The inescapable cultural phenomenon surrounding “The Twilight Saga” gets its second film installment in “New Moon,” carrying on the story of Bella and Edward’s tortured teen romance. But there’s more to these films than simply retelling the stories of the books. It creates something new: a crop of talented teen idols who could become part of the next generation of A-List Hollywood actors.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
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Thanks to the juggernaut commercial success of the “Twilight” brand, these fresh-faced actors are breaking out in a big way; Robert Pattinson is already being compared to James Dean and Marlon Brando for his cult-like popularity.
The first “Twilight” movie propelled both Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson to super-stardom, and “New Moon” looks to do the same with Taylor Lautner, who often appears sans shirt. Even more than the original “Twilight,” “New Moon” fetishizes its gorgeous protagonists. Human Bella’s (Stewart, “Twilight”) obsessive romance with vampire Edward (Pattinson, “Twilight”) is based mainly on physical attraction, and the films reflect that — the stars are the focal point. Their faces and bodies constantly fill the frame, from Stewart’s quizzical eyebrows to Pattinson’s pouty lips and Lautner’s washboard abs.
“New Moon” picks up where the first “Twilight” left off, with Bella and Edward united as a blissful couple. But soon, Edward and his vampire family leave Forks, Wash. for good. Edward abandons Bella, explaining that rival vampire clans endanger not only his family’s life, but hers as well. Love-sick Bella becomes deeply depressed without him, but her friend Jacob (Lautner, “Twilight”) manages to save her from her own self-destructive urges. Their friendship gets complicated and Bella becomes the target of vampire assassins in this more action-oriented sequel.
Compared to the first film, “New Moon” is more exciting and fast-paced. Action scenes involving werewolves are the most spectacular, with CGI work generating convincingly ferocious jaws and flowing fur. The love triangle makes for some tense moments between Stewart, Pattinson and Lautner, which succeed because of appropriately angsty performances and natural chemistry. But outside of the romantically charged moments, the actors falter. In more banal conversations (most of the film), they deliver their lines in a halting manner with overly long pauses. Part of the blame should go to the script’s clunky dialogue (“I belong with you.” “No, you don’t.”). The narrative arc is equally frustrating, as Bella’s behavior is always near-suicidal, and there’s no forward momentum to the story.
“New Moon” is best when presenting beautiful images other than the actors, like panoramic views of mossy temperate rain forests and dramatic seaside cliffs. It’s less adept at telling a compelling story. The most involving moments are the brief fireworks of the romance and action scenes, which use CGI and glossy close-ups as weapons of choice.
Despite the poor dialogue, the actors occasionally shine. And for fans of the series, “New Moon” manages a successful adaptation of the book, capturing its moods of heartbreak and anguish. But for those not under author Stephanie Meyer’s spell, it could be quite a bore.