CD Review: The Twilight Saga: New Moon – The Score – Original Soundtrack

By • November 30, 2009

Composer: Alexandre Desplat
Label: E1
Suggested Retail Price: $9.99
Grade: A

Sometimes there’s nothing better than going to a kiddie matinee and finding out the movie’s just as appealing to adults. Now spin that saying to a picture designed for virginal teen girls (and those who wish they still were), add a number onto a series that seemed like it would never climb out of sorta interesting mediocrity, then put the cherry on top with an unexpectedly old-school romantic score, and you’ve got the surprise of THE TWILIGHT SAGA- NEW MOON, a way better blockbuster sequel to the bloodless emo romance between a high schooler and the dashing 100+ year vampire who should know better.

For the original TWILIGHT, Carter Burwell did a decent, guitar-driven that fit snuggly with the mostly forgettable songs. Now what just came across as goofy for any undead fan over the age of 15 (vampire baseball anyone?) becomes a lush, affectingly celibate ménage a trois between vampire, werewolf and oh-so anguished human. If I finally got TWILIGHT’s appeal this time out, it’s certainly because of the understanding that Alexandre Desplat’s score gave me in the ageless appeal of undead love even if it’s solidly marketed for tweens. For these are the kind of lush, brooding melodies that have stood in for the come-hither victim and the handsome monster since the first vampire films hit celluloid. Apply that full-blooded melodic intelligence to bubblegum pseudo-horror, and you’ve at last got the real deal with NEW MOON.

If Desplat has more than helped TWILIGHT enterprise finally grow up, it should come as no surprise, given the composer’s inventive pedigree in surreal, romantic music with the likes of GIRL WITH A PEARL EARING, BIRTH and THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON- not to mention his talent for heartfelt feminine melodies in every chick flick from THE UPSIDE OF ANGER to JULIE AND JULIE and COCO BEFORE CHANEL.

Then again, that particular way of writing rich themes that don’t give a damn for being emotional is probably a French thing to begin with. It’s certainly what director Chris Weitz thought when he asked Desplat to write a romantic score for NEW MOON in the tradition of his late countryman Maurice Jarre. And that composer’s grand, unabashed spirit is very much alive in NEW MOON (along with every other melody possessed musician from Claude Debussy to John Barry). Desplat’s poured on the lyricism for his second teaming with Weitz after THE GOLDEN COMPASS, a film which stands as the composer’s most furiously symphonic entry into Hollywood mega-scoring. This time he’s taken it down a notch or two. But then again, we’re talking big cartoon werewolves here instead of big cartoon polar bears. And while there’s some neat tribal percussion for Team Jacob, Desplat’s gloriously doom-ridden score mostly plays Bella’s impossible love and yearning with strings and brass aflutter, exactly the kind of stuff that will make female mall rats’ hearts flutter as much as the old-school music fan who’s been lured by Desplat’s name into buying this CD. Neither will regret it.

NEW MOON’s antecedent seems as much Bernard Herrmann’s JANE EYRE as it does more darkly romantic Jarre stuff like THE COLLECTOR. Two beautifully moody themes are heard in just about every other cue, and they’re melodies that never get tired as they flits from subtle pianos and strings to a full, stormy orchestra. Yet even with his classic orchestral approach, the ghost of Burwell’s approach still hangs about unobtrusively in Desplat’s use of electric guitar- a sound that doesn’t seem as forced to cohere to the dozens of album-ready rock songs that are slightly less intrusive this time out.

Yet for his rapturously Gothic approach to doom-ridden romance, Desplat also has the advantage that NEW MOON is far more of a “horror” movie than the anemic first entry. The music gets to effectively pound about for its vamp-on-werewolf action, with brass classily assuming their howls. But Desplat doesn’t have more fun than with his theme for the vamp overlords the Volturi. There’s a definite camp appeal to these ancient Eurotrash bloodsuckers, deliciously embodied by Michael Sheen in a fey spin on his UNDERWORLD cache. Horns, and a waltz rhythm gives a debonair, and utterly sinister sound to the undead jet set, the music conveying the Volturi’s delight in toying with their victims before going for the off screen throat gnash.

Desplat is also up to some wonderful old tricks here, particularly with his use of a sub-sonic pulse to give a percussive drive to the music, an approach heard a bit louder in his scores for BIRTH and SYRIANA. Here it gives an insinuating threat to NEW MOON, the feeling of characters driving to their destiny (literally in Bella’s case for one of the film’s more wonderfully absurd action scenes), all before the score goes for its biggest music with a thrashing climax as Edward’s ennui makes him take on his elders. But as with all of NEW MOON’s music, the slo-mo body blows have impact because it’s music is going for the heart as much as playing the jazzy effects. Like Edward, Desplat’s keen use of emotion has totally sucked us believers in.

At first, the idea of just-say-no vampires was almost as abhorrent to a true vampire fan like myself as a garlic-ringed necklace. Now with a big thanks to Alexandre Desplat, TWILIGHT’s music finally become the full-blooded vampire score I’d hoped for. It will likely earn respect true respect with the soundtrack cognoscenti beyond the zillions of books it’s sold, and dollars it’s made with the kids. For this is music that’s anything but dumbed-down for the core audience. Desplat has composed a gorgeous, real deal vampire score with NEW MOON. And my biggest fear now is that he might not be around for the third entry. So let’s hope they don’t show the symphony this series so desperately needs out the door for a bunch of electric guitars. For there’s nothing’s more emo than a bunch of over-30 musicians playing instruments that were around since the time that Bram Stoker first made this sort of story popular.

Take a bite out of Desplat under the NEW MOON here


By fayth on November 30th, 2009 at 6:12 pm

I LOVE twilight so much I think this is great!

By kayla on December 1st, 2009 at 7:17 am

new moon was so awsome i loved it jacob was so hoooooot when he jumped off the house thing to save blla !!!!!

By Nora on December 1st, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Unfortunately I did not like the sound track of New Moon I am sure that Alexander Desplat is very talented but I believe Carter Barwell still my favorite, he capture the essence of the romance between Edward and Bella and transformed into notes full of love that trespassed language barriers with all his compositions.

By Jeremy on December 2nd, 2009 at 10:58 am

Surprisingly beautiful score. Alexandre Desplat’s not a very impressive composer in my opinion, but in the past two years he’s really grown on me. Benjamin Button’s score is quite affecting, Fantastic Fox showed that he can have upbeat, quirky fun, and with New Moon he’s probably delivered one of his most beautiful scores to date. Shame it was for such a terrible film.

By Brian on December 2nd, 2009 at 8:01 pm

While I will concede that Carter Burwell’s score was, at times, a bit hokey for my tastes, I found the originality of his compositional voice extremely refreshing. Desplat’s score was completely generic from beginning to end. Nothing about it particularly caught my ear. I will grant that it got the job done, but to make a score truly worthy of an “A” grade, I think it should go farther than that. I understand that Desplat was trying to give his score a “classic” feel, but I think it should be classic through a modern lens. You must bring something new to the table while taking a page out of the history books. Burwell is able to create new and interesting textures in his music that I feel are lacking in most big-name Hollywood composers these days.

By Lexi on March 24th, 2010 at 10:29 am

Hey, can someone tell me where i can find the names of the songs on the score cd. I want to get them on my ipod.


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