It must be a ‘New Moon’ for teenage vampire movies

By Kieran Layton

“The Twilight Saga: New Moon”

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor… “The Twilight Saga: New Moon”

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner

Director: Chris Weitz

Studio: Summit

Grade: B+

In “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” the female protagonist Bella Swan — played by the ever-awkward Kristen Stewart — is said to “run with vampires.” After this second installment in the phenomenally popular teenage vampire series, however, it might be more than just obsessed fans and preteen girls running with the “Twilight” craze.

By cutting down on the absurdly melodramatic romantic dialogue and stiff acting that plagued the first film, “New Moon” makes itself more accessible, interesting and enjoyable, even if some of the fun is derived from gently poking fun at it.

The story picks up a few months after “Twilight” — Bella and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) are dating, and for once, everything seems to be perfect, or at least until a violent event at the Cullens’ home on Bella’s birthday. If you think you get a little lightheaded at the sight of blood, wait until you see this family.

After that, a series of events occur, but it would be futile to give the plot any more exposition. To the fans who have already read the book: Be prepared for satisfaction, for the movie is a near-perfect adaptation. To everyone else who will still brave the hordes of fans to see what all the fuss is about: Spoiling the movie would be wringing out much of its fun factor.

Of course, if you’ve seen the trailer, you know that there are werewolves, an insanely ripped Jacob (Taylor Lautner), ghost images of Jacob and a creepy vampire Dakota Fanning warning someone, “This might hurt just a little.”

One massive improvement that “New Moon” makes over the first film is, ironically, the inclusion of elements that render the plot and characters in a more realistic fashion. After Edward leaves the film for a solid 45 minutes, Bella and Jacob’s friendship is given top priority on screen. Finally, an aspect of teenage life is portrayed to which the youthful audience can directly relate — the gray area between friendship and romance.

It is in Stewart and Lautner’s scenes together that the shift in acting is most visible. These two actors — and the cast as a whole — have shaken off the stiffness that plagued their roles in the first film, and with its new and natural sheen, “New Moon” offers a viewing experience that the first film warded off with its awkwardness.

For those wholly sick of the Bella-Edward-Jacob love triangle, don’t fret: There are some seriously awesome set pieces that practically pop off the screen with energy and sexiness.

Remember the cool baseball scene from the first movie? There are at least three sequences in “New Moon” that trump it. A particularly rousing one involves Bella taking a dive from a cliff juxtaposed with the werewolves hunting Victoria (the now-deposed Rachelle Lefevre).

“New Moon” also gets right what many other similar films overlook: the music. Seriously, the soundtrack to the film is so perfectly matched to every scene, and on its own, the music warrants multiple repeated listens.

Of course, the movie remains burdened by problems that are not just specific to the film, but to the series overall. There is plenty of pandering to a teenage girl audience, and the instinctual groaning at overwrought scenes comes quickly and frequently. Also, the film skirts over concepts of the series’ mythology that might leave viewers slightly perplexed at the film’s conclusion.

Yes, the entire “Twilight” phenomenon is still silly — even the fans are beginning to recognize that now. Yet it’s still refreshing to see a piece of mass entertainment that takes no liberties with its own success. Director Chris Weitz could have easily made a film that would perform just as admirably while being half as entertaining (and yet still gained a freakishly intense following). “New Moon” is a reminder that directors are capable of infusing creativity and liveliness into films predestined to make countless millions (David Yates and the sixth “Harry Potter” film, take note).

Ultimately, the haters will continue to hate, and the fans will continue to swoon. And for better or for worse, “New Moon” proves vampires will continue to feed on pop culture for at least another year.

Now when does “True Blood” come on again?