Hidden from critics until last night, here's...

The Twilight Saga: New Moon


She should so choose Jacob.

From an opening dream sequence that echoes Wild Strawberries to a cliffhanger finale featuring an ingeniously hammy Michael Sheen—and especially in the middle, while a shirtless wolfpack broods and brawls across the screen—New Moon is infinitely better than Twilight. Sorry, Portland: The sexually repressed vampire picture Catherine Hardwicke filmed here can't hold a candle to the woozy vampires-vs.-werewolves sequel Chris Weitz didn't film here. (He went to British Columbia instead.) The new movie is so much better, in fact, that I find myself wondering if it might actually be…no, it couldn't be…is it good? God help me. I've become a 12-year-old girl.more

All I can remember from Twilight are the locations and a lot of white greasepaint on Robert Pattinson's face, but a return to my original review tells me it was a thinly veiled "True Love Waits" rally. This one? Well, it's basically a supernatural Dawson's Creek—a humiliatingly addictive soap opera in the meadows, with glampire Edward (Pattinson) as Dawson and Native American beefcake Jacob (Taylor Lautner) as Pacey. Like all sane people, I preferred Pacey: The ill-tempered interloper is always more interesting than the cosmic soulmate. And so it is here, even if once again neither boy can really act.

As our story resumes, Bella Swan—cripes, these names!—is still dating Edward, and begging him to penetrate her. It is, after all, her eighteenth birthday. He's 109. "Maybe I shouldn't be dating such an old man," she jokes, making an observation she studiously avoided for the entirety of Twilight. "It's gross." Kristen Stewart continues to play Bella as a twine-ball of hormones, though her performance suffers from a poutiness that I don't remember in her other roles—is it a magazine-cover effect? It's enough to send Edward packing, with an explanation about how if he just went and bit her already, she'd be eternally damned. This speech accomplishes two laudable goals: It give overdue exposure to the creepy religious subtext of all this chastity-belting, and it gets rid of the paleface for most of the remaining movie.

Bella's resultant massive sulk is relieved by the arrival of Jacob, who then proceeds to also leave her in order to join a muffin-baking werewolf tribe. It is somewhat convenient that the gang is required to not wear shirts. At the same time she's palling with Jake, Bella has become a thrill junkie, in order to see visions of an Admonitory Edward Ghost (it's a kinky sub-Looking for Mr. Goodbar thing), and this is how she finds out what's been causing all the damage in the woods. "They're not bears!" she informs her dad.

You see how it goes. Yet the events of New Moon proceed with astonishing good humor and an even more surprising lack of hyperbole. Halfway through, I wrote a somewhat disappointed note: "Not much to mock, really." Since Stephenie Meyer's dialogue is still breathtakingly stupid, Weitz has chosen to express most of Bella's moods wordlessly, and the Golden Compass director has a knack for borderline poetic visuals. (I especially liked a shot of a crow suspended in midair, passed by a super-fast bloodsucker who appears to be jogging in real time.)

Look, this isn't Shakespeare, even if some Romeo and Juliet pentameter is recited. But it's got some lightheaded energy, and it's got Michael Sheen at the end, taking a break from Brit fare like The Damned United to unite the damned. (He has more fun than all the teens combined, simply by darting his red eyes.) The whole affair is like watching Gus Van Sant film a Dungeons and Dragons convention: Shirtless boys jump in the air, and they land as snarling CGI wolves. This is a lot more fun than vampires moaning through a baseball game. So I can't defend New Moon, but yeah, fine: I liked it. I'm going to go write in my diary now. PG-13. AARON MESH. Broadway Metro 4 Theatres, Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99 Stadium 11, Cinemas Bridgeport Village Stadium 18 IMAX, