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|Written by April Yorke|
|Monday, 23 November 2009 00:00|
N.B. Book vs. films discuss books and their film adaptations in their entireties, all of which is to say, spoilers, y'all. Don't read if you don't want to know.
You've got to hand it to Stephenie Meyer: Mormon's got balls. Not only does she wear her literary allusions on her sleeve, but she also takes her erstwhile, swoon-inducing hero out of the vast majority of New Moon. Bold move, Meyer.
Of course, New Moon isn't so much allusion as it is Lewisian supposal: suppose Romeo's banishment was self-imposed out of guilt and fear, suppose Capulet didn't so much push Juliet into Paris' arms as gently nudge, suppose Paris was a more viable option. What would Juliet do then?
As intriguing as that question sounds, the answer doesn't live up to the premise: enter a deep depression, have night terrors, and engage in reckless behaviour. If the emphasis was on the third option, the novel would at least have a chance of being exciting. Naturally, the emphasis is on the first.
New Moon picks up a few months after Twilight left off. Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella (Kristen Stewart) have just spent "the happiest summer anyone has ever had" together. If nothing else, Meyer certainly captures the headiness of a teenager in love. Even so, their impasse (Bella wants to be made vampire; Edward staunchly refuses) looms large over their relationship.
Two important things happen on Bella's 18th birthday: 1) Edward tells her that he would have gone to the Volturi to commit suicide had she died last spring (does it count as foreshadowing if Meyer spells it out in detail? Ham-fisting, maybe? Wait, that sounds dirty), and 2) Bella gets a paper cut opening a gift. That's when things go really off the rails. Jasper (Jackson Rathbone), the member of the Cullen clan who struggles most with their "vegetarian diet," tries to attack, and Edward accidentally sends Bella into a stack of glass plates in an effort to protect her. In the end, Bella's injuries are so severe that everyone save Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) has to bolt.
Though it takes a week in the book and happens overnight in the movie, this incident is the impetus for Edward to break up with Bella. In the woods behind her house, he tells her that he doesn't want her anymore, that it will be like he never existed, and that she must stay safe. Again in both cases, a stunned Bella tries to follow Edward, eventually tripping and not bothering to get up. Yup, Bella lies down to die like a dog in the woods. It's pretty bad.
Sam Uley (Chaske Spencer) finds her and brings her home safely, only for Book Bella to discover exactly how seriously Edward took that "never existed" clause. He's ransacked her room for every birthday gift and remembrance of him. In the movie, New Moon screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg sticks to her Twilight plan of toning down Edward's drama queen nature, so we only see him snag a single picture of the two of them. Also, aside from Emmett's (Kellan Lutz) stereo and the dress Alice (Ashley Greene) gives her to wear at the party, we never see or know what the other gifts might have been. Carlisle makes a crack about Bella looking pale, and, while the reader may know that his gift contains tickets for Edward and Bella to visit her mother in Jacksonville, the viewer does not. This reader-viewer dichotomy does not let up over the course of the 130 minute runtime.
In the book and movie, depression sets in. October, November, and December are simply titles on the page and screen, while the camera revolves around Bella sitting and staring blankly at the changing seasons through her new bay window (thanks, Vancouver!). When Charlie (the still dreamy with moustache Billy Banks) threatens to send Bella to her mom, Bella makes plans with Jessica (Anna Kendrick) to prove just how well she's handling things. After they catch a zombie flick, Bella spies a group of men not unlike the would-be attackers Edward saved her from the year previous. Bella's possessed to check the situation out, and, for her, something wondrous happens: in the book Edward's voice calls out to her, "Bella, stop this right now!" Because director Chris Weitz momentarily remembers that film is a visual medium, Edward also appears to Bella, spectre-like. In a nice touch, he's wearing the same outfit from her birthday party and the day he left her.
