It’s Baaad

In terms of using the right kind of connective tissue that works for the story and for the audience simultaneously, New Moon (Summit, 11.20) isn’t half the film that Twilight was. It’s slow and infected with the sequel virus. It’s gaseous and flatulent and meandering. This won’t matter box-office wise, but it pretty much sucks. That swoony romantic current that Twilight had has taken a powder this time out.

Firing Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke was a lousy idea, and so was getting Chris Weitz to take her place. I don’t know what tricks Hardwicke used to make Twilight play as well as it did, but I do know that Weitz isn’t nearly as good with this kind of material as she was. Twilight is to New Moon as Star Wars is to Return of the Jedi, or even The Phantom Menace. I mean, it really blows.

Where Twilight felt curiously absorbing and true and plugged into something relatively fresh and exciting (for me anyway), New Moon is slow and draggy and ponderous with dialogue that occasionally smells to high heaven, and laden with seriously crappy (i.e., “pony”) CGI and a running time — 130 minutes — that is way, way too long.

The acting is fine, or at least not too distracting. Hard-wired Kristen Stewart pretty much carries it; hunky Taylor Lautner, surprisingly, delivers a taut muscular vibe and isn’t half bad for a young stud-muffin type; and Robert Pattinson seems to be acutely disinterested and sleepwalking, even, when he’s on-screen (which isn’t often) and is otherwise missing for most of the film.

The main problem is that Melissa Rosenberg‘s sceenplay, based on Stephenie Meyer‘s book, has a draggy, yeah-yeah, so-whatty tale to tell, and the pacing is slack and the story tension is nil. I began to feel bored less than 15 minutes in.

I sat up, slouched down, put my hand over my face, went to the bathroom, cleared my throat, groaned, tapped my feet. The girl sitting next to me sat like a bag of coffee beans off the boat from Columbia during the whole film. “Does she have a pulse?” I wondered to myself. I couldn’t stop shifting around. I actually began to feel a little bit sickly after an hour or so.

Stewart — my favorite younger actress these days — is sufficiently focused and fiercely talented enough to make more than a few of the scenes work, but I mainly felt sorry for her. “She’s stuck in a sequel and doing the best she can under the circumstances,” I told myself.

The thing that defines the badness of New Moon is an extended circular tracking (or Steadicam) sequence that Weitz shot of Stewart (i.e., Bella Swan) sitting in her room, immobile and depressed after her vampire lover Edward Cullen (Pattinson) has broken things off and moved away. Weitz moves the camera around her three times, which gives the audience three views of her front lawn as it changes with the seasons — greenish brown during October, totally brown with leaves being raked in November, and finally snow-covered in December.

Except someone in the Summit high command decided that this visual information wasn’t explicit enough for some in the audience, and so little white titles have been inserted, appearing each time the camera moves around and behind Bella’s back, that say “October,” “November and “December.” Just stunning. Unbelievable! Truly one of the most embarassing passage-of-time sequences ever included in a major motion picture.

  • http://www.celebrityfreakshow.com Skullebrity

    Taylor Lautner’s “muscular” performance might be due to the 30 pounds of muscle he added to his body for this film. Did you hear about that at all???

    http://www.celebrityfreakshow.com/taylor-lautners-30-pounds-of-muscle-to-get-spinoff-series/

    Yay!

  • DeeZee

    Ebert gave it one star, and IMDB rated it at 4.3.

  • DeeZee

    He gave Bad Lieutenant four stars, though.

  • Terry McCarty

    Presuming there will be some A-list critics who’ll give it a big pass so as not to appear out of it.

  • http://moviebob.blogspot.com/ THE MovieBob

    Lautner has the chops to have a solid career as a B-action star if he survives this series. Sadly, Stewart is probably going to have this crap hanging around her neck for a decade or more. Pattinson no one will hear from again when this is over.

  • Gabe@ThePlaylist

    Surprise face.

