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THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Mark Wiechman/Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Billy Burke, Nikki Reed
Director:  Chris Weitz
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio:  Summit Entertainment
Features:  See Review
Length:  130 Minutes
Release Date:  March 20, 2010

“Ohh… paper cut…”

Film **

Only in the Twilight series could a paper cut dripping with blood ruin a teen birthday party. 

In this chapter, the special effects and makeup are elevated, with the vampires’ eyes resembling those of a leopard, and Edward appearing in visions to Bella whenever she is in danger.  Then we meet the werewolves, who are actually native Americans transformed.  Apparently they don’t run casinos but instead spend all their time sculpting perfect abs and tans and short hair running around in nothing but shorts and tennis shoes.  They devour a few vampires along the way, but also long for Bella themselves.  Being a teenager is difficult enough without monsters following you around.

Edward decides that he does not want Bella around anymore, and in her despair Bella turns to reckless behavior over and over again and nearly dies.  We see plenty of wonderful Pacific Northwest scenery, all dark and dreary and rainy and perfect for our story, and the werewolf fights utilize the rear channels well for the occasional crack and roar.  The adventure concludes in Italy, where Edward considers taking drastic measures to end his own misery, believing Bella to be dead.  We meet the Volturi, the royalty of the vampire world, where Edward gets everyone into trouble by threatening to reveal himself to the world, but then somehow gets everyone out of trouble in a completely unconvincing way.

Somehow the series has managed to convincingly frame teen angst and frustration with the supernatural.  Like many fantasy movies, most viewers will accept the fantasy.  There are too many movies in all genres where too much is asked of the viewer, or some shortcoming in the production just leaves us unconvinced, and while this movie is a little less substantive than the first, if you enjoyed the first ride, it is still pretty good to go again.  

The problem though is that this is no Romeo and Juliet no matter how many allusions are made to it, and this is a very self-aware film, having none of the easy flow of the first.  It is trying to be something that it is not.  We find Bella and Edward almost obnoxiously in love, but after Bella sustains a paper cut at her birthday party, things get completely out of hand.  We barely get to see the other characters at all and the werewolves, while menacingly beautiful in CGI, just don’t satisfy viewers looking for more than a transitional film. 

Video ***1/2

This is a mostly good high definition transfer, and if this Blu-ray suffers at all, it's owing to the setting, which is mostly overcast, and by nature tends to rob some of the colors of their vibrancy and natural tones.  That being said, images still come through with clarity and cleanness, and the detail level stays strong throughout, even in the many sequences with lower lighting.

Audio  ****

The DTS HD audio is quite nice...spoken words are clean and clear and blend well with the music beds, and the bigger action moments (including the prowling wolves) bring a nice sense of fullness to the front and rear stages as well as some extra kick from the bass channel.

Features **

While the quality of special features varies widely across the DVD universe, this may be the first time that I could barely stand to listen to or watch them on such a large set.

The commentary with Director Chris Weitz might be the lightest, silliest, most stupid one I have ever heard.  Instead of revealing new information or insight, they over-explain the simplest plot lines, and actually punch holes in the script itself.  They sound worse than teen girls over obsessing over every detail of every scene.   The movie plotline is not subtle, it is very simple and easy to follow, whether you saw the first movie or not.  Worse yet, there is the usual mutual admiration society going on.  Fortunately I watched the whole movie first, then listened to this commentary.  Had I listened to the commentary first, I might have just skipped the movie altogether.  This is exactly the opposite effect that any special feature should have, and I can’t imagine even the most die-hard fans wanting to listen to it.   I have actually listened to teen girls discuss this movie, and they were more insightful and interesting.

The mini-documentary “Life After Twilight” is like a long “E” segment but even sillier.  “Chris Weitz Takes the Helm” is interesting because at least we see what is happening in the background, but so much of the talk is about him as a person, which…really, who cares?  He explains that the film is “operatic” and goes beyond the first installment, which in some ways it does, but this is no Romeo and Juliet.

“The Little Details” is a real behind the scenes special, and is worth seeing.  “It’s not Magic” shows post-production work beginning, such as green screen elements of Victoria swinging up into the air, creating the cliff diving sequences.  The CGI water is pretty good, actually.  Almost too good in my opinion.  The color is almost too even, real ocean water is messier.  “Ready for the World” is pre- and post-production editing, probably the longest and most labor-intensive part, in which the film is actually constructed.  Nothing really incredible, but we do see some really bad takes that did not make it into the movie.

Four music videos are included  “Meet Me on the Equinox” by death cab for cutie, which is surprisingly dull for such a good song, while the video for “Satellite Heart” by Any Marina is actually more lovely than the movie in some ways.  Too bad her vocal style reminds me of a dying bird.   And once again instead of a real video by Muse, one of the best bands in the world today, we have only rehearsal footage of them doing “I Belong to You,” a good tune in a mediocre rehearsal.  The videos close with a song by Mutemath called “Spotlight”, a pretty exciting video shot in a moving van, with the band moving around constantly as though they were in a spaceship. 

I purchased the Target special edition, which includes a third disc of eleven deleted scenes.  Most of these are not “scenes” per se but just longer versions of scenes we already know, there is nothing here than changes the story significantly.  I was surprised that these were left to an optional third disc that you cannot buy anywhere else, but now I know why.  They do slow the movie down a bit if they were left in.  “Interview with the Volturi” is a chance to get to know more about the princes of the vampire world.  I think more of the film should have been spent with these characters, but in these interviews they discuss mainly other vampire stories than the one they actually produced here, though they tell us their insights into the characters.  “Fandemonium” is more of the Entertainment Tonight nonsense that few viewers care about.  “The Beat Goes On” discusses a large collection of weird breakup songs, but they cannot avoid the fact that there is nothing here as good as “Supermassive Black Hole” or “Flightless Bird” on this soundtrack.  “Frame by Frame” goes over story boards, showing them next to the final film, and is fairly interesting and surely could have been included on the second disc.   

Summary:

If you really, really loved the first film and/or the books, seeing this once is still about enough.  It’s no Romeo and Juliet and should have left those references out completely.   It’s no Empire Strikes Back or The Two Towers either.   

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