Remember that reckless behaviour I mentioned? The incident outside One Eyed Pete's is the kick off. In the book, Bella draws closer to the men while listening to Edward telling her to back off and eventually walks away. In the movie, she goes so far as to hop on the back of one of their bikes and go for a ride. The ride is a significant step away from Book Bella. In the books, Meyers is at pains to explain that Bella isn't suicidal but looking for some combination of adrenaline and danger that will bring Edward back to her, however temporarily and however crazy that might make her seem. In the movies, though, Weitz, Rosenberg, and Stewart completely whiff, steadfastly refusing to explain why Bella would do something quite as dangerous as go off with a total stranger. Though it's clear, particularly from Rosenberg's overreliance on narration this time around, that Bella is trying to invoke Edward with her behaviour, it's never clear exactly what Bella thinks is happening. Instead, it's only clear that she doesn't care enough to figure it out.
Even so, Rosenberg was using her thinking cap when she had Bella hop on the bike. Book Bella chooses motorcycles because she knows how dangerous Charlie thinks they are. Movie Bella gets to have the actual experience as a link. It's at this point that Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is drawn into the story as a modern day Paris. Bella goes to him to get her bikes fixed up, but in Jacob she finds relief from the excruciating pain Edward's disappearance has caused and the numbness she tries to use to block it out. Meyer called the book New Moon because it represented the darkest period in Bella's life. For her, Jacob is the sun.Previously in Book vs. Film:
The movie cuts off the motorcycle recklessness after one go, while the book has several attempts and accidents in store for Bella. That's just as well, as the movie has to move things along at a better clip than Meyer (all of the books hover near the 600-page mark).
While Jacob makes his more-than-friendly feelings for Bella perfectly clear in both the book and the movie, Rosenberg smartly has Bella lead him on a little less. When Jacob tries to hold Bella's hand at the movies (poor Mike (Michael Welch) is throwing up in the bathroom), Bella immediately and awkwardly withdraws. In the book, hand holding is a regular event. In both cases, Bella lets Jacob know that she'll never really be available that way to anyone ever again. One broken heart and the girl shuts down for life. On the other hand, that is what it feels like the first time you get your heart broken.
Unfortunately, Jacob disappears out of Bella's life in the book and the movie after the cinema outing, claiming he feels unwell. While the movie dispenses with this absence in a two-minute "Bella leaves phone messages" montage, readers have to endure page after page of Bella's immense suffering and intense housecleaning (yes, Bella the Haus Frau makes a return appearance in New Moon). So Bella decides to . . . take a hike!
Literally, I'm afraid. Bella decides to hike up to The Meadow (you know the one), sure that she can invoke Edward there despite the lack of adrenaline and danger to be found among the flora and fauna. In the book, this hike is one in a series that she was taking with Jacob, hoping to find The Meadow again, but, in the movie, it happens spontaneously. Again, it's a nice touch -- the impulsiveness makes Bella's desperation that much more palpable.
The barren and desolate Meadow nearly sends Bella spiralling out of control, but then Edward does appear to her again. Alas, he appears because Laurent (Edi Gathegi) is there to kill Bella. It's a happy accident, really; Laurent killing Bella will save her the pain of being tortured to death by Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre). Also in keeping with Twilight the Movie, the audience knew of Victoria's planned revenge from the early going, while Laurent's appearance in the book comes as a surprise in Chapter 10.
And then . . . wolves. Giant wolves come out of the woods, ignore Bella, and chase Laurent off. Let's deal with this right now: the wolves look better than originally thought but still a bit like overgrown huskies. They look worse from head on than they do when Weitz and cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe (who is no Elliot Davis) pull back to show us how imposing they are against a human scale, and the camera trickery they use to show us how quickly both the wolves and vampires move in relation to the natural world is pretty cool. At one point, we watch a crow fly in slow motion over Victoria running through the woods. Unfortunately, we also have to pause for Bella's reflection to catch in Wolf Jacob's eye, and Alexandre Desplat actually has the nerve to go "Ding!" in the score.Again, movie trumps novel, condensing page after page of roundabout conversations into three: 1) Jacob tells Bella to stay away, 2) Jacob tells Bella she already knows his secret, and 3) Bella realizes she does know his secret (it's the wolf thing, in case that wasn't clear) and, just like that, she's in with the gang. The next thing you know, recreational cliff diving!
