasp when Jacob uses his shirt to staunch Bella's blood (don't ask) and reveals a torso that would make Charles Atlas swoon, the connection between these two is so self-evidently non-romantic that it turns out not to be much of a diversion.
More interesting is Jacob's discovery that as a member of the fierce Quileute tribe he is prone to turning into an exceptionally large wolf at a moment's notice, a wolf whose main objective in life is to safeguard humans from vampires. In addition to pining for Edward, Bella suddenly finds herself in the middle of age-old and bitter enmities. This is one hard-luck young woman.
For more on the subject, see Quileute Werewolves in Twilight.
Below: "I'm shirtless, dark-skinned, and fierce. I'm an Indian!"