23 December, 2008

New Director for New Moon? Aaaand discuss....

So in the past couple of weeks, lots of questions have been raised. Is Catherine Hardwicke signed for new Moon? Why isn’t she? What really happened with her and Summit? How is this going to affect the sequel? Who is Chris Weitz? What is he going to do to New Moon? Why is it a dude? Does he like the books? How is he going to change the cast and the film-making experience?

Audiences are still getting used to seeing Catherine Hardwicke’s adaptation of their favorite book. They are still trying to digest how Eric doesn’t sound how they expected, or how Forks is even smaller than imagined and how the meadow scene differed from the text. It’s a lot for fans to swallow. There are a lot of emotions and expectations tied to these adaptations as the cast and film makers of Twilight were well aware. They took the film seriously, incorporated many elements that only fans would recognize, and throughout it all, they tried to stay obsessively true to the book. Not close to the book, that is something different entirely, but true to the book. They tried to keep the setting comfortable and to appear as expected; they kept the main characters as they are in the books, they made sure the relationships read visually as they did textually, and the things that they did change were elements that were believable within Stephenie Meyer’s universe, but worked in a film context and did not force themselves to be slavishly bound to the text.

I think I’m trying rather hard at this point to say “they.” The director runs the show. There’s no question about that, but the director has a lot of influences that they have to work under and around (studio, producers, actors, author, time, money, fan expectation etc). Catherine Hardwicke was no different. It was her show, but she still had to work with Summit, with the small-ish budget, and the legions of fans amongst many other elements. She worked insanely hard on Twilight from conception to script, to location scouting, to casting, to filming, to editing etc. etc. She was in it from beginning to end. I’m sure she was excited for the job as a good career move and all, but there doesn’t seem to ever have been any doubt that she was ultimately a fan of the work. She was not scared to take chances with it, and she even said to me that she was willing to change whatever was needed to make a good film, but ultimately she was still a fan of the book. That sounds rather cut throat to a beloved novel to be willing to cut whatever necessary, but look at the choices that she did make. The major elements that were altered are possibly surprising and slightly jarring at times, but once I got over the initial shock of how the scene was different from the book (the meadow, meeting the Cullens, the greenhouse etc.), I could see that it made that movie-moment better; it took a static scene from the book and made it more visually interesting; it allowed for more movement, and gave a new experience to Bella and Edward- experiences that could develop their relationship further, as we didn’t have pages and pages, or days and days to believe their love as we did when reading the books; we had approximately two hours in a crowded cinema.

I’m not intensely familiar with Chris Weitz, but what I do know of him is both comforting and unnerving. I thoroughly enjoyed About a Boy. It had emotion, character, story, it was well shot, there were great comedic moments as well as heart-wrenching ones, and it was an adaptation- though often very different from the book. I’m not sure how they began that adaptation or what processes were utilized, but I do know quite a bit about how The Golden Compass was adapted, and that makes me nervous. Weitz also worked on the screenplay for The Golden Compass, and I’ve been told that he had one version of the script that was basically rejected and changed and the one that ended up being shot is completely different from what he wrote. If that’s true I wonder why, who told him no, what was wrong with his, how was it different, and what his reaction and thoughts on the new one was. Obviously he shot it, it’d be hard to turn down an opportunity to direct a $180 million blockbuster starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig just because you’re unhappy with the changes to your script (and I don’t even know if Weitz was unhappy with the changes or if he approved the changes). Overall, it was a not a well-done adaptation. It was visually stunning, the cast was incredible, I thought the music was lovely, and the costumes and setting unmatched. It had all of the details and grandeur of The Lord of the Rings but with more gold.

And that’s all I can really say about it.