As with the hike to The Meadow, Bella's cliff jump comes out of the clear blue in the movie. In the book, Jacob promises to take her when they first see Sam and his gang jump (Bella initially worries that it's some sort of violence or suicide pact but changes her tune when Jacob tells her it's a rush), and, on the day she jumps, they do have plans to go out there. Jacob's called away on vampire hunting duty, leaving Bella so alone and at a loss that she decides to give it a try on her own. In the movie, Bella just up and goes. While it does lend the act the same level of desperation as the hike, it also hits the suicidal mark a little higher than Meyer places it. In the novel, the jump doesn't become a suicide until Bella gets caught in a tangle of waves and can't fight her way up. Eventually, she stops trying.
In the movie, Bella hits her head on a rock trying to get away from Victoria. Oddly, Weitz shows both Victoria hitting the water and Wolf Jacob on the cliff noticing something strange (doubtless the accessories and jacket Bella sheds before the jump) long before we even see Bella get to the cliff. It's unclear why either of them would be there without Bella's scent to lead them, so the entire sequence seems a little screwy. In the novel, it's implied that Victoria jumps into the water just to get away from the wolves, though that's not particularly clear either.
No matter, though, since Bella's seeming death means the return of Alice Cullen. In the book, Alice returns to comfort Charlie. The two bonded after Bella's "accident" the year before left her in need of a higher level of care than Charlie was comfortable providing his teenage daughter. Since this bond doesn't exist in the movie, Weitz and Rosenberg decide to just not address why Alice came back to Forks.
It may be that she's only there to advance the plot: when Edward circuitously hears that Bella is no more, he heads off to the Volturi to get himself killed. The audience sees Edward get his confirmation on the balcony of a squalid room in Rio de Janerio. In one of the movie's finer choices, he's still wearing the same suit from Bella's birthday party. It's grown ashen and torn in the intervening months, giving the impression that Edward's been sitting Shiva for the relationship he consciously destroyed. Of course, the audience may wonder why the camera is sure to capture Christ the Redeemer in the background. In the book, we later learn that Edward was there attempting to track Victoria (turns out he's a terrible tracker) and, realizing he lost her scent, called home to announce that he had finally resolved to return to Bella. In the movie, though, the establishing shot seems purposeless, thrown in for fangirls who know exactly where Edward should be and offering nonsensical context for everyone else. It could well be the Washington Monument or the Sydney Opera House, as long as we understand that Edward is far from Bella and his life as a Cullen.
From there, Alice jumps on the exposition express, seeing Edward's death in a vision, so she and Bella head off to stop him. The Volterra, Italy, sequences stick pretty close to the book: Edward tries to reveal himself at noon at a festival commemorating the expulsion of vampires from the city (Irony! Drama queendom!), Bella stops him, he thinks that they are both dead, and then panics when he realizes how very alive they both are. Because the Volturi don't take kindly to vampires even considering breaking their laws.
The Volturi's laws are a lot like Fight Club's first and second rules: vampires don't talk about vampires. Bella knows all about the Cullens (as Alice points out in the trailer and ads but never in the movie), and, for that, she must die. While Book Edward tries to talk his way around this, Movie Edward is much more of a hot head. He attacks Felix (Daniel Cudmore) and, for the second movie in a row, gets his ass handed to him. Even based on evidence provided in the movies alone, Edward is faster than the rest of his family and a mind reader. So why does he suh-huuuuuuuck at hand-to-hand combat?
Probably to give Bella the chance to yell "No, please, kill me!" This turn throws Aro (Michael Sheen, who plays the Volturi leader as Tony Blair with a soft spot for removing heads rather than heads of state) for a most delighted loop. He would have been more than happy to let Bella live if he thought Edward would turn her (even now, after they both almost died, it's still not on his to-do list under 'goals'). After all, it's not just Edward's abilities that Bella's immune to. It's also Aro's, who can read every thought you've ever had with a touch, and Jane's (Dakota Fanning), who can inflict physical pain with her mind. Imagine what Bella could do as a vampire.
Which is exactly what Alice has Aro do. She saves the day yet again (though, sadly, not with the same level of badassery as the last Twilight movie), showing Aro a future in which Bella is just as sparkly as Edward. Aro decides to let them all go on the condition that they bring this particular future about sooner rather than later.
