Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor
In this SPOILER-FILLED review, CC2K’s resident Twilight expert examines a draft of the script to its sequel.
New Moon, the sequel to last year’s box office sensation Twilight, continues the story of Bella Swan, an ordinary high school student, and Edward Cullen, the vampire she falls in love with. Based on Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling book series, the movie is already getting huge buzz months before its scheduled release.
Twilight is the story of an awkward teenage girl’s romance with the dreamiest guy in school, who also happens to be a vampire—sort of a John Hughes movie with a supernatural twist. (Think about it: if you swapped Molly Ringwald in for Kristen Stewart, you’d have Pretty in Pink…with vampires.) New Moon, on the other hand, shows us what happens when the honeymoon period is over and the star-crossed lovers start to realize the implications of what they’re doing. But the same things that make New Moon a meatier story than its predecessor might also make it a harder sell—at least, to some of the fans of the original.
The script picks up several months after the end of Twilight. Bella and Edward are still together and going strong, although Bella is increasingly frightened by the thought of becoming older than the immortal Edward. After one of Edward’s brothers tries to attack Bella at her birthday party, Edward decides he can no longer continue their relationship and abruptly leaves town with his family. As the devastated Bella recovers, she grows closer to Jacob Black, a Quileute Indian boy whose feelings for Bella are not strictly platonic.
The script is a good—although not perfect—adaptation of the book. Although some scenes have been eliminated or condensed, it remains faithful to both the tone and the story of Meyer’s original. As such, how much Meyer’s fans like the movie will likely come down to how much they liked the book. And many of Meyer’s fans were put-off by how unromantic this book was.
As for everyone else, it will largely depend on what you’re looking for. If teen romance is what draws you to the film, then New Moon probably isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you—like me—were a fan of the darker aspects of the first movie, then this has the potential to be a much better, stronger film than the first. Robert Pattinson will have the opportunity to play conflicted and self-loathing—which he did really well in the first film—like never before, and Kristen Stewart’s understated style of acting should serve well for Bella’s quiet melancholy.
A lot is going to depend on director Chris Weitz. Under Catherine Hardwicke’s direction, Twilight tended to overindulge in cheesiness—the scene where Bella’s scent is blown toward Edward by way of a fan comes to mind—and music video-esque cinematography. If Weitz can bring the same subtlety and sensitivity to New Moon that he brought to About a Boy, then this could be a very good movie, perhaps even exceeding its source material. If, on the other hand, Weitz goes more American Pie (which he also directed), then the film will be in big trouble.
Before I read the script, I made a list of the things I wanted to see in the film—based both on my knowledge of the book and my feelings about the first movie. So here was how the script stacked up—and just to be on the safe side, I will insert a MINOR SPOILER WARNING here. I’ve tried to keep this pretty generalized, but I know some people are more sensitive to these things than others.
*I wanted to feel Edward’s presence throughout the movie, even when he is not physically there. When I reviewed the Twilight film back in November, I noted that Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of Edward was one of the strengths of the movie. By that time, many of Twilight’s fans had already started to swoon over him, and the frenzy only increased after the movie was released. Yet New Moon requires Pattinson’s character to be gone for more than half of the story. So how can the movie proceed with one of its leads MIA? The script does manage to bring Pattinson back into the picture fairly often while sticking fairly close to Meyer’s Bella-centric vision.
But including Edward is one place where the film should have had a distinct advantage over the book, which is limited to Bella’s first-person narration. Although the script gives us a few glimpses into what happens in Edward’s life while he’s not with Bella, it would have been nice to see more—especially to get some insight into how Edward is feeling about the situation. As a reader of the book, it’s impossible not to wonder where Edward disappears to, but as a viewer of the film I imagine this absence will feel even more profound—especially when it could be so easily resolved.
*I wanted the film to give the Jacob character a chance to shine. Given Robert Pattinson’s magnetism and popularity with the fans, it might be tempting to scrimp on the middle of the story and rush through the scenes where Jacob and Bella’s friendship develops. But this dynamic is pivotal to the rest of the plot (both in New Moon and the later stories), and short-shifting it would be doing the film a disservice. Luckily, Melissa Rosenberg—who wrote both the Twilight script and this one—seemed to recognize this, and Jacob’s is given his due. The script clearly portrays the slow evolution of Bella and Jacob’s friendship and shows how important Jacob becomes in Bella’s life.
(On a related note, I know there was some debate over whether the 17-year-old Taylor Lautner should continue to portray Jacob, who is supposed to undergo enormous physical transformations within the story. Regardless, I think sticking with Lautner was the right choice. One thing I noticed in the last film was that Lautner had a very different chemistry with Kristen Stewart’s Bella than Pattinson did, which is integral to this film. Plus, he was able to stare down Edward without blinking—also very important to the character. To me, it’s better to cast an actor who can give a good performance than one who looks exactly like the character is described in the book. So give the kid a pair of elevator shoes and some pancake makeup; hell, if movie magic can make Brad Pitt look 80, I’m sure it can manage to make Taylor Lautner look 25.)
*I wanted to see more development of Bella’s relationship with the Cullens. Unfortunately, that did not happen here—though that may be more a failing of the first script than this one. Much of the dynamic between Bella and the Cullens was established during the Twilight novel, and a good bit of that was eliminated in the movie. By the time New Moon begins, Bella has already become very close to the Cullens; Edward’s sister Alice is even supposed to be one of her best friends. This omission forces viewers to use their imaginations to create an intimacy between Bella and the Cullens that they haven’t seen for themselves. Not a huge oversight, but something that the book’s fans will likely notice.
*I wanted this script to ease up on the voiceovers. I’ve taken a lot of creative writing classes in my day, and there’s one consistent theme: show, don’t tell. Bella’s voiceovers in the first film were not only inane, but also unnecessary; they simply didn’t add anything to the story or her character that we couldn’t infer for ourselves. Unfortunately, the voiceovers are back for round two; I can only hope that Weitz has the good sense to cut back on these significantly.
(Incidentally, scriptwriter Melissa Rosenberg is actually a writer/executive producer on Dexter, a show that relies heavily on voiceovers. But they don’t bother me so much there—maybe because Dexter focuses on a secret serial killer, and the dissonance between what’s going on around Dexter and what’s going on inside Dexter is one of the most compelling aspects of the show. But Bella’s a fairly straightforward character, so it’s not necessary to spell out everything she’s thinking. Her boyfriend left, she’s sad, we get it. No need to belabor the point.)
Overall, this is a good adaptation of New Moon, and one that is faithful enough that most purists should be pleased. But, as I discovered when the Twilight film failed to live up to the expectations I had after reviewing the script, a great deal depends on where the director takes the film from here.
Hear that, Mr. Weitz? It’s all on you.