It was evident that the majority of the budget was spent on talent and special effects. Character development and the arch of the story suffered because the emphasis was put on other elements of the film. It’s somewhat similar to the article I had up awhile ago on Eragon- with The Golden Compass they put the focus on different aspects of the ‘bling.’ It too was a Christmas release, it was advertised as a spectacle film, fun family entertainment etc. and the story suffered because of that. The depth of Pullman’s characters and the intimacy of key scenes appeared cheapened on screen; it was literally gilded; lots of shininess with little substance beneath. Similarly to Eragon, The Golden Compass made quite a bit of money in foreign markets but did not do very well in the US and UK markets where the fan base of the novels is heaviest. (It made $70 million in the US, but $360 million Worldwide)

I hope you can see where my concern is coming in. Catherine Hardwicke was given her choice of four films to work on for Summit and she chose Twilight because she loved the story. She chose it. This time around, the studio chose the director; we don’t know if there is any passion or love for the story from this director like we knew there was from Catherine. Summit and Weitz are not blind by any means, as they realize the power of the fan base and how adamant people are about the novels and the care and love put into their adaptation to the screen. Shortly after it was announced that Weitz would be taking over for New Moon, an email was sent to the fans where he thanked them for the honor, and emphasized how excited he is to portray the love story further among other sentiments. He appealed to the fans first, to put them at ease.

Good move on his part.

The fans were supported and encouraged to embrace Twilight from the very beginning and it worked well, as Twilight has already made what, $150 million before it's world-wide release? The leading fan sites were invited on set, information was released weekly via MTV.com, and most importantly in my mind, Stephenie Meyer approved and expressed her excitement for the film, which almost gave permission to the fans to accept and enjoy the film.

This is the part I’m worried about. How involved is the author? Would Twilight have a quarter of the success if Meyer was unhappy with the adaptation? Her involvement and approval of the adaptation was integral to the fans embracing the film.

It would be all too easy at this point for New Moon to fall into a machine-like process. The film makers already know that they have a money maker, regardless of how well the film is done, fans will see it; maybe not a dozen times if it isn’t as good as Twilight, maybe only six times, but you get my point… they’re going to make a lot of money on the Twilight Saga. Because of this sure thing, I hope that they take opportunities to make it a good film. I have not yet heard if or how Stephenie Meyer will be involved in New Moon, but I hope it’s at least as much as she was in Twilight. With Melissa Rosenberg and Greg Mooradian still at the helm, and I’m sure many of the other producers and creative executives from Summit will still be involved, I can’t imagine the love for the works will totally disappear, but it may be more difficult to focus on the story.

With Twilight, no one on set really understood the project that they were working on; they certainly knew the story, but I doubt that anyone was able to guess the mania and obsession that would ensue. During filming it was an organic set, more indie-like; they worked off of the weather, feelings, moods etc. It was definitely structured, it didn't all just flow hippy-like, but it was a bit more of a creative process. Things changed daily, small elements were added for fun and for fans, and I worry that those are the bits that will get lost with New Moon. Everyone on set this time ‘round will realize how big what they’re working on is. It has Harry Potter status now… everyone has heard of it, people will be vying to get onto it, security will be tighter, and the indie-flick feeling will probably disappear entirely, and that is possibly my favorite element of Twilight. I love that it isn’t a cheesy teen flick with no heart; it’s edgier, and more real than that. There’s nothing ‘Bring it On’-like about Twilight.

It all sounds quite negative at the moment, doesn’t it? I don’t mean to be so negative, brilliant things can happen with new directors. Weitz did just do Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, which I haven't seen yet, but it's supposed to have a more indie spin, and be somewhat Juno-like. Also, many articles have appeared in the last week discussing other series that have had different directors that have been successful (the Bourne films, and Harry Potter of course among others), and that’s definitely a good point.

