Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"New Moon"

After about two weeks of urging by my daughter, my wife and I went to see the second "Twilight" movie, "New Moon". Em asked me if I might blog about my thoughts on the movie, so -- at the risk of offending her, given that she is a big fan of the franchise (she's already seen "New Moon" half a dozen times) -- I will give it a shot.

To start out with, I should state up front that I am clearly not a member of the intended audience for this movie -- I think I'm about forty years too old… and I'm a guy.

One of my basic criteria for judging whether a movie is good or bad is whether I get bored during the viewing. I didn't get bored watching "New Moon", but I came close a few times, especially during those seemingly interminable close-ups of Bella and Edward or Bella and Jacob where they mumble dialogue about love and such. None of these conversations ever seem to really GO anywhere, with the possible exception of Edward's surprising offer to Bella at the end of the movie.

Now, in a movie featuring vampires and werewolves, especially in this day and age, one expects the creature effects to be of a high quality. I was initially pretty disappointed in the werewolves, and not just because of their design (I'll say more about that in a moment), but because in their first couple of appearances on screen they looked almost comical to me with the way their snouts bunched up. Eventually, though, the animators got it together and they looked a lot more polished and integrated into the scenery through the rest of the movie.

However, I have a big problem with werewolves that essentially look like wolves, even really BIG wolves. It's just not that interesting to me. During the big scene where Jacob in his werewolf form is battling another werewolf to protect Bella, it just looked like a big dog fight. Well-done, yes, but really too much like watching too big dogs battle each other. I would have preferred the much cooler and creepier man/wolf approach as exemplified by Rob Bottin's great work in the original "The Howling" movie. It would have made the vampire vs. werewolf fights in "New Moon" a lot more interesting, in my opinion.

And speaking of those fights -- at one point, Jacob says -- in response to Bella's comment that the vampires are really fast -- that the werewolves are even faster. Really? If what you see on the screen is any indication, that can't possibly be true. The vampires are so quick that they appear to be able to move across dozens of yards of distance instantaneously. The werewolves, on the other hand, appear to be able to run on all fours as fast as animals their size might be expected to, which is nowhere near "instantaneously" fast. If there had been something else to this -- like if Jacob had said something about how the werewolves can do the pack hunting thing better than the vampires, and it had actually been shown on the screen -- the whole werewolves chasing down and catching vampires thing would have worked a lot better. As it is, I didn't believe any of the werewolves seen in the movie could have caught any of the vampires except by sheer luck.

I also have to say that the "shirtless dude" look favored by the werewolves when in their human form got pretty silly after a while. It seemed to be something they did so that when they transformed into werewolves their clothes wouldn't be ruined… but the always left their pants on. I don't get it.

I also didn't get the rules of interaction between the vampires and the werewolves, which were very sketchily presented. This movie could have done with significantly more exposition, perhaps at the expense of a few of those scenes of Bella looking soulfully at Edward or Jacob.

Or maybe the point is that not only do you have to be a young person, and preferably female, but you also have to read the source novels to really get the most out of movies like "New Moon". I'm tempted to try, even though I have not heard great things about them, but I think for now I'll stick with Charles Dickens.

If I were to give this movie a letter grade, it would be a "C". Or maybe a "B-", because although I didn't care for the werewolves' designs that much, there were two very cool quick bits where all you see of them are looming black shapes in the underbrush with vapor coming out of their nostrils. That was pretty nifty.  -- PL

16 comments:

Benji said...

I agree completely about werewolf designs looking more like regular wolves. It's not exciting at all. If you haven't seen it yet, a great movie with awesome werewolf designs (and 100% practical effects!) is Dog Soldiers. It was done by the same guy who made The Descent, but he did Dog Soldiers first. Check it out if you haven't seen it!

PL said...

"Benji said...
I agree completely about werewolf designs looking more like regular wolves. It's not exciting at all. If you haven't seen it yet, a great movie with awesome werewolf designs (and 100% practical effects!) is Dog Soldiers. It was done by the same guy who made The Descent, but he did Dog Soldiers first. Check it out if you haven't seen it!"