Again, Rosenberg does the audience a favour Meyer denies the readers: no sooner does Bella convince Edward that they are both alive than he convinces her that he only left to protect her ("I lied" is a big improvement over "it was the very blackest form of blasphemy." Drama queen). Meyer tortures us with several conversations to that end. They are New Moon's variation on Twilight's "No, I love you more"s. Instead, the audience jumps ahead to Edward revealing that he has no intention of fulfilling Bella and the Volturi's* wish to see her join the ranks of the immortals, so Bella and Edward run off to the Cullens' still furnished mansion to put it to a vote.
Put what to a vote? Not sure exactly. Once again Weitz and Rosenberg decide to pay lip service to an idea from the book while draining it of its context. Lord knows Meyer won't get props for much from me, but she does at least explain that part rather than having Bella simply tell everyone that she thinks it only fair. Movie Bella does, awesomely, hiss at Edward to shut up during the proceedings, but it's never clear why they are going through them in the first place. Book Bella rightly believes that the entire family will be in grave danger from the Volturi if they come to check on Bella and find her still human, so the Cullens vote on whether they'll follow through with Alice's commitment. While Movie Emmett notes in his vote that they can "pick a fight with the Volturi some other way," it's not stated why the Volturi would come looking for a fight.
Bella wins the vote in both texts, and Book Bella immediately asks Alice to turn her. Alice bails, convinced that she will surely kill Bella. Carlisle agrees to stand in as maker since Edward will not, but Bella must agree to wait until after graduation so that her family will believe her absence is higher education-related and not due to her sudden thirst for their blood. In the movie, Bella comes up with this timeline on her own on the way home after the vote. The idea that the "when" would come up so much later is the exact kind of television and movie conceit that distractingly exists to keep the action moving rather than reflecting the way people act in real life. Minor quibble, mind.The ride home also includes a confrontation between Edward and Jacob that, unlike the book, shows Jacob in wolf form. But there's no fighting, and Wolf Jacob runs off, distraught by Bella's choice. Edward seizes the opportunity to try out a few conditions for his turning Bella and finally hits upon the right one: "Marry me, Bella," he says. Bella gasps, and we cut to black.
Wait, cut to black? Cut to black? My girl Bella does not cut to black. Considering how rarely I refer to Bella as "my girl," you know her answer has got to be better than a sharp intake of breath. In the book, Bella refuses. Turns him down. Tells him she's not the marrying kind. For a moment, Bella rocks.
So, book or film? Film, but by a narrower margin than last time. Chris Weitz is definitely no Catherine Hardwicke. He doesn't keep up with her seductive technique of filming Bella and Edward's scenes as sex without sex, and, aside from the cool shots of wolves and vampires in the verdant forest, Javier Aguirresarobe's camera is practically working on a student level compared to Elliot Davis' (a tilt to suggest that Bella is disoriented? Thanks for that). Laurent loses his foppish lace collar and Victoria the flowers woven into her hair that marked her as the world's most dangerous Ophelia. Not only is the soundtrack boring, but Alexandre Desplat's score is overwrought at every turn. He composes like he has no faith in what's on the screen and only his score can save the movie from being devoid of meaning. He also has no faith in the audience's ability to correctly react to his score, so it's over the top in every instance. If I were to write The Overrated List, Desplat would be number one with a bullet.
That said, Stewart is growing into the role in a way that seems natural and lovely, and Pattinson is so tuned in to Edward's wavelength while simultaneously making him immensely more likeable that it's difficult not to turn into a swooning fangirl. It helps that he looks less chalky and more glam rocky this time out.
Meyer's novel, on the other hand, reads like a soap opera (in case you don't know, soap operas go like this: overwrought dialogue in which people talk about and around the same thing for a hundred years in ways that seem to bend space and time, punctuated by brief respites of sex and violence. It's amazing) without the sex and violence, so pretty much anything would be an improvement. Here's hoping that David Slade has better luck with Eclipse.
*Bella and the Volturi would make an awesome band/bar/drink name.
Correction: It was originally stated that Jane wears violet contacts. In the novel New Moon, however, it is Heidi (portrayed by Noot Seear in the film) who wears blue contacts to make her eyes appear violet.
Tags: book vs film, books, catherine hardwicke, chris weitz, cinema, kristen stewart, new moon, robert pattinson, stephenie meyer, twilight, vampires, werewolves