I’ve said it before, but the first two Harry Potter films were painful in my mind. They tried too hard to stay true to the book to the point that the fidelity overpowered the film’s ability to be a good film. Alfonso Cuaron changed substantial parts of the book when he took over the helm for The Prisoner of Azkaban and this caused millions of fans to rage, but it made a better film. The series is growing; it is learning. The films have improved, the scripts are more sophisticated, the characters are deeper, more emotional and developed and yes that’s partially because the characters are growing up with the actors who are also gaining talent and experience, but the changing directors was a good thing for the Harry Potter series. A new director can fill in gaps that were missing and bring fresh eyes to a story.

I’m just concerned. But that’s my job as an analytical student. I’m concerned that the girl-power aspect has dropped slightly with a male at the helm, but it is just as sexist to say a man can’t make an accurate film about love as a woman; brilliant directors have done it, and while it’s a smidge of a blow to the feminist in me, he’s still a good film maker, and I’m anxious to see how he takes this story, makes it his own, but still maintains the passion and detail from the book to Hardwicke’s adaptation. He’ll have to maintain many elements of the first film just so it isn’t too jarring and the first flows well into the second, so it will be interesting to see how he utilizes Hardwicke’s adaptation and yet changes it to suit his own vision.

I’m concerned that they seem to be so focused on a timetable, although I understand the needs; Rob and Kristen are going to be fought for from now on by many studios, at least for awhile, so getting them while they are both free and still look 17 needs to be a priority. Locations need to be scouted, and I don’t know if they’ll be back in Portland or will look for new locations, but I do still hope most of the filming is on location. I know how difficult that can be (most directors dream of being able to control all elements of the set, including the weather, and we have all read how difficult the weather was during the filming of Twilight), but the locations really add to the believability and ambiance of Twilight, in my mind. I know it can be replicated in a studio… but there again lies some of the organic indie elements that may be lost.

I’m concerned about the SAG strike too! I'm just hoping that all of that gets sorted and goes well…

So there it is for now. Many, many things to consider. There are hundreds of tiny decisions in making a film that all contribute to the overall success or failure of it. I highly doubt they’ll have to worry about New Moon failing in the box office, but they do have to worry about alienating fans, and producing a work that cheapens a beloved story and has no uniqueness to it, thereby discrediting much of the series and possibly affecting the success of future films in the Saga. The Golden Compass seemed to just fit in a slot for fantastic holiday film. I don’t think New Moon should just fit into the slot for teenage love story. I hope the indie/edgie feel can be maintained, and hopefully the bigger budget that New Moon is getting will go towards making the wolves look like wolves and not cartoons, and that’s it. Please no gold-coated carriages, spend the money on more scenes of the story, not special effects; so help me if $30 million of the budget is spent on the Volturi’s lair just because it will have gold in it...

Anywho... Happy Holidays to all! I'm back in the States and enjoying it after a ridiculously miserable flight home (screaming children for 8 hours, and a very nervous flyer next to me who kept grabbing my arm during slightly turbulent times... so good to be back on the ground now!).

I'm stoked for a little down time away from my University, and am crossing my fingers for New Moon set experience, as well as a possible job on a certain film about a boy wizard...

...more to come.


Anonymous said...

Maggie addressed several of the concerns I have for the sequel, but the most pressing concern, for me, is that the powers that be will fail to address Bella and Jacob's relationship in a meaningful way. The screenplay should be written in a way that lays the foundation for Bella to see Jacob as a viable option for her future happiness, but also underscores Bella's selflessness and desire to see Jacob happy. She will love him, much to the detriment of both Jacob and Edward, and the veracity of this situation must be effectively communicated to the audience. If it fails to do this and merely passes Jacob off as a place holder for Edward then it makes a film version of Eclipse both unnecessary and without heart. Meyer wrote Bella's story so that she was able to have the full experience of being human in her human life, and the sense of sacrifice in the final scene of Eclipse should be kept in mind as they approach New Moon. The audience must believe in that relationship.

Tessa Talk said...

