A newcomer to the “Twilight” series, I confess myself unfamiliar with Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling novels, except for what I’ve gleaned from two screen adaptations. In the first, we witness the birth of a potentially timeless romance, as young, mortal Bella (Kristen Stewart) falls madly in love with Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a vampire whose taste for blood is rivaled only by his reluctance to draw it from his lover’s neck.
“New Moon” finds their romance on the rocks. Edward, tormented as ever, believes himself a threat to Bella’s safety, and not without reason. (His brother Jasper, played with wide-eyed ferocity by Jackson Rathbone, lunges for her veins on her 18th birthday, in what must be the ultimate party foul.)
Bella, who yearns to be a vampire herself — the lure of eternal love has her teenage heart aflutter — couldn’t care less about safety so long as Edward’s pale, marble-smooth skin is pressed against her own.
When Edward and his family split town, Bella retires to her bedroom, where her high-pitched screams seem destined to shatter the glassware. It survives, but Bella’s heart is irreparably broken.
She takes solace in extreme sports, which satisfy her lust for dangerous living, and finds a new best friend in Jacob (Taylor Lautner), who just happens to be a werewolf.
Where’s a normal guy when you need one? Apparently nowhere to be found in Forks, Wash., (pop. 3,120), where gruesome murders are shockingly routine and young, exquisitely sculpted boys wander the wilderness in search of shirts.
Bella, of course, isn’t interested in “normal.” She’s addicted to the darkness, whether she finds it in Jacob’s hot temper or Edward’s smoldering stare. But whom to choose?
Those acquainted with Meyer’s books should be familiar with the theme of abstinence, which permeates their subtext. Bella wants to go all the way; Edward can’t allow it, recoiling from her touch for fear of acting on his lethal instincts.
“New Moon” suggests the tantalizing possibility of a love triangle, albeit a sexless one, by injecting Jacob into the mix, but he seems just as hesitant as Edward. Both are predators by nature, but in matters of the heart (or, more precisely, the loins), they are the prey.
Will fans of last year’s “Twilight” be satisfied by “New Moon”? I believe they will. The movie is funny, endearingly romantic and, at times, highly entertaining, in a campy sort of way.
Its defects include cumbersome dialogue and ludicrous plotting — its lack of sophistication is total — but who’s going to notice with all those shirtless wolf-men flexing their pecs?
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Anna Kendrick
Written by Melissa Rosenberg
Directed by Chris Weitz
Running time 2 hours 10 minutes