  • Deathtongue_Groupie

    I’d wager a month’s wages that it was someone high up at Summit who decided that “stupid teenage girls” would be too brain dead to follow the visual clues.

    That said, I’ll stay away from this one as I did the last and let the wife & girls enjoy their popcorn flick as they indulge my Harryhausen and STAR WARS marathons.

  • Matthew Starr

    Woah what’s wrong with Return of the Jedi?

  • http://ruamoviegenius.blogspot.com Noah Cross

    Ewoks, Matthew, Ewoks.

  • pamg

    >

    Umm, Jeff – that’s taken right from the book.

  • pamg

    >

    Meant to say – that’s sequence came straight from the book, and I’ve seen an online interview with Melissa Rosenberg that explained why she left it in. Sorry, couldn’t delete the previous post.

    Haven’t seen the movie yet, but you find so many movies annoying, I’m hoping it isn’t as bad as you make it out.

  • DeeZee

    I thought what sucks about Jedi is the lack of a real showdown at the end. But it’s still better than most of George’s output thereafter. [Willow didn't age well, but it was fun when it first hit theaters.]

  • erniesouchak

    That’s interesting, because Meyer’s handling of that passage of time was probably the single most creative thing in the novel. I actually thought Hardwicke did a lousy job with “Twilight,” so if this one is worse, forget it.

  • DarthCorleone

    pamg >> What do you mean the sequence was in the book? The visual representation of seasons changing with the months explicitly written beneath each description of Bella sitting in her room in case the reader doesn’t understand what it means when trees change in appearance is from the book? If that’s what you mean, that must be some book.

    Ewoks rule. And no showdown?

  • Anthony Thorne

    Fuck, this sounds dire. Of course my girlfriend and her posse are seeing it this weekend. Hopefully all this TWILIGHT schlock will leave screens in a few weeks for Cameron to have free reign.

  • Movie fan09

    Firing Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke was a lousy idea, and so was getting Chris Weitz to take her place. I don’t know what Hardwicke did to make Twilight play as well as it did, but I do know that Weitz isn’t nearly as good with this kind of material as she was.

    She’s a woman,Jeff.

    She remembers how it felt to be a teenage girl.

  • Markj74

    DeeZee: The lack of a real showdown? Are you taking the piss? The confrontation between Luke, Vader and The Emperor is brilliant, especially the choral passage of music as Luke gives in to the dark side and attacks Vader furiously.

    What’s it like going through life having no taste?

  • Uncle Milty

    “She’s a woman,Jeff.

    She remembers how it felt to be a teenage girl.”

    Well, Twilight was easily one of the worst movies of last year, so I’m not sure this helped her.

    DZ doesn’t really mean anything he says. He’s still trying to convince us that Jerry Maguire is a more influential film than Pulp Fiction. He could argue it’s a better film, although most would disagree. But more influential? Not even close.

    Return of the Jedi was a flawed film, but the final showdown was terrific.

  • fitz-hume

    Ewoks rule!

  • LexG

    K-STEW POWER. KUDOS to Jeff to acknowledging THE TRUTH: She is BRANDO or DEAN or McQueen in a GODDESS-like female form: Pure enchantment and the most intuitive performer of any stripe in American (or any) film these days.

    Did anyone see GOD on FALLON tonight? SO charming, enticing, smart, clever, cool, and awesome. I love Kristen Stewart. LOVE HER.

    K-STEW 4 EVA.

  • TheGK

    ‘Twilight is to New Moon as Star Wars is to Return of the Jedi, or even The Phantom Menace. I mean, it really blows.’

    The implication from this is that Return of the Jedi blows, which it certainly does not.

    I’ll happily take a race of teddy bears with unstoppable tree trunk technology over the first Twilight film any day of the week.

    Plus, Return of the Jedi was a bit like a Roland Emmerich film. Yes, there were many shortcomings in acting, plot, dialogue, etc (although they weren’t as glaring as, say, 2012). But with X-wings and TIE fighters going at it, Super Star Destroyers getting toastified and a pretty sweet showdown at the end, the spectacle was just too grand for me to give a crap.

