In Theaters: The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Let's get this out of the way: Team Jacob. All the way. Whether he's repairing motorbikes, chasing stealth vampiresses through a forest on all fours, or simply standing outside a car window, begging the girl he loves not to fly to Italy to intercept the ritual suicide of the dude she's totally hung up on, Jacob is the closest thing that New Moon has to a plot-generator, and for that we salute all 18 of his abs (on display for about 70% of his screen time, and capable of inducing a squeeing only audible to wolves). The second chapter of The Twilight Saga is at once a vast improvement over its predecessor -- thanks to the assured hand of director Chris Weitz, whose grasp of filmmaking is more sophisticated, if less viscerally emotional, than Catherine Hardwicke's -- but a step backwards in terms of storytelling.
It's hampered from the start by its heroine Bella Swan, played by Kristen Stewart. As her talk show tour has reminded us this week, Stewart comes off as a nice enough girl bobbing in a sea of anhedonic neuroses. In New Moon, she is literally defined by the men, or man, she chooses to fixate on, and Stewart puts those emotional tics in her arsenal to good use. A birthday party gone badly at the Cullens -- a surrogate family of gentrified vampires with bottle-blond hair, who have welcomed Bella as one of their own -- leads Edward, her ruby-lipped, immortal Romeo (and he literally recites Shakespeare, should there be any doubt) to dump her in the woods. "This is the last time you'll ever see me," he tells her, and Robert Pattinson almost has us convinced. Make no mistake: Pattinson is the Rudolph Valentino of swoony sparklepires, able to quake entire theaters simply by a flare of his shimmery nostrils.
In the real world, break-ups this sudden and severe are because of one thing and one alone: the fact that men are assholes. (Alternately: women are cold-hearted bitches.) But in New Moon, it's because Edward loves too much, and wants to protect Bella from his horrible, vampirey fate. What's so terrible about being a vampire isn't exactly established: We never see them feeding on blood or so much as baring a fang; they have flawless, wrinkle-free skin without the use of cleansing scrubs or synthetic injectibles; they live forever; they travel a lot; exposure to sunlight results in transformation into a human disco ball. What's the problem, exactly? I've just described my dream existence.
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