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When the ‘Moon’ Hits Your Eye

Have no fear, Team Edward.

Though your beloved vampire from the "Twilight" series is hardly in the second film, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," you may not even notice.

That's because the "Twilight" movie, based on Stephenie Meyer's vampire-themed romance books, went from being a cultish, low-budget project to a Hollywood powerhouse that earned its director, Catherine Hardwicke, "highest grossing movie by a female director" status in the Guinness Book of World Records.

So, for the highly anticipated follow-up, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" (or "New Moon" as Twihards call it), that translated into more money, more special effects and more topless men than should be allowed in a PG-13 movie.

But before anyone freaks out about everything being different, especially since a male director, Chris Weitz, took over, what stands out the most is how everything is strangely the same.

The story still revolves around the tumultuous love story between Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), an introspective high schoolgirl, and her beautiful vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). But after an unfortunate incident at Bella's birthday party, Edward realizes his love for her is only endangering Bella and he leaves.

Though Weitz, who directed "The Golden Compass," was brought on for his special effects expertise, some the film's most memorable scenes capture Bella's months-long devastation following Edward's departure.

Bella's withdrawal from her friends and her ever-understanding father is captured through subtle moments: a faraway glance in the cafeteria, a perfectly placed piece of Thom Yorke music, a shot of the forest where she shared moments with Edward.

It also illustrates how the saga's cast of young actors is improving. In "Twilight," Bella's moody moments were over-the-top and repetitive. This time, Stewart was able to capture the pain that's written in the book without making it seem like an after-school special.

In several scenes, Bella wakes up screaming from nightmares, something that could have easily played too "chick flick." But Stewart brought enough restraint to the scene without losing Bella's total anguish.

Bella slowly crawls out of her depression thanks to her friend, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who lives at the nearby La Push Indian Reservation. The two friends spend most of their time fixing motorcycles and watching gory, nonromantic movies until one day Jacob begins to act strangely.

It turns out his Quileute ancestors transform into werewolves when vampires are near and, indeed, there's one after Bella.

After talks of replacing the small-framed and inexperienced Lautner for someone with more muscle, it's difficult to imagine anyone else playing Jacob. Along with putting on more weight, the sweet-natured actor had no problem carrying a major part of the film, teasing Bella and pushing her away after he transforms into a werewolf.

Lautner is given a lot of responsibility in "New Moon" and it's not just that terrible wig he wears for the first part of the film.

He has to fall in love with Bella without being too obvious about it. He has to be loyal to his Wolf Pack without pushing Bella out of his life. And he also has to hunt down Victoria the vampire (played eerily by Bryce Dallas Howard).

The werewolf scenes are also where the film's extra $15 million budget comes into play.

A lot of that money surely must have been spent on personal training for the boys playing werewolves to appear as tall and strong as the book implies. The transformation from boy to hulking wolf plays out so much better on screen than the sparkling vampires did in "Twilight."

Speaking of vampires, don't worry. They're not totally absent. How could they be when Edward is one of the most adored literary characters at the moment?

While the vampires' over-the-top pale makeup isn't that much better than it was in "Twilight," the Cullens are still very much the lovable, enviable group they always are. (Especially Alice and her Jackie O.-inspired wardrobe.)

There may not be as much Pattinson in "New Moon," but judging from the over 1 million YouTube hits of the scene where Edward disrobes in Italy, he's still very much the film's sex symbol.

And in the end, a story about the absence of Edward is still very much a story about romance, just like in the original film.

So for all the CGI effects and for all the strides Team Jacob makes in "New Moon," Team Edward still and will always come out on top.

"The Twilight Saga: New Moon." Running time: 2 hours, 9 minutes. Rated: PG-13. 2.5 stars.


To find out more about Nina Garin and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


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