Having actually read the book before seeing the movie this time, I was much more aware of whether or not the visual depictions of events from the book matched my expectations. For the most part I was happy.
Perfect. But then there was ghost Edward. I get that you can't just have his voice, but my god, that was awful. When Bella is riding the motorcycle past the multiple Edward ghosts that keep popping up like traffic cones? Oy gevalt!
Oy gevalt. The movie seems to graft a lot of extra action onto the story, like they were even more worried about having too many long scenes of dialog this time around. That strikes me as wrong-headed - the fans want long scenes of dialog, right? It's a confusing choice, since for the most part this movie seemed acutely aware of What The Fans Want:
But there is so much extra action! People keep fighting for no reason! Maybe the action was for my demographic (or rather, the demographic I should be a part of): the boyfriends in the audience.
Speaking of stuff for the boyfriends in the audience, Alice looked much better in this movie. She's still not at actual Ashley Greene levels of attractiveness, but I support this:
Very Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Speaking of support, I have something to say about her boobs. Apparently the makers of this film decided to take all of the stone metaphors describing vampire skin and make them LITERAL. As is, vampires are made out of rocks, and their faces crack.
Okay, that's fine. But why are Alice's boobs jiggling so much at the birthday party? That doesn't seem possible!
Again, not complaining, but huh? The central, misunderstanding-filled Edward/Bella conflict is way simplified, which makes it much less insufferable. So, more sufferable. The break-up scene is a little stilted, mostly because Robert Pattinson can only do an American accent when in "anguished whisper" mode, but it is a model scene for how you should block shots. Film school 101:
Also, I laughed at this:
In the aftermath of the break-up, by the way, Bella doesn't seem sufficiently insane to me as she wanders through the woods. Maybe a Snorri-Cam would have been too much, but I don't really buy Bella's misery until about here:
Kristen Stewart still looks very pretty (Kristen Stewart is really, excessively pretty! I didn't really notice until now) but this is miserable enough. As for the great meta-gesture of the novel, the October/November/December sequence was just okay. I mean, I see what you did there, Chris Weitz
but that just isn't good enough for me. I wanted to see those titles hitting me with the same abrupt bleakness of the book. I wanted the word OCTOBER to punch me in the face.
But it didn't. And the Lykke Li song that scores the sequence sounds too equally divided between sad and inspirational. (Speaking of that song, you can download a cool remix here; it's track 2 of the mix. Free music: one of the many things this blog does for you. Okay, technically Stereogum is doing it for you.)
Most of the book's plot weirdness is solved by virtue of the fact that everything is condensed and simplified; plot points that took days in the book unfold over the course of a single evening/scene. I can see how ardent book fans might go into a rage over this, but I wasn't particularly attached to anything. Plus, clearly Chris Weitz is throwing bones to the super fans:
Melissa Rosenberg has as good a knack for condensing events down as the Harry Potter screenwriters, which maybe isn't saying much. This movie would still probably be mostly incomprehensible to an outsider. It's hard to say. Weird as stuff like Victoria essentially causing Harry Clearwater's heart attack might seem strange to those of us intimately familiar with the original material, it makes sense within the internal logic of the film.
Sometimes the logic of the film trumps the logic of the book with shockingly elegant simplicity: in the film, Edward seems to think Victoria would want to come after him, not Bella. That's a reasonable assumption to make, though it is never articulated in the book! With it, the whole nonsensical explanation of Edward's justification for leaving Bella alone in Forks would hold up to scrutiny, you know? Oh well.
I also appreciated that, on a technical level, this movie tried to accomplish what it could with in-camera effects. The sequence/montage with Bella and Jacob in the shed is an especially good example of getting the job done with camera moves alone. Michel Gondry would be proud. It's obviously a cost-cutting measure, given that this movie is also populated by CGI wolves, but I appreciate it anyway. Vampire speed is often conveyed by clever cutting rather than corny fast motion, which is a relief, though the rest of the time it is still very silly looking. It might be the accompanying laser sound effect, though. What was that?
The supporting cast continues to KILL IT. This guy is still the best:
And Anna Kendrick, Michael Welch and Justin Chon continue to get way more mileage out of the precious few seconds of screen time they are given. And Michael Sheen is indeed maybe not as good as Christoph Waltz might have been, but he was still very good.
I was struck by Taylor Lautner's performance more than anyone else, though. Dude is a natural! I'm glad he decided not to go to college; I don't want any more ideas in his head. As it is, he has the exact number of ideas needed to play a charming lug. Jacob isn't nearly as rape-y here as he is in the book, so that might have helped. Ashley Greene, it must be said, did a fine job at mostly being a fine piece of ass who has to occasionally explain plot details. I was upset that the homoerotic subtext was left on the cutting room floor, except for Alice's face here:
Very pleased. In addition to the above TWSSs, this movie affords many opportunities for group sex.
There's plenty more to say about this movie. The need for a lot of narration (this being a book primarily taking place in Bella's brain - "Her mind is the scene of the crime" should be this movie's tagline) is solved by Bella pathologically writing e-mails to some fake address she has given Alice (it looks like firstname.lastname@example.org? I tried to look but I stare at computer screens from the 1980s all day and am functionally blind apparently). If you're going to give Bella a MacBook and bring technology into this thing, that's fine. But wouldn't she have Alice's real e-mail address? There's also the Emily thing. There's the fact that Dakota Fanning is in this movie, although not really. I kind of remember this movie being marketed around Dakota Fanning; it should have occurred to me that she was Jane and would therefore have what amounts to a cameo (Why does she say "pain" when she brain-attacks Edward? Is she casting a spell? Was she contractually obligated to have more lines?) but it didn't. The point is, there is more to say.
So share your thoughts here, but go vote in the New Moon Awards if you haven't already!