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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Twilight sequel is better than its predecessor

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 11:47 AM

Ten minutes into The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Bella (Kristen Stewart) is celebrating her 18th birthday at the home of 109-year-old boyfriend Edward (Robert Pattison) and his sparkly vampire family. While opening a present, she gets a paper cut and almost winds up being the cake at her own party when one of the bloodsuckers can’t contain his bloodlust. Worried that Bella won’t be so lucky next time, Edward and company leave town, sending her into an all-consuming depression. Bella discovers that engaging in dangerous, near-suicidal behavior helps, as it brings on hallucinations of Edward. Spending time with her buff and frequently shirtless Native American friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) helps, too, albeit for different reasons. Although still longing for Edward’s cold touch, Bella develops strong feelings for Jacob, as well. This girl really knows how to pick 'em, because it turns out that Jacob is a werewolf. At least she can get close to Jacob without having to worry about becoming a snack, but there are other issues.

Like its predecessor Twilight, New Moon has an outwardly chaste exterior that obscures its undercurrent of unhealthy sexuality. Jacob and his fellow shape-shifters are extremely short tempered, and he worries that he might lose control one day and hurt Bella. The fiancé of another werewolf has massive scars on her face from just such an incident, but despite her injuries the abused woman lovingly stands by her man. The message may be unintended, but it’s there nonetheless. As for Edward, it was already established in the first film that he's a much older man barely able to control his urges towards a teenage girl that he literally watches over all the time, even in her sleep. So Bella’s options are a stalker old enough to be her great-grandfather and a guy just as likely to turn into Phil Spector as he is a wolf.

Taken strictly at face value, New Moon is an entertaining romantic fantasy that improves over its predecessor in many ways. The movie has a stronger visual look and does a better job with its action scenes while still keeping the focus on the central love triangle. Stewart, whose performance was somewhat annoying in the first film, has also gotten better. Pattison has a smaller role this time, but Lautner more than ably picks up the slack with a performance sure to make him just as big a sensation as his co-star. The problem with focusing so much on Bella’s dalliance with Jacob is that when the story brings Edward and the vampires back for its third act, the conclusion feels rushed. Plot points are glossed over and new characters introduced without much explanation in the race to the conclusion. Also, with all the loose ends left dangling and assumptions that the audience knows what came before, New Moon doesn’t stand on its own very well. ***

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