Let's be honest: for most of you, it doesn't matter what I — or any critics for that matter — have to say about New Moon, the incredibly anticipated sequel to last year's Twilight. The film started breaking box office records before it was even released, and audiences will flock to the theaters for weeks to come. On the plus side, a ticket to New Moon is a win even if you're not a Twihard — provided that you know what you're getting into.
New Moon is not incredibly acted, and it doesn't boast impressive dialogue or larger-than-life special effects. But it's not trying to be the Best Picture of the Year, so I can only critique it for what it is: a fantasy movie about a love triangle between a werewolf, a vampire, and a teenage girl. To see what I mean, just read more.
The movie picks up a few months after where Twilight left off. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is blissfully in love but she can't fight her insecurities about growing older than her perpetually seventeen vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). All Bella wants for her eighteenth birthday is for Edward to change her into a bloodsucker, but a close call with his brother drives Edward to break up with Bella and leave town instead.
The drama following Bella's abandonment is everything we remember from high school heartbreak, from Bella's night terrors to the glazed over look in her eye. The anguish and pain are easily seen on Stewart's face, and her innermost thoughts are revealed to the audience through letters to Edward's sister Alice that will never be sent. After months of moping, Bella finally starts to open up to Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), a family friend. As Bella struggles to find hope in a life without Edward, her friendship is complicated by Jacob's romantic feelings for Bella and made worse when Jacob discovers that he's a werewolf (and an enemy to all vampires).
The surprise of the movie is Lautner's performance. We've seen and heard about those muscles countless times before, but he also packs enough charm and charisma into his Jacob that you truly see him as more than just Bella's unrelenting admirer / best friend. He presents himself as a viable suitor for Bella's heart, and it's hard not to root for him against Robert Pattinson's wooden (albeit handsome) Edward. Stewart and Pattinson have chemistry to spare in Twilight, but in New Moon, Bella's relationship with Jacob seems hopeful and comfortable while her scenes with Edward are mostly awkward and frankly not as much fun to watch.
The movie belongs to Stewart and Lautner, but their melodrama is balanced out by the characters who pad out the cast. Yes, we meet the wolf pack and the Volturi, but for the most part the Forks residents and beyond make for some much-needed comic relief. The downside is that while it's funnier than what you'd expect, not all of the laughs are intentional (a scene where Jacob's temper rivals that of The Incredible Hulk comes to mind).
It doesn't take more than a grain of salt to appreciate New Moon for what it is — a film that stays true to its origin and delivers the necessary elements to ensure that you'll be back when the next installment of the franchise comes our way.
Photos courtesy of Summit Entertainment