We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Success! You're on the list.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

Directed by Chris Weitz

Twilight backlash has proved a force as fierce as Twilight love. Except unlike the adoration, with its Teams This vs. That, the hate has been more equal-opportunity: Bella’s boring! Stephenie Meyer is a terrible writer! Kristen Stewart acts with her hair, Taylor Lautner isn’t tall or buff enough, and, for the love of Bram Stoker, the vampires sparkle!

In New Moon, however — the second film adaptation of Meyer’s four-book series now dubbed The Twilight Saga — glitter is the least of the lead bloodsucker’s problems. Because even the harshest critics of the tween-scream franchise have got to admit that being cast as Edward, the Hawtest Vampire of Them All, has, ironically, done star Robert Pattinson no favors. His main job in the first film was to brood, crush on, and brood some more, acting like he’s the sexiest, most pretentious being un-alive.

In the follow-up, he’s onscreen half as much but looks twice as ridiculous: The story has the sullen Cullen dumping his true-but-mortal love, Bella (Stewart), after she suffers a paper cut at a birthday party thrown by his family. Even though the Cullens are “vegetarian” vamps, the trickle of blood sends even the most well-intentioned of them into a feral tizzy. Edward, being the controlling 109-year-old ass that he is, decides that it’s too dangerous for them to be together. He and the fam abruptly leave town, giving Bella no further explanation than “You’re no good for me.”

So Pattinson is not a huge presence in New Moon, but when he is — oof. The opportunity has obviously made him a megastar and boosted him onto that golden road out of obscurity, but director Chris Weitz (taking the reins from the first film’s Catherine Hardwicke) and scripter Melissa Rosenberg make the actor look like a fool. He mumbles gag-me lines such as, “You give me everything just by breathing.” (Hope that you get lucky and land in a theater with a good sound system, because his persistent monotone is kinda difficult to decipher.) He moves in slow-motion. (The better to emphasize his perfectness, since Meyer can’t plaster the description onscreen like she does on every other page of her books.) And, worst, a relatively clever concept in the novel — Bella hears Edward’s voice whenever she’s in danger — is rendered by showing his disembodied head and/or torso floating around Bella. If Pattinson’s got talent, New Moon has ensured that it’s been shrouded, stomped, and snuffed.

Slightly less cheesy is the film’s big special effect, courtesy of what keeps Bella from perpetually clutching her stomach in first-love heartbreak: Jacob Black (Lautner), a Native American who becomes her best friend, discovers he’s a werewolf, and is therefore Edward’s natural enemy. Growling, posturing, and awful-looking transformations ensue, though mostly Jacob and the rest of his pack just hang around with their shirts off. It’s probably safe to assume that Lautner’s role in future films is now secure, but it’s a good thing he’s cut — when the actor opens his mouth, well, let’s just say his award chances are MTV-level at best.

Despite its weaknesses, however, New Moon is a slight improvement over the first Twilight, whose action was composed mostly of yearning and then dull requited love. Stewart’s perfectly adequate as the introspective and insecure Bella; even when she petulantly spits out lines such as, “If this is my soul, take it, I don’t want it!” you have to keep in mind that one can only do so much when the writing is trite to begin with. A pervasive indie soundtrack blaring at odd times is an occasional distraction, but it’s still just a drop in a bucket of bad.

On the plus side: Dakota Fanning makes a compellingly vicious vampire in a tiny part, and it’s interesting to see Michael Sheen, a werewolf in the Underworld films, play for the other team. Weitz’s most triumphant moment, though, is his perfect ending — it’s actually a smart snip of the book’s final chapter, not just a celebratory moment because the credits are about to roll.