An ultrapurist wouldn't let on in this review that Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), the Quileute Indian tribesman and childhood pal of vampire-smitten high school senior Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), reveals himself as a werewolf in The Twilight Saga: New Moon. (He also reveals himself as one tasty chunk of vealcake.) But I'm trusting that between the millions of Twilighters who have already read all four books in Stephenie Meyer's blockbuster series, and the additional billions who have seen the movie trailer, the beast is already out of the bag. The excellent news for fans is that this sequel to 2008's Twilight is a durable, recognizably faithful movie adaptation of New Moon. That, of course, is the second installment, in which Bella, a dazed, confused, moody, and otherwise identifiable teen-y girl, and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a smoldering, inscrutable, broody, and otherwise identifiable teen-throb vampire, swear true and chaste love while trying to keep their hands off each other.
Actually, Bella is longing to go all the way even though sex = undeath. But Edward abandons her in a supreme act of self-control. It's only then that the devastated Bella, drawn to taking all sorts of crazy human risks, re-bonds with Jacob during a couple of motorcycle rides without helmets. Meanwhile, Edward heads to Italy to visit the high-class Volturi branch of the vampire empire, crossing paths with an enticing Dakota Fanning as Jane the pain-inflicter and, in a yummy little part, The Queen's Michael Sheen as Aro, a Volturi thought-reader.
The production itself, directed by Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass) from a script by Melissa Rosenberg, is fan-ready and saga-solid. Weitz goes for an appealing, slightly old-fashioned look, one in which the near-constant rain nicely mirrors Bella's internal weather conditions. (As embodied by Stewart, she's one pained and stormy chick.) Pattinson looks, to these post-teen eyes, even more to-die-for, with his red lips, amber eyes, and major hair. I wish Jacob, endowed with Lautner's lithe bod and Matt Damonesque grin, had more of a chance with Bella. But, well, book readers know best what happens next in Eclipse. Everyone else can catch up on screen next year. Guaranteed, it will still be raining in Forks, Wash. B+