Human, vampire or werewolf – it doesn’t matter who you are, you won’t have been able to avoid the hysteria surrounding The Twilight Saga: New Moon, a pan-global epidemic that seems to have lasted even longer than the shoot itself.
It’s mostly thanks to R-Patz fever (that’s Robert Pattinson to you non-believers) that the second film in what is projected to be a "quadrilogy" has been afforded such attention and an inflated budget, and while his legions of teenage (and beyond) female fans will have plenty to purr over in New Moon, there’s much more for Stewart’s lead character Bella to worry about this time. For starters, it’s her 18th birthday, and while this would be cause to celebrate for a less troubled teen, for Bella it’s just another reminder that she is an ageing mortal while her vampire love Edward (Pattinson) will be forever young.
A paper cut incident (no kidding) at a party thrown by Edward’s vampire family, the Cullens, convinces him that his life is too dangerous for Bella, and before you can say "moody brow-knitting", the whole fangtastic clan have upped stakes and disappeared, leaving Bella to months of moping. It’s at this point that you realise we’ll be without Pattinson for the majority of the movie, and while the filmmakers have made every effort to get around this by having him pop up as a wisp of smoke every time Bella’s life is in danger, it’s a device that soon wears thin (not least because she develops a taste for extreme pastimes that has him yo-yoing in and out) and may disappoint his fans. His replacement is Lautner as Jacob Black, part of the pack of werewolves that was hinted at in Twilight and now steps into the light as very loud CGI creations, protecting the local humans from marauding bloodsuckers.
While the pack’s every appearance was greeted by wolf whistles from the teenage audience, their eternally bared waxed chests and denim cut-offs leaves them looking a bit like glass collectors in a ropey gay bar, and that, coupled with a disappointingly short transformation to canine form and average visual effects makes them the least satisfying werewolves to grace the screen for a long time. Still, they’re just right for the target viewers, and while Stewart pouts, gasps and blinks her way to the edge of a romance with Lautner, the film warms to them as a group, and pitches them as rivals to the Cullens for the affections of the audience, as well as Bella.
Other new additions include Dakota Fanning and Michael Sheen as members of a vampire council who become pivotal to the film’s climax and Pattinson’s return, with Sheen camping it up nicely as an arch villain, bringing some welcome experience to a young cast and upping the ante in a film that starts slowly. This could have been avoided by more ruthless editing of a 130-minute film, and while the model monsters and goofy high school friends offer some knowing humour, it sometimes feels like the rush to get the sequel on screen meant a compromise in quality, and boxes are being ticked. Those boxes are soon to be stuffed full of box office gold though, and while it’s far from perfect, New Moon builds the franchise well.
Strong returning characters and intriguing new ones mean the film is perfectly pitched to the angst-ridden teenage audience who made Twilight a smash while also doing just enough to satisfy the curious, and that means that when it comes to hysteria, you ain't seen nothing yet.