I did see "Dog Soldiers", and I really liked those werewolf designs as well. -- PL

Colin said...

You survived through New Moon? Wow, Peter, you're tougher than 10 Casey Jones'.

I totally agree with you with about the werewolves. If you're just going to make them big wolves, then don't bother at all.

msemilylaird said...

I guess I should cancel my order of a Twilight Dad t-shirt Christmas present?
Oh well, at least this wasn't a "Star Trek"-esque rant. (Who would have ever guessed you would give a Twilight movie a more favorable review than a ST movie?)
I am kind of perplexed that New Moon is getting so much worse reviews than Twilight. I enjoyed NM so much more, but I think it is because New Moon is almost reverentially similar to the book, which is all I ask. I think Twilight was made to appeal to a wider audience, and this one was definitely made with fans in mind.
PS - Team Jacob all the way!

msemilylaird said...

More thoughts:
Yes, the werewolves are really shitty CGI. But Taylor Lautner's abs need no special effects, and isn't that what really counts in the end?
I also think the vampires are more interesting than the werewolves, but in the third one, they work together to fight off Victoria and an "army" of vampires...
Didn't you think the part of the wolves chasing Victoria in slow-mo kind of established how fast the wolves are in comparison to the vamps?
Wait - what did you think of Dakota Fanning, et al. and the Italy scenes?
Ok, that's all for now - I will blog my full thoughts in the near future...I took like 12 pages of notes when I saw it on Sunday.

Josh said...

I also prefer the half man half wolf werewolves. It just doesn't look interesting to me when humans turn into regular wolves, regardless of size. I also agree that the guys being shirtless is silly, but then I'm a heterosexual male. The lack of shirts is meant to attract the ladies. I haven't seen either of the Twilight movies to be honest, but despite those two things, I might watch them at least once just to see if I understand what all the hype of Twilight is about.

ADZ said...

So the Wolf guys are doing the ol incredible Hulk routine hey....Hulk out tear of all your clothes BUT those trusty pants. Thanks for the heads up. my GF had told me that for her birthday we are going to see 'New Moon' in Gold Class. (best thng about that is, if i doze off the seats are reclining) I shouldnt complain she watched 'Turtles forever' with me.

Pete J said...

Teen Wolf dude... now there was some sweet werewolf action. I mean like the whole riding on the top of a van thing, werewolves just don't get cooler than that. If they could somehow combine that with Bruce Lee movie's we'd be set on entertainment for life.

Tyrgermanic said...

isnt it like SHE HAS TWO GUYS NOW?
what a nasty concept for a movie.
ya,i know its not..
but they advertise it like that!
(could be..hm,how do i say this for the children and archie fans..local slu-everybodys girls that make me think that though...damned CA)

to its credit,
some smart girls i know said it was very improved over twilight with cinematography,make-up and other things.

werewolf movies are pimp,i collect em because theres so few.
the howling?
what about American Werewolf in Londons design?
haha,its just a puppet of a torso..
and it walks on all fours but just look at its face.its scary!its very FERAL and hungry,it just rips and tears people apart too.

i love werewolf movies.


also,new moon reminds me alot of
secret of the ooze,not the movie itself but,its out a year after the first,theres a boom in products,haha,and its a mania by now.

Evan W.W. said...

My sisters ( And pretty much every girl in my school!) are obsessed with Twilight. All the hype gets on my nerves sometimes, but as long as Twilight doesn't invade comics, I'll be okay. The Golden Compass was great and if New Moon is by the same director, I think it'll be still cool to see the special effects...

PL said...

msemilylaird said...

I guess I should cancel my order of a Twilight Dad t-shirt Christmas present?"

If you can find one that's made with bamboo, I'll wear it.

"Oh well, at least this wasn't a "Star Trek"-esque rant. (Who would have ever guessed you would give a Twilight movie a more favorable review than a ST movie?)"

