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
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
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.
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
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.