Thank you for taking the time to give us this detailed analysis of how you feel now, concerning 'NM.' Thank you much!!! I really appreciate your writing, but I think you know that by now. :-)

Can't say all my worries are put to rest, by what you gave us. But... that's not the job of such. 'Tis the job of such, to give us the facts M'am. As they say. So I'll worry right along with you.

But have hope too. Yes, we can't give up hope, now can we? :-)

If you have a moment or two, would you consider [soon, I'm such a pest!] the issue of who will play 'Jacob' in 'New Moon'? I'm so torn on this topic. -sigh- Personally, Taylor made me appreciate 'Jacob.' And though he does look perfect for the opening 'Jacob,' I also know he doesn't look like the changed 'Jacob.' Ohhhh sighhhhhhh...

A very Happy Christmas to you!!!! And much luck with getting your possible new job.


Anonymous said...

the reason the scripts were rejected for the golden compas was because they had to work around the whole "religous thing" and killing god vibe that the books have...they didnt wanna offend anyone so they basically drifted away from the book which makes it not a good adaptation but a decent movie. new moon does not have anything religious about it so i do not think we have to worry about anything.

Tessa Talk said...

And thank you also, to 'Anonymous,' who commented first. I really appreciate your words, as well. It's so refreshing to read things, which don't simply fall into the very-young-fan-girl category. [If I may be so bold as to say this...] Views which go beyond simply... "Luv Rob!!!" and Etc. ,-)

I wish you were not Anon. Wish you had a blog-name. I'd really like to read more of _your_ ideas, on this whole issue of 'New Moon' and the rest of the 'Twilight' film saga.


Tessa Talk said...

"Anon"... You got another comment in here, while I was writing, concerning you! :-)

I'd heard that 'Golden Compass' didn't follow book. But not the reason for it not doing so. Very interesting reason. "Don't offend, so as not to draw [religious] wrath, and lose box office money." ,-)

But of course, it still drew some [religious] wrath. ,-)

And was that any part of why it didn't do well, money wise, I wonder?


Anonymous said...

It's refreshing to read something by someone who is intelligent, invested, and equally worried about the future of New Moon. Thank you for a squee-free forum! ;)

I am willing to give Weitz the benefit of the doubt, but my biggest fear is that they are going to try to put too much Rob/Edward in this movie to appease the squeeing tweens. By doing this they will totally miss the point of NM! Don't get me wrong, I am an older card-carrying member of Team Edward, but his absence in NM is essential to build the relationship between Bella and Jacob.

Another thing that scares me is the speed at which they are pushing everything through. I guess in a time of recession a small studio needs to make money to survive, but my fear is that it will be at the expense of the Twilight franchise. They might be shooting themselves in the foot if they get this wrong.

A little blind optimism never killed anyone, right? I hope that Weitz and Summit can pull this off.

Unhinged said...

I found myself nodding along with most of your post (the other areas where I just sat and didn't nod is about something that's over my head, like the movie TGC--I never saw it).

I'm 100% with you when you hope TPTB (the powers that be) spend the New Moon's extra money on the story and not the effects. I missed quite a bit of the character conversation in the movie Twilight. I know conversations don't always translate well to film, but the Twilight characters do so much talking and there wasn't enough of it in the film for me.

I'm torn about losing Taylor Lautner because I like him and I dislike the thought of his being overlooked simply because he doesn't look a certain way, but for the Jacob/Bella chemistry to work, all of us die-hard Edward fans have to be able to fall in love with Jacob, also. And, well, it's going to be hella hard to top Edward so whoever plays Jacob has to be visually powerful.

I'm [want] to miss Edward's presence in the New Moon movie, just like I did in the book. I remember reading the middle portion with something like desperation, not being able to fully concentrate, until Edward's return. And that's really how it should be.

Like so many others, I've got my fingers and toes crossed that Weitz succeeds.

Anonymous said...