The reason for that is simple -- I am far more emotionally invested in "Star Trek", especially in my memories of the original series, which meant so much to me in my teen years. And while we're on the subject -- I did purchase the DVD of the new "Star Trek", thinking it might be somehow better when watched on the small screen, with subtitles displayed so that I might perhaps catch some subtleties of dialogue that I missed during the viewings in the theater.
Sadly, it was not to be. It DID allow me to confirm something I thought I had heard the two times I saw the movie in the theater -- that when Captain Pike and the Romulan Nero have their first encounter (via viewscreen), and Pike introduces himself as Captain Christopher Pike, Nero responds be saying "Hi, Christopher!" Like Pike is a friend he's just run into at the mall. I'm surprised the writers didn't follow up that gem by having him say "What's up?" Ludicrously stupid.
And this time -- probably because I watched the special feature on the DVD wherein the makers of the filmed waxed rhapsodic about how simply AWESOME the use of lens flares was -- I noticed all of the lens flares, and I finally understood why so many critical reviews of the movie had pointed out how ridiculous and overused they were. Just horrible.


"Yes, the werewolves are really shitty CGI. But Taylor Lautner's abs need no special effects, and isn't that what really counts in the end?"

I didn't mind the quality of the CGI so much -- as I pointed out, it got better as the film progressed -- my beef was with the design of the werewolves, which in my opinion was boring.

" I also think the vampires are more interesting than the werewolves, but in the third one, they work together to fight off Victoria and an "army" of vampires…"

That could be interesting.

"Didn't you think the part of the wolves chasing Victoria in slow-mo kind of established how fast the wolves are in comparison to the vamps?"

No, because when you saw them moving in real time it was abundantly clear that as fast as those werewolves could scamper, the vampires were in a class by themselves. To use a "Star Trek" analogy, the werewolves looked like they were running on impulse power, while the vamps had warp drive. How's that for geeky?

" Wait - what did you think of Dakota Fanning, et al. and the Italy scenes?"

I laughed out loud when she came on screen -- I can't stand her as an actress. The Italy scenes felt kind of cheap, for some reason.

"Ok, that's all for now - I will blog my full thoughts in the near future...I took like 12 pages of notes when I saw it on Sunday."

I look forward to reading your expanded comments! -- Dad

~ tOkKa said...

-->> Will say that the phenom of Twilight --

it's really helped ( similar to HARRY POTTER ) the original books and reading that has spawned.

That's encouraging - ..

my niece at 12 has finished off the entire series and the movie just light that spark in her to open her mind into reading.

Those are some pretty thick books and she was finishing them very quickly. I was impressed !!

I'm not a librarian or nothin' .. and my reading skills are a shotty at best ( perhaps due to the deficit in my head and the scrambling of words due to dyslexia ) .. it takes me a long time to finish a book.

Still anything to get kids out and hitting books i feel is a positive. Really i do.

In that regard..while i'm not the biggest "POTTER -" or TWILIGHT fan, i will say the after effects, in my honest opinion are more positive than anything.



I hope all of you had a good holiday !!


Pete, Emily .. i hope you guys enjoyed a decent day yesterday as well !! !

mikeandraph87 said...

I can say I had my dad read this blog entry as he ponders if he wants to see this movie and is of the same age with similar horror and sci-fci interest. Better than any critic I'd say.

I hope hope the Laird family had a great Thanksgiving. Now its time its time to get into the Holiday rush. Don't get trampled.

magnaben said...

Peter, you have the best film critiques. I have not seen New Moon, but I love your review. The best "guy" equivalent of the "New Moon Saga" are the "Underworld" movies. Not that I think they are great or anything - just a bit more menacing.

Jax said...

I think the design of the werewolves are much more "wolf-like" because that's what they actually turn out to be. In the fourth Twilight book, "Breaking Dawn," it's revealed that Jacob and his pack are actually shape-shifters, not true werewolves.

I'm so ashamed to know that. XD

Splinter's Iroonna said...

I would give you and your wife a grade of A+ when it comes to pleasing your daughter.

This movie, however....