Monday, November 23, 2009

Of Sparkly Vampires and 6-Packed Werewolves...

Everybody and their great aunt Edna has written reviews or op eds on NEW MOON and its predecessor TWILIGHT, so I'll spare myself the duty of reviewing it. BUT I did see it, for curiosity's sake -didn't pay for it, nor did I do anything illegal don't worry- and I feel I should bring some objectivity to it, with the following 3 thoughts.

On the Appeal and Quality
I tried to read the novels (again out of curiosity) and I have to say I understand the appeal for tweens; they are NOT well written at all, but then again if the vocabulary and turn of phrases require too much it won't be interesting for the "Instant Gratification" generation - said not as a poke but as a perfectly viable observation. But still, they are badly written, and thus the movies do not deserve the hysterical hype. The first one was a low-budget (low for a Hollywood studio, not for an indie) fare that should've generated between 20 and 30 millions in domestic take. The second one cost around $50M and looks it, but it's still a unoriginal and quite boring story that doesn't deserve to rank alongside THE DARK KNIGHT for opening week-end biggest takes.

On the Cast and crew
Kristen Stewart comes out very much as the chick who called the first movie's fans "retards" shortly after its release; she looks bored and not at all intent on doing something strictly for the people who adulate those movies and made her a star who can choose whatever project she likes next. Same for Rob Pattinson who makes SPACEBALLS' Prince Vallium look like a walking percolator. Big props however to Taylor Lautner who definitely pulled out all the stops to deserve the fan's dedication and looks to be having the time of his life. Ditto to Billy Burke who, although holding a small role in daddy Charlie, knows this could be his only shot at the big time and makes the most of it. Micheal Sheen knows how to enjoy himself with a paychek part, Dakota fanning makes you wonder why she isn't the one with the lead role, Cameron Bright is barely recognizable or seen and never says a damn word, and they kill Graham Friggin Greene midway through the movie! You can't kill Kicking Bird you lousy pagans!!!

To summarize: Lautner and Burke save the film, Stewart deserves a lifetime Razzie membership, Pattinson is on his way to pulling a Joaquin, and Sheen is a hell of a classy actor.

As for the director, I completely disagree with people who say Catherine Hardwicke is barely fit to handle a viewmaster let alone a camera; she knows how to use very little in framing and lensing to maximize the actor's play and the story's depth. She makes her movies small-scale by choice, and the narrative benefits greatly form it. Chris Weitz is brilliant with his brother Paul, but here repeats the unlearned-from mistakes of solo efforts like GOLDEN COMPASS: all visual, no heart. Dude says he might not make another movie for a long time, and dare I say please keep to your word.

On the subject or creatures
I'll refrain from saying Vampire should burn and not shine since everybody else did from here to eternity, and instead will focus on the other kind of classic creature revisited. Or I should say "used"; author Stephenie Meyers didn't try to re-invent or explore those mythos, just make them fit  her narrative (if that's what she calls it...). Anyhoo, werewolves are often a huge let down for either being too anthropomorphic or for not even trying to look like nothing else than a garden variety wolves; here, they're enormous, impressive, scary and still extremely dog-like in their behavior. rarely have I been that incensed by lycnathropes. But, again, all visual, no heart. The reasons for Bora and Edtard's infatuation is never explained nor, and it should be since we just don't see it. On the other hand, Jacob's hots for Bella need not be detailed - we do very much sense it, again thanks to Lautner taking his job much more seriously than everybody else.

If absolutely have to rate the film, I'll give it a generous 6/10; a very clich├ęd and lazy story, with a pair of un-interested leads, but some much invested co-stars and a great team behind the visuals.

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