Chapter Two: Jon Favreau & Kristen Stewart
New Moon, Iron Man 2 and Zathura
By Brett Beach
January 20, 2011
Hardwicke understands how seriously teens take things, and without in any way sabotaging the romantic fatalism of Stephenie Meyer's vision, she allows the extent of that intensity to bleed through to an inherent humor. Just observe Edward’s attempts to avoid vomiting (or perhaps biting her) upon catching Bella’s scent for the first time as she sits next to him in science class and her reaction of smelling her hair and her shirt. It’s great silent comedy.
Hardwicke does temper the relative calm and peace of the concluding moments with her final image. Opaque waves of water lap quietly behind the closing credits and their nihilistic blackness creates an undercurrent of unease similar to the atmospheres in the end credit sequences of Van Sant’s Psycho remake (car being dredged) or the recent My Bloody Valentine remake (uninterrupted tracking shot through a mine shaft.) I think it is Hardwicke’s boldest directorial choice.
Under Weitz’s direction, New Moon comes off at times like the most morose American Pie sequel imaginable. There are no pastries in danger of being upended, just would-be suitors with no stomach for bloody action films, and immortal beloveds who disappear themselves to self-exile in Italy at the slightest paper cut. The plot transitions and flow are as clunky here as they were in Twilight, but from the standpoint of dramatic interest, the fatal error is the focus on Bella and Jacob to the exclusion of Edward, or more accurately, the focus on Bella solely to the exclusion of most every other character. The story sets up its hoped for parallels to Romeo and Juliet baldly and boldly in one of the early scenes, but what it mostly serves up is a heroine who remains passive and cipher-like even while engaging in self-destructive behavior, or flying off to Europe at a moment’s notice.
Stewart gets a lot of grief for having a limited acting range, but I think that what she is faced with in this series is the fact that Bella is the least interesting of all the characters. There is not a lot of depth to her, nor conflict in her decisions (would she be more interesting, or God forbid, more tortured, as a vampire?). This allows a (primarily) female reader or viewer to more easily insert herself into the action as Bella/in place of Bella.
While this role has brought Stewart an insane amount of fame and notoriety, I don’t think it plays to any of her strengths. With her masculine features, intense stare, and pre-possessed air about her in early roles like Panic Room, she never seemed cut out to be the next teen starlet-in-waiting all geared to implode with drugs and alcohol. And thank heavens for that. She avoided the Disney route to stardom and made only a handful of kids’ films. While she has done romantic comedies such as Adventureland or In the Land of Women, she never felt like the conventional “romantic lead” in either case. And as her awkwardness in the Twilight films demonstrates, I don’t think that archetype is at all a fit for her. Stewart gives Bella a pulse and some quirks, but there never seems to be enough to Bella to justify the disproportionate impact she has on bloodsucker-lycanthrope relations on a local level and the vampire hierarchy on the international scene.