Just Some Pretty Faces: 'The Twilight Saga: New Moon' DVD

March 17, 2010

DURING THIS YEAR’S OSCARS, the Academy showcased a tribute to horror films and included — perhaps as a nod to the presenters of the vignette, Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart — a clip from “New Moon,” the latest film in the “Twilight” series. Horror, however, this is not, unless you consider “it’s-scary-how-seriously-this-movie-takes-itself” a new genre of terror.

But if you listened to the screams of frenzied prepubescent, teen and even adult female fans everywhere, there’s nothing not to love about “New Moon,” which comes out on DVD on March 20. Visually, it improves upon the special effects used in the previous “Twilight,” which may be thanks to the first film’s huge success at the box office. And in terms of attractive young men, there are two battling for Bella‘s (Stewart) affection: Robert Pattinson, who plays the icily delicious vampire Edward Cullen, and the aforementioned Lautner, who plays Jacob Black, a werewolf trying to steal Bella’s heart. Sure, Lautner was in “Twilight,” but back then he was a gangly, long-haired kid — now, to the glee of panting fans, he has a shorter coif and a more muscular build, the kind of physique that should really get Team Jacob fans cheering.

Having a pretty face, though, doesn’t necessarily mean you can act, and in that sense, “New Moon” is almost as torturous as “Twilight.”

It may just be that Stephenie Meyer‘s words work better on paper than they do actually being uttered by real-life people, but, just like “Twilight,” “New Moon” feels like it’s trying too hard.

There have been plenty of tortured human-vampire love stories before — Buffy and Angel, Dracula and Mina, Sookie and Bill — but none as over-acted as this: Edward is just so tortured to leave Bella. Bella is just so in love (or weak-willed, depending on your level of feminism) that she can’t bear to live without him. Jacob is just so selfless that he has to save her. All of them are drawn by Meyer with such a heavy hand that on a big screen, their emotions and conflicts are generally laughable.

But while it’s easy to mock the film’s lack of subtlety, it is undeniably better-looking than “Twilight,” and lacks the goofy effects that ruined some of the first’s pivotal scenes, like when Bella sees Edward shirtless and sparkling or when he flies with her through the forests of Forks, Wash. A bigger budget means bigger visuals, and “New Moon” delivers: The transformations from human-to-vampire, such as when Jacob switches into lycanthrope in mid-air, are obviously CGI but still impressive, and when Bella travels to Italy to save Edward from the vampire coven Volturi, the sets are simply beautiful (filming in Montepulciano, Italy, obviously helped).

Plus, some of the film’s best acting comes from Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning, who play two members of the coven — Sheen, who is a veteran of monster-heavy fantasies (ironically, he played the werewolf Lucian in the “Underworld” series), is a natural at this sort of thing, and Fanning firmly brushes off her child-acting beginnings with this grown-up role, which has her donning some blood-red contacts and a bitchily ruthless attitude. As coldblooded vamps who have a set way of doing things, they’re a refreshing respite from Bella’s and Edward’s love story, and keep viewers firmly aware that these things would feast on your blood if they could. Or were real. Whichever.

And if you get bored during the film’s obnoxiously long 130-minute runtime, you can always switch over to the set’s special features, which include a discussion with director Chris Weitz and editor Peter Lambert, who talk about their efforts making the film; a six-part documentary that takes viewers behind the scenes of the film’s production; and band rehearsal footage with Muse, whose one misstep in their otherwise impressive career might have been contributing a song to this series. Withholding all judgment, though, the rehearsal is enjoyable for fans of the band, and though the documentary drags a bit, it’s interesting to see how the film came together and how the actors, now used to working with each other from “Twilight,” gelled together on the set.

Nevertheless, if “New Moon” is a sign of things to come with the other films of the series, which will be based off Meyer’s third and fourth books, “Eclipse” and “Breaking Dawn,” then those flicks will certainly look pretty.

Worthwhile cinema that will change your life? Well, no.

But if you were watching “New Moon” in the first place, you probably weren’t looking for that anyway.

Written by Express contributor Roxana Hadadi

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express | March 17, 2010