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New Moon lacks soul

By Matthew Schneeberger
Last updated on: December 11, 2009 11:38 IST
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At one point in Twilight: New Moon, three of the characters are at a cinema hall, watching an extremely violent action movie. So violent, in fact, that the gore-fest moves one of them, a weak-stomached human suitor of lead protagonist Bella Swan, to rush from the theatre vomiting.

If director Chris Weitz has even the remotest sense of irony, he'll laugh that his own 130-minute disaster could easily have the same effect on moviegoers. Only it isn't the horrifically cheesy, B-grade action sequences that leave one with an upset tummy. It's everything in between.

After the staggering box office success of 2008's Catherine Hardwicke-directed Twilight, despite its tepid reviews, distributors Summit Entertainment promised to go all out with the sequel. The budget was cranked up to over $50 million (Rs 232 crore) and Weitz -- at the time still riding the success of 2007's The Golden Compass, another book-to-film adaptation -- was placed in the director's chair.

Back in the lead roles are Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, as Bella Swan, Edward Cullen and Jacob Black respectively.

The film begins with our heroes caught in quite a predicament. After their misadventures in the first instalment, 107-year-old vampire Edward has realised that he's endangering the life of his sweet little 18-year-old human girlfriend, Bella Swan.

On top of that, he's destined for eternal damnation. She's destined for college, soccer momhood, menopause and finally old age. Really, it's not going to work, he abruptly explains to a sobbing Bella, in a bizarre scene shot deep in the forest. She begs him to transform her into a vampire. He, an enlightened and reformed bloodsucker, refuses. Poof. He's gone, along
with the rest of the topaz-eyed Cullen clan.

As day gives way to night, Bella, still lost in the woods, trip over a log and somehow loses consciousness. But, miraculously, what appears to be a werewolf chances upon the lost lass, and she's returned home safely to her perpetually beleaguered father, Charlie Swan (Billy Burke), who incidentally is the only likable character in the film.

Bella, officially dumped, falls into a catatonic trance for a few months. Only the friendship of young 16-year-old Jacob Black, a local Native American boy, keeps Bella from losing her sanity. And, given that Jacob is a strapping, muscle-bound 6'2 hulk, Bella naturally begins to lose herself in his bulging biceps and rippling pectorals.

But Jacob too has a secret to hide, one which she finds out soon enough.

There are no commendable performances to speak of. While Laughton has undergone a remarkable physical transformation, with reports saying the actor gained thirty pounds of muscle in order to keep the role of beefed-up Jacob, it's actually too bad he didn't spend that time taking acting classes.

Robert Pattinson has taken a fantastic step backwards. While Cullen in the books is portrayed as sullen and brooding, but still intense, this time around Pattison just seems disinterested and aloof.

And the absolute lack of chemistry he shares with Stewart is truly breath-taking. Nil. Nada. It's like amateurs doing a small budget production of Romeo and Juliet, rehearsing their lines for the first time. If nothing else, the movie should be archived and kept for later, as a template for cheesy, poorly delivered dialogue.

As for the Twihards, they're defending this clunker in the face of a torrent of bad reviews.

"What about the 75 million people who have read the books? Or how about the $500 million the movie has grossed in just a few weeks?" they ask accusingly.

Okay, and Brittany Spears has sold nearly 100 million records world-wide. Since when do 13-year-olds dictate our artistic benchmarks? This is, after all, the same demographic that propelled groups like the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync to the top of the Billboard World Top 100 charts.

Anyway, it'd be one thing if the movie actually achieved what it set out to do, and properly executed the bubblegum vampire romance angle. But to this end it fails spectacularly, magnificently.

By all means, the Twihards and fans of the pasty-faced Pattinson should enjoy themselves. But otherwise be warned: This one is, ahem, rather soulless.

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Matthew Schneeberger in Mumbai