  • LexG

    KRISTEN STEWART 4 EVER. 4 EVER.

    SO beautiful, charming, awesome, enticing, smart, pliant, sympathetic, enchanting, awesome, lovely, cool, badass, edgy, smart, brilliant, stunning, amazing, AWWWWWWWESOME.

    K-STEW 4 EVA.

  • Jonathan Spuij

    No Star Wars film can be as boring as any Twilight film. I mean c’mon the visual eye candy (SFX, Fisher, Portman) alone are enough to elevate them.

  • LexG

    STEWART POWER.

    Most beautiful woman alive. Her appearance on Fallon tonight was THE GREATEST THING EVER.

  • http://martiansattackingindianapolis.blogspot.com/ Josh Massey

    Jedi is better than Star Wars. There. I said it. I just never had a problem with the Ewoks, considering I first saw them when I was seven. And the rest of the film is full of amazing scenes – I think most have forgotten how impressive they originally were. Jabba’s palace, Sarlacc pit, the final Millennium Falcon battle, the Skywalker/Vadar fight, etc. And Hamill isn’t nearly as whiny.

    Sorry, that’s all I can contribute to a Twilight discussion.

  • Rich S.

    Return of the Jedi is a mess. It’s all over the map because Lucas threw too many balls in the air at the end of Empire to successfully juggle them in the last film, especially since he was hell-bent on selling plush toys to pre-teens. Plus, even after 26 years, I’m still pissed I didn’t get to see Luke complete his journey by kicking the Emperor’s ass.

    That said, it is a very entertaining mess. The Luke/Vader lightsaber duel is probably the best of any of the films. The scenes on Tatooine are a lot of fun, and the hoverbike chase is aces.

    Perhaps most amazing of all, in light of the current climate of epic and/or sequel bloat, they wrapped the whole thing up in under 2 hours and 15 minutes. Revenge of the Fallen, eat your heart out.

    Oh, and I’m glad to hear that New Moon sucked.

  • Eloi Manning

    Return of the Jedi is fucking ace. Ewoks are fine – it’s kind of nice that they showed that even the little shittiest of intergalactic races had a hand in taking down the Empire. And the special edition ending with that excellent new (well, new in 1997) John Williams celebration track is sweet as fuck. From Luke burning the body of Darth Vader to the scenes across the galaxy of jubilation, it’s the tits.

    New Moon looks entertaining. I don’t know why people think a woman was needed to direct it, because it’s about a girl. Kristen Stewart is a good enough actress that she doesn’t need to be told how to look like she’s lusting after Pattz by a woman. Look at Into the Wild – there was a great scene where she was practically gagging for a fuck with Emile Hirsch that was much more intense than anything from Twilight. And that was directed by that morose motherfucker Sean Penn. So I don’t buy the idea that a woman is the only director that can really convey the depth of these trash novels on screen.

  • markj

    DeeZee: The lack of a real showdown? Are you taking the piss? The confrontation between Luke, Vader and The Emperor is brilliant, especially the choral passage of music as Luke gives in to the dark side and attacks Vader furiously.

    What’s it like going through life having no taste?

  • Chase Kahn

    I have to come to the defense of “Return of the Jedi”, as well — sure, it’s the third best of parts IV-VI, but come on!

    The whole Han Solo rescue scene in Jabba’s Palace over the first 40 minutes is brilliant — you have slave metal-bikini Leia, The Rancor, the Sarlac Pit, Boba Fett bites it, Jabba’s death by choking, etc.

    And then the speeder bike chase scene is one of my favorite action scenes of all-time, seriously, I get goosbumps when I hear that whooshing sound.

  • Sabina E

    Those fucking Ewoks ruined RETURN OF THE JEDI for me, but the movie is still a fine story.

