If you haven't heard of the second installment in the "Twilight Saga," New Moon, the record-breaking blockbuster that dominated the week leading up to Thanksgiving 2009, then you've seriously been living under a rock somewhere in the forests of Forks, Washington.
Stephanie Meyer, the author of the best-selling, teen novels on which the Twilight Saga is based, was on the Oprah show on Nov. 13, promoting the film. This was in addition to the Twilight Weekly series on Reelz Channel, the MTV special, numerous actor appearances on talk shows and award programs, as well as the almost infinite number of magazine covers, including People, Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, Teen Vogue, Seventeen, Fangoria, Interview, Ok, and even GQ Style.
Stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson return as Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, the star-crossed lovers whose relationship is limited due to the fact that Edward is a vampire. It's not that loving a vampire is a bad thing. It's just that there's always the danger he'll bite and suck your blood. You can't really sunbathe with him on a shiny beach in Florida, and you'll only grow older while he just stays the same age for eternity, barring anyone pulling his head off.
Joining the pack this time around is teenage-actor Taylor Lautner. Yes, he appeared in the first film, but his role is much more pronounced here. He plays the third leg in a love triangle between Bella and Edward. At first, the producers of the movie were not going to re-cast Lautner as Jacob Black, Bella's boyish, Native American friend-turned-werewolf. The role called for Jacob to be very muscular, which in 2008 Lautner certainly wasn't. Director Chris Weitz, though, thought him to be emotionally right for the part, saw how dedicated he was to his exercise regimen, and decided to roll the dice.
If judging from the shirtless image first seen in the teaser at July's Comic-Con in San Diego, shown to hundreds of screaming girls, Lautner was a gamble that paid in spades. His chiseled physique became the stuff of wet dreams (I'm sure) of tons of eager, female fans. Lautner even landed the cover of Men's Health, as a prime example of how to gain 30 pounds of muscle mass in the short time that he did.
After also doing a splashy photo-spread for Rolling Stone, with a cover story posted Nov. 24, it's pretty safe to say that this kid, yes kid, is the hottest thing to hit Hollywood all year.
Weitz, if nothing else, works that angle, making Lautner spend about half the movie half-naked, allowing viewers to fully absorb every inch of his titillating torso. Does it get a little ridiculous after awhile? Yes. Does anyone in the audience even care? No!
I have to agree with Anna Smith's review in Time Out New York magazine that this film is basically a soap opera episode and "acceptable escapism for those old enough to see it yet still young enough to shriek at undead dreamboats."
Except, even if you're not young enough to shriek, any adult's heart can warm to the idea posed here of how far one will go for love. With undercurrents of a Shakespearean tragedy, this movie begs the question of Bella deciding if she'd be willing to kill herself for love. It's not exactly Romeo and Juliet nor Hamlet, but Bella does have to ask herself to be or not to be, or rather, to be or not to be a vampire.
For her, she wants to be on equal ground with the man she loves, but the only way to do that is if she becomes a vampire herself. This basically calls on her to die, to die for Edward. This question was essentially underlying the first film but is better punctuated here.
I still think in terms of vampire-werewolf romances, HBO's True Blood is still remarkably better. True Blood is not appropriate for the tween market that this film seeks to tap, but for something a bit more family friendly, meaning no sex, just a lot of heavy-breathing during kisses and almost-kisses, I would recommend this movie. It made me at least interested in seeing the next installment.
Three Stars out of Five
Rated PG-13 for some violence
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 10 mins.