New Moon (The Twilight Saga: New Moon)

Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Taylor Lautner, Michael Sheen. Directed by Chris Weitz. 131mins
Rated M (supernatural themes)

What follows is probably a superfluous review – insofar as New Moon is already being hailed as the fastest and vastest pre-booking movie event of all time. Since the four novels by Stephanie Meyer have sold gazillions of copies, the market of teenage girls (and, so we are informed, of 40-something mothers) is at the ready. The first film Twilight was such a success that it was an instant cult movie. A year later, New Moon. And only a wait of seven months before the next sequel arrives, June 2010, Eclipse (and for the astronomically minded, the fourth novel is called Breaking Dawn).

Both screenplays so far have been written by Melissa Rosenberg. She has a great talent for capturing the moods of teenage romance, the language of teens and Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass – as well as American Pie!) has the skills to pace the action and dialogue to the timing and pace for the niche audience. (Which means that many adults are going to find it slow going at first as Bella (Kristen Stewart) lives out the title, mooning intensely for benign vampire Edward Cullen (pallid and passive Robert Pattinson whose heartthrob status will increase exponentially, as they say, with the release of New Moon) who has decided to leave her and the town of Forks in the US northwest. Bella relies on her father (Billy Burke) relies on her best friend, Jacob (an athletic Taylor Lautner) who loves Bella but has personal werewolf problems of his own.

When the huge wolves do appear, the film perks up considerably with some unexpected action and some good special effects.

There is also an excursion to Italy to meet the Volterans, the ancient upper class leaders of the vampire clan, led by Michael Sheen taking time out from being Tony Blair or David Frost (and speaking his lines clearly which can't be said for the leads).
Kristen Stewart is a strong presence as Bella, even if she has to do a whole lot of mournful mooning. Robert Pattinson disappears for a lot of the film except for some brief ethereal apparitions but earns his billing in the final half hour. Taylor Lautner provides a good contrast with the vampire. And the film ends with a finely dramatic question...

So, it looks as though New Moon does exactly what it set out to do, please the huge number of readers, provide a female teenage audience with a film that is theirs, and make a case that, despite the Dracula history, there can be some nice and honourable vampires.

Hoyts Out November 19

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.