4/05/2009

The Twilight Saga: New Moon - Start Obsessing Now!


With the conspicuous exit of Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke, we've got a new helmer at the reins of New Moon: Chris Weitz, who got his start by co-writing Antz (95 percent on the Tomatometer) - and then wrote The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (26 percent). Weitz then wrote and directed About a Boy (93 percent)...and followed it with The Golden Compass (42 percent). (He also produced the American Pie movies, for what it's worth.)

That said, on paper it's easy to see the potential Weitz brings to New Moon: he's proven deft at tackling relationships, teenage audiences, and working with lots of computer generated special effects -- the latter of which will come in handy for showing Twilight readers how the Quileutes "phase" from human to wolf form and back (hint for Jacob fans: it involves shredding their clothes to bits and emerging stark naked). Familiarity with CG technology will also be crucial for New Moon's pivotal scene in Volterra, Italy, in which Edward Cullen's difficult "sparkling" effect will be on display - an effect proven extremely hard to pull off in Catherine Hardwicke's film. Then again, Hardwicke was working with a $37 million budget; after Twilight's $370 million worldwide gross, Weitz will have a blockbuster budget.

Of course, Twilight's main cast had to return. For Kristen Stewart, who's been acting since the age of 11, Twilight was a star vehicle that came out of nowhere to propel her to the upper echelons of celebrity, gossip mags, and the IMDB StarMeter. (If nothing else, it's giving Stewart's smaller films -- The Cake Eaters, Adventureland, K-11, and her upcoming Joan Jett biopic - more attention.) New Moon could prove challenging to Stewart, whose Bella must carry the entire film almost by herself (Edward is largely absent throughout New Moon's middle third) while Bella suffers from all-but clinical depression during most of it, to boot.

Like Stewart, Rob Pattinson has ridden the Twilight frenzy into the limelight --whether he likes it or not. (Need evidence? Google "Spunk Ransom.") Expect to see more subdued vampirism from Edward and the rest of the Cullens this time around, whose stage-thick makeup jobs and ridiculous vampire hisses gave Twilight's detractors much glee. Pattinson's job, too, will be challenging -- he's got to maintain heartthrob status and keep fans faithfully hoping for a Bella-Edward reunion while being largely absent from the film. Weitz will likely use Pattinson in Bella's hallucinations during Edward's absence, so the chemistry between the two leads will have to be incredibly strong...else Edward fans jump ship to Team Jacob.

Because the Cullen family blows town early on, we probably won't see much of Rosalie, Emmett, Jasper, Carlisle, and Esme. Alice (Ashley Greene), however, has a juicier role in New Moon than she did in Twilight, where she only got to draw her supernaturally-powered visions and rip James' head off.

Instead, we'll learn more about the world of the Quileute, the local Indian tribe whose members have inherited the ability to shape-shift into werewolves, protectors of their people and, in New Moon, of Bella. Jacob Black (Lautner), who Bella had seen as a younger brother type, will now be a (wolf)man -- and, with Edward out of the picture, Bella's a free woman. Herein lies one of the more interesting quandaries of Twilight. Jacob and Bella are BFFs, and are inexplicably connected; should she move on with her life and give Jacob a shot? Or should she hold out for Edward to return, because she's still devastatingly -- and yes, destructively -- in love with him? Critics looking for something to squawk about will likely harp on this unhealthy love triangle, but we Twilight fans know there's no forgetting your first (undead) love.

All of which brings us to the X-factor in New Moon: the Volturi. While we won't encounter them until Edward goes to Italy, the Volturi characters -- a powerful, clandestine order of Italian vampires who have ruled the vampire world for centuries, and have the potential to destroy all that Bella loves -- have a lasting presence throughout the four-book Twilight saga, so their casting and how they're presented will lay a foundation for later Volturi appearances in subsequent films.

Most buzzed about among the casting rumors and announcements is Dakota Fanning as Jane, henchwoman to Volturi leaders Aro, Marcus, and Caius. Jane is described as diminutive and sadistic, a powerful vampire who was "turned" as a young teenager along with her brother, Alec (to be played by pretty English actor Jamie Campbell Bower, most recently seen in Sweeney Todd); both twins also possess psychic powers, which they use to inflict pain and death upon enemies of the Volturi. The biggest question here isn't whether or not Fanning can pull off such a role -- at 15, she's a seasoned Hollywood veteran with more credits to her name than most of her co-stars -- but whether or not her star wattage will distract from the rest of the film. Jane's part (in New Moon) is relatively small, and unless Rosenberg has drastically changed her storyline from Meyer's book, it could create an imbalance on screen. After all, who wants to be upstaged by a five foot-tall supporting character?

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