Unlike most Twilight fans, I'd consider myself Team Jacob (vs. Team Edward). And because of this, New Moon is probably my favorite of the books (like most who've read the Twilight series, I just like to pretend the last book never happened). But, like many people, I was skeptical of baby-faced twerp Taylor Lautner being cast as Jacob. In the first Twilight film, with his terrible wig and his goofy smile. Lautner didn't exactly make the best impression. So unlike the rest of the cast, he had to fight to keep his job in the sequel, where he plays a much bigger role. And boy, did he fight, and boy is he bigger. Apparently he had carry around bags of meat for eating in order to maintain the 30 pounds of muscle he gained for New Moon. Well, good for you Taylor. You have redeemed yourself, even if your limited acting is outshined by your unlimited abs.
Picking up where Twilight left off, Bella (Kristen Stewart) is turning 18, an event that kind of freaks her out because she is now officially older than her eternally 17-year-old vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Edward's vampire family the Cullens throw a party for their adopted human pet Bella, and she accidentally cuts herself. All hell breaks loose as the vampires come *this close* to turning into a seething snarling mass at the sight of blood. Ed decides (after lots of brooding) that it is best that he dump Bella. It is too dangerous for them to be together, and he can't always protect her. Ed leaves. See ya!
Bella mopes some more.
Months go by. Seasons change. (Seriously!)
She continues moping.
The audience starts to check their watches...
Whew! Thankfully, Bella starts to crawl out of her hole of depression and begins hanging out with her old pal from the rez, Jacob (Lautner). Jacob may be only 16 (which would be unbelievable, except that Lautner really WAS 16 during the filming), and, seemingly overnight, he has become ripped like a bodybuilder. Holy. Crap. And yes, the first time (of many) that Lautner takes off his shirt, he is truly a sight to behold (as ripples of squeals rushed through the audience). "You're... kind of beautiful," says Bella. Yes. Yes, he is.
But even though Jacob is a nice guy, crush-worthy, and the bestest friend to Bella, she still is pining for Edward (like most of the audience). Unfortunately for Team Edward, the bloodsucker is completely scarce from the whole middle chunk of the story (except for the bizarre ghostly apparitions where he speaks to Bella like Obi-Wan Kenobi, "Run, Bella! Run!"). You know that something's gotta give, and it does. Through a major mental-telepathy mis-communication, Bella goes globe-trotting to rush to Edward's arms again.
Oh! But did I mention that Jacob, plus his other pals, are werewolves? And that killing vampires is their reason for existence? Well, there's that. (By the way, this explains the high ratio of shirtless jailbait boys in this film, as werewolves' tend to "run hot," even in the cool Northwest weather.)
Let's get a few things out of the way. There is no reason to see New Moon if you haven't seen Twilight (or read it, for that matter). This is clearly a sequel, but the film hardly bothers rehashing what happened the first time around. So much so that when Edward initially leaves Bella, it's almost like, "OK, bye." without having reminded us of all the torture and brooding and lust from the first film. There is, of course, a lot of stuff left out of the book which, unsurprisingly, made the book richer and gave it much-needed momentum (which the film doesn't have). Jacob's buddies, the Wolf Pack, make a great impression in the movie (always stealing their scenes), but have very very little screen time. Same goes for the Volturi (the lords of the vampire world) in the climax in Italy. Michael Sheen and (surprisingly) Dakota Fanning are excellent additions to the cast, but Sheen is relatively reigned in, and Dakota barely gets any lines (though I want to try to say, "Pain." to someone and see if I can get her results).
Throw in strange "improvements" over the first film, like the super-distracting and weird gold contact lenses that all the Cullens wear (which have that weird wandering-eye effect of colored lenses), or the new and improved vampire sparkle (which is used in an unintentionally hilarious vision of the future that Alice has), and you have, well, a bigger budget movie. That's about it. The special effects have improved and director Chris Weitz (now that he has taken over the reigns from Catherine Hardwicke) sticks carefully to the book, so as not to offend. The book offers more mythology of the wolves and the vamps, which makes it (of course) much richer than the film. But I suppose this is the complaint of most book-to-screen adaptations. In this case, when the film sticks relentlessly to the mope and only offers a spark of fun when some random side character shows up, well, I'd rather re-read the book again.