I am also concerned about New Moon but I'm trying to be optimistic. I'm looking forward to seeing what a new perspective brings to the series. I liked Twilight but I felt there were things that could have been done to make it so much better. What I am concerned most about with New Moon is how it seems that people are pushing the relationship between Bella and Jacob. In New Moon, all that Bella ever feels for Jacob is friendship. I feel like the studio is going to push for this love triangle and it just doesn't exsist in the books. I know that Bella admits to having some feelings for Jacob but not until the very end of Eclipse and only for a few pages. I really hope they don't try to make that into something its not. That would ruin the whole movie for me right there! Let's hope the screenwriter and director can give the fans a great movie to earn our devotion. :-)

ThinkBrown said...

I agree with Maggie on almost every view she has about adaptations, EXCEPT harry potter. Harry potter 1&2 were the best out of all of them. The third couldn't have been worse if they tried.

Anonymous said...

I kind of feel like ever since Catherine Hardwick was taken off New Moon (or left...however it happened), that people are forgetting how disappointed they were with her adaptation. All of the posts I read in the days after I saw the movie for the first time, people went on and on about how much she butchered the novel, how they didn't like the indie feel, that she didn't portray the relationships well enough.

Now that she's out of the picture, it's like people are talking about her like she died. Like she created this masterpiece. How she worked within her limits and brought the story to life.

I'm sorry... I just can't feel that way about her. I still think she did a bad job. I know she worked hard and all, but in the end it was badly done movie. And it had nothing to do with the budget. I've seen low budget movies that did not scream "low budget" like this one did.

I think Weitz will do better. He's promised to stay true to the book. Stephenie Meyer even vouched for him. She'll stick around and keep him on track. I'm excited to see what he comes up with... because I doubt it can be worse than Twilight the movie. :/

Anonymous said...

i totally agree with you mags. while i'm excited to see New Moon brought to screen i feel Summit is playing the money machine card on this one by trying to get the movie out too quickly. i think Catherine was right to voice concern over the time line Summit has presented.

i loved about a boy but am worried because the one big book to movie translation Chris did with the golden compass, was while visibly stunning, a flop of Eragon proportions.

Supermassive Musings said...

I wanted to post something in response to the latter anonymous posting at 2:36 (I am/was the first anonymous posting). After rereading New Moon, it is clear that while Bella does not register romantic feelings toward Jacob, they are, nevertheless, there. Bella's love for Edward is her comparison, and Jacob, obviously, never really stands a chance in world where Edward resides. In a world where he does not, then Jacob would be her choice. The only one who is unaware that she feels more than friendship is Bella. She naively weighs her feelings for Jacob in comparison to Edward, but that does not negate their depth. The realization comes in Eclipse. Bella didn't "fall" in love with Jacob in the third installment, that foundation was laid in New Moon.

Anonymous said...

I am very hopeful That Chris will take the base that Catherine put together and run with it. I am one of those that loved the movie. I knew it was not going to be the book-they never are but it for me did capture the essence of the book. I have to give Catherine credit for a cast that I have come to love and I will be sorely disappointed if they replace Taylor. Let's face it-the hobbits are not tiny real people and Hagrid is not a giant but effects and perspective can make up for so much. Taylor is working hard to bulk up and to more fit the book description. He just has that smile that lights up the screen as Jacob's smile lights up the books and he already has chemistry with Kristen which is crucial in this movie. The biggest point of concern for me is the speed with which Summit is pushing. I know they ended up rushing Twilight out weeks earlier than originally planned thus rushing the editing and that did show in the final product. Now they are wanting to rush New Moon while Twilight is still being promoted in Europe which won't leave the actors much down time before they start filming or Melissa time to get the script right or Chris time to get location and effects lined up. That is my biggest concern. Also I am worried that they are not increasing the budget enough to cover the increase in actor pay and the necessary special effects. Twilight has been a cash cow for them, surely they could offer up a bit more to make a better movie. Will I see it? Yes. Will I see it 5 times like Twilight-depends. I want a good movie, I want to feel everything thing Bella feels, I want to cry when she does and as much as I love Edward, I don't want much of him in this movie.

