I saw New Moon before Thanksgiving, and considering that a majority of the planet had already seen it, giving it an incredible opening weekend, I figured a review wasn't really necessary. But I was curious to see if everyone agreed that Chris Weitz's remodel was not only warranted, but successful. Here are the pros and cons of his incarnation:
• Kristen Stewart's Acting: We're stuck in Bella's head a lot in the second book, and if you don't even like Bella, that can be kind of annoying to watch for 2hrs. But I think—after getting "constructive" criticism from millions of people, including spoof comedians, who found her hair-fluffing, overzealous panting, and lip-biting annoying—that Stewart successfully toned down the melodramatic acting. That's especially impressive since Bella needed to convincingly lose her marbles for the first half of the film. Perhaps you didn't agree with how she handled the rejection, but you definitely bought it.
• Taylor Lautner's Transformation: In the first film, we witness two people fall in love and form an unbreakable bond. Lautner had the daunting task of convincing non-readers that Jacob's affections for Bella were not only warranted, but were worthy of being reciprocated. I think the series of false-starts—from the post-movie declaration of affections to the pre-Volturi near-kiss—provided the perfect amount of sexual tension to represent his unrequited love. While reading, I got the feeling that Bella was sort of stringing Jacob along until Edward returned. He was her temporary fix until she could get her hands on a more potent drug. Watching the film made that even more obvious as we got to see her use him to build a dangerous means to summon the Edward-phantom that would warn her against recklessness. You were either on Team Edward, hoping she'd use Jacob more, or on Team Jacob, wishing he'd see right through her manipulation (or that she'd see he was the better choice). I actually I listened to the second book on tape, and listening to Jacob whine about his affections for Bella was soooo annoying. But watching it and seeing his desperation and longing for her, really convinced me of his affections. I don't know if it was the added muscles or his deep, dark eyes, but Taylor did a great job of expressing exactly the kind of protective and passionate character that Jacob was written to be.
• Cinematography: It was incredible, from the simple scenes in the woods to the suspenseful drowning scene to the slow-motion, red-cloaks square rescue. Whereas the first film introduced you to the vampires with gray tones, this film introduced us to the wolves with warm tones, bringing a town that is inhabited by the undead to life.
• Emily's Scarring: I was really concerned about the CGI, in regards to the wolves, but I completely forgot about Emily's face. The wolves looked great. I expected something a little less normal-looking, but they were very well-designed. It wasn't until I realized they were going to introduce Sam's fiancee that I remembered she was supposed to represent a cautionary-tale for Bella if she should ever consider being with Jacob. I imagined her scars to be deep and jarring enough to give you pause, but I was glad half her face wasn't gone. Her scars are deep enough for you to understand why Sam feels so remorseful all the time, but not so deep that they're distracting. Well done.
• The Volturi Showdown: Oh I can't wait for the battles to begin in the upcoming films! Jane (Dakota Fanning) and Alec (Cameron Bright) were so convincingly evil in this film that I'm excited for their future encounters with the Cullen's. And just as a side note on the book itself, after seeing the fight in the Volturi lair, I realized how illogical it was for Emmett not to have gone with Alice. Especially, since she just stood there in a chokehold. I mean, maybe she saw the future was peachy, but most of those body-slams could've been avoided.
• Slow-Motion Fight Scenes: I'm not sure if Chris Weitz is big on slow motion or if he thinks it adds to the suspense, but either way I'm happy he used it during the wolf hunts. I hate when I can never actually see a fight happen. It could've all just looked like a whirlwind of red hair and brown fur, so I'm glad they slowed it down so we could actually see the wolves accost Laurent and nearly catch Victoria. It kind of looked like a violent ballet.
• The Marble Gods: One of the coolest parts about watching a book you've already read is being reminded of cool things you forgot. Stephenie Meyer's vampires are like porcelain dolls. They crack like marble. So cool to actually see that illustrated when Edward's head was slammed into the ground.
• Mike aka Bella's Human Stalker: I hate that putz Mik, but he had me dying laughing in this film. It wasn't anything he said. I just didn't realize that his spaztastic puke session would be that amusing to watch. But maybe it was more so because he was trying to brush Jacob off and have a date with Bella, even going so far as to ask if he was old enough to see an R-rated film. lol He wasn't. Priceless.
• Jacob's Hair: Give a raise to whoever upgraded Jacob's wig from $2-hooker to Rodeo Drive-quality. Very much appreciated.
• Bella's Dad Charlie: Fantastic job with the father-daughter relationship. It was the right amount of awkwardness, teasing, and reprimands.
• Minimal Gore: Also, I'd like to high-five whoever decided not to show the tourists getting slaughtered in the Volturi lair, especially after showing us that there were two children among them.
• The Volturi Trio: I was really afraid James was going to be a joke in the last film, and he turned out to be surprisingly terrifying. Aro (Michael Sheen), however, sort of behaved like Mr. Burns from "The Simpsons." Sure, Mr. Burns is creepy and kind of gross, but he doesn't scare me. I guess Aro isn't really that terrifying in the books, but I didn't expect him to be...weird. And as for his two associates, they seemed kind of ill and bored by the humans, when I thought they were supposed to be angered and intimidating. Was that just me?
• Revealing the Powers: I almost forgot that werewolves block Alice's power. While I'm glad they touched on that a bit, I wish they would've emphasized it more for the non-readers. My friend totally didn't get that Alice wasn't just repulsed by the werewolf smell and his overall presence, and that it was actually a legitimate hindrance to be around him. I hope in the future they'll be a little bit more verbal about what all the other vamps can do. Oh and I hope they emphasize how bonded the wolves are mentally.
• Werewolf Smell: I thought Alice would be a little more repulsed than she was. It looked like she just smelled a rotten egg or bad milk, not like she was ready to gag. Maybe the repetition of it in the book made it seem like it was worse than it actually was.
• Alice and Bella's Friendship: I know, and the readers know, that Bella and Alice are besties, but moviegoers don't. For them, I feel like the die-hard friendship, complete with numerous unreceived emails and a post-suicide-attempt visit, came out of left field. But I guess more time has to be spent on the romances and not the friendships.
• Bella's Attraction towards Edward: In my review of the first one, I expressed disappointment of how they didn't show how solid his skin was and how he was supposed to restrain her for every kiss. While they did do both this time, they didn't really explain why he was restraining her or why the bday present she wanted was a kiss. It makes sense for him to be craving her, but there was no explanation as to why she would be craving him. It's not like he's Dracula. He isn't seducing her. So they should've thrown in a quick line about self-control or something.
• Glitter Effect: The stripper skin remained. What are you going to do right? Gotta keep it consistent.
It's difficult to determine whether Chris Weitz did a better job than Catherine Hardwicke, since he had a bigger budget, more support from the studio, and the benefit of learning from her mistakes. But considering the visual quality of the films that both have produced in the past, I doubt she could've created a more beautifully illustrated, epic love triangle than him. But that's just me. What do you think?