‘New Moon’ an upgrade from the first film

The good thing about The Twilight Saga: New Moon is that the pesky problem of exposition has been eliminated. The second film in the Twilight series has already established its plot – mainly about needy girls and the sparkly vampires who love them – so tedious explanation is no longer needed. For that, we are grateful.

The most striking thing about Stephenie Meyer’s outrageously popular series of books is that the people, otherworld or not, are characterized by their obsessive, borderline-creepy love. Bella (Kristen Stewart), a pouty human, loves a dazzling vampire named Edward (Robert Pattinson) who treats her more as a porcelain doll than as an actual person.

Edward is reluctant to subject Bella to his world of glittery monsters despite his family inexplicably adoring Bella, so he leaves Washington. This leaves Bella to sit and pout, and kind-of-but-not-really fall for her best friend, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), who also happens to be a werewolf. Essentially, Meyer stole the plot of the Underworld series and made it applicable to hopeful, somewhat-scary teenagers everywhere.

Every performance in New Moon is an upgrade from the first film. Stewart’s Bella does more than just sulk and blink this time around, and despite given some of the cheesiest, most melodramatic dialogue since soap operas were invented, Pattinson actually shows the most promise of having a career after Twilight ends. Look for Anna Kendrick, playing Jessica, the cattiest of Bella’s human friends, to steal whatever scene she’s in. Kendrick was the best part of the first film by a long shot, and she doesn’t disappoint this time around.

The best parts of the film are, unsurprisingly, the two most established actors in it. Proving that some actors will do anything for a paycheck, Michael Sheen is fantastic as Aro, the head of the vampire ruling class. While this film is unlikely to earn him the Oscar nomination he so very much deserves, his scenes in the film are by far the most engaging. If everyone else in the world is split between Team Jacob and Team Edward, this writer is Team Aro. Likewise, Dakota Fanning is by far the most menacing part of the film, which is great for her as an actress yet somewhat sad for a movie focusing on vampires and werewolves.

The presence of a new director – in this case, About A Boy’s Chris Weitz – has clearly made all the difference. Twilight, unlike its sequel, was incoherent, skipping around plot points like no one had to actually understand what was happening. New Moon, on the other hand, actually makes a fair amount of sense, a feat considering the fractured, jumpy narrative on which it is based. If audience members have read the last two books they know that this rationality is unlikely to last, so they should treasure it while they can.

Rating: 2.5/4 stars

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner

Directed By: Chris Weitz

MPAA Rating: PG-13