Anonymous said...

BTW, the last post is mine and I am TwilightTINK - a fan from TwilightMoms.com.

Anonymous said...

Supermassive - I just want to write back to your response to my comment. I do understand that Bella's foundation for her feelings for Jacob begin in New Moon. My problem will be if the studio tries to push those feelings to be more than they are. As you know, when reading the books we are hearing it from Bella's perspective and she has no idea she has any sort of romantic feelings for Jake until the end of Eclipse. Of course, even when she admits to these feelings they are nothing compared to what she feels for Edward. That's my biggest concern. If they are going to keep these movies from Bella's point of view they need to make sure that they don't push the Bell/Jacob relationship into more than friendship, especially in New Moon. They can't try to make us believe this undying love Bella feels for Edward in Twilight and then turn around and make Bella start falling for someone else when Edward leaves after a few months in New Moon! We have to feel Bella's pain of losing Edward not sit through a movie where we see her falling in love with someone else. That's just my biggest fear about New Moon.

ERY said...

i just want more passion and kisses in new moon.
in twilight just has one kiss when the story have more sense, passion and KISSES... LOVE KISSES.

Tessa Talk said...

Finally got back here, and there are wonderful comments to enjoy! I'm very pleased. :-)

Differing viewpoints too. All written with calm discussion, in mind. No flaming or screaming or etc. Yes, I am very, very pleased.

And seems I'm not the _only_ 'Twilight' fan, who so wants this kind of back and forth calm discussion.

Also I suppose I should give apologies to sites like 'Twilight Lex' and 'Twilight Moms,' since they _do_ have such. But I'm not always able to follow as many sites, as I'd like to. So... that's my *excuse* for not being into the 'Lex' and 'Twi-Moms,' enough. ,-)


m~ said...

I am always so excited to get you opinion on the Twilight happenings. You brought up a number of good points I hadn't even thought about. I will definitely digest what you had to say.
Enjoy being back in the states for a while, hope your return flight isn't as bad.

Twilight Girl said...

wow cool blog! so detailed! i just read your introduction thing and your job sounds so interesting! i used to live in Wales, i moved to Australia five years ago.
What's going on with the whole New Moon thing? everyone's talking about the new director and what will happen to Taylor Lautner, i'm getting confused!

TINapay said...

Glad to have stumbled on your blog. Interesting points you made on the prospects of New Moon. I too am curious about how it will turn out. Weitz seems comfortable in making glossy films, and apparently 'they' have earmarked enough budget to add gloss to the Twilight sequel. I wonder if Forks would still feel as wet and mossy. I just hope they do justice to Jacob's movie.

Lee Orlando said...

Thank you for addressing the issue between a *studio feel* for NM versus a more organic experience as we had in Twilight. I think you've captured the major concern I've had and that is the difference of style versus substance. Any adapted work (stage play, short story, previous iteration of a film), needs to be approached in a visual style, and being as vested as the Twilight fanbase, or other adapted works you mentioned (Eragon, Golden Compass, HP).

Film which is a visual way of story telling, will need to depart from the written work in some way as there is a difference between the minds' eye and the subjective audience eye watching a third party interpretation of a story. I think the future of NM will depend greatly on what elements are placed in the screenplay and whether the dictates of the studio to add more Edward and less Jacob are just bad thoughts to toss away. I think we need to be prepared that no matter what Mr. Weitz or Ms. Rosenberg come up with, the core material will be there, as, again, alienating the fan base that supports this film wouldn't be in anyone's best interest.

I look forward to more columns and insights as you have provided in your analysis of the film and hearing you speak in a panel situation at the upcoming Twicon.


Lee Orlando

Anonymous said...

AAannd New post!

NaTasha said...

FILM IN VERNONIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! they did last movie!!!!! IT WAS THE POLICE STATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!