    Anyfuck, I must admit I’m still *shocked* from last year when you declared TWILIGHT wasn’t such a bad film. So this year, I’m not surprised that you think NEW MOON is crap.

    Good. All is well with the universe again.

  • Sabina E

    I’m starting to feel worried for K-Stew’s safety. It looks like LexG will start stalking her soon.

  • Eloi Manning

    When I was a kid I thought the Ewoks were related to the Jawas. They were like their forest-based brothers or something.

  • creepingmalaise

    Is anyone else curious in hearing what that “bag of coffee beans” next to Jeff told her friends after the screening about the guy with Tourette’s she sat next to?

  • LexG

    DeafBrown, let’s hang out sometime.

    Good idea.

  • Eloi Manning

    “Is anyone else curious in hearing what that “bag of coffee beans” next to Jeff told her friends after the screening about the guy with Tourette’s she sat next to?”

    Yeah, I thought that was pretty funny too. I’m fairly certain that if a guy sat next to Wells audibly groaning and tapping his feet throughout a screening, we’d be seeing his photo on the main page of HE.

  • Ryansi51

    “The girl sitting next to me sat like a bag of coffee beans off the boat from Columbia during the whole film. “Does she have a pulse?”

    thanks for the laugh out loud, Wells

  • taikwan

    Ewoks are lame. I actually prefer Jar Jar. Worst acting by both Carrie and Harrison who wanted Han to die and took his revenge by sleepwalking through the film. Ironically this was Mark’s best performance.

    Teenaged girls did not receiving the memo about anything Twilight/Bella/Edward. Still swarming.

  • dkaye

    Return of the Jedi is a mixed bag. The opening Tatooine sequence and final battles are great, with the showdown in the Emperor’s throne room pretty goddamn epic. I like Hamill’s performance and his arc is well-played. I even buy Vader’s gradual swing back to the light side of the Force.

    But the brother/sister subplot is just plain creepy and pointless, and Han Solo could have been much better utilized. The middle section drags a bit and while I like the idea of the Ewoks (a non-technological race beating the big bad guys), they were simply too cute.

    But overall, Return is tied for me with Revenge for third best of the series.

  • DeafBrownTrashPunk

    Those fucking Ewoks ruined RETURN OF THE JEDI for me, but the movie is still a fine story.

    Anyfuck, I must admit I’m still *shocked* from last year when you declared TWILIGHT wasn’t such a bad film. So this year, I’m not surprised that you think NEW MOON is crap.

    Good. All is well with the universe again.

  • DeafBrownTrashPunk

    I’m starting to feel worried for K-Stew’s safety. It looks like LexG will start stalking her soon.

  • DeeZee

    mark: “The confrontation between Luke, Vader and The Emperor is brilliant, especially the choral passage of music as Luke gives in to the dark side and attacks Vader furiously. ”

    Luke’s attacks suck, because his dad can kick his ass with an artificial lung and still save the universe in his place. Total cop-out climax.

    “He could argue it’s a better film, although most would disagree. But more influential? Not even close.”

    Films like Office Space, As Good as It Gets, and Any Given Sunday say otherwise.

    Jonathan: “No Star Wars film can be as boring as any Twilight film.”

    Someone hasn’t seen TPM.

    Josh: Indiana Jones is better than Star Wars. But that’s cus the lead character actually does shit in that one, and it’s believable. Boba Fett gets killed way too easily in Jedi.

  • Terry McCarty

    Still wondering why Lucas hasn’t spun off Darth Maul as a franchise character for books, etc. like Boba Fett.

  • Gordon27

    “Films like Office Space, As Good as It Gets, and Any Given Sunday say otherwise. ”

    I’m not even going to bother to point out the obvious fact that ‘Jerry Maguire’ had no influence over those three films. Instead, I’m going to use your own backwards logic and point out that all of those people were already doing things before ‘Jerry Maguire’ ever came out, and therefore Mike Judge, James Brooks, and Oliver Stone could not have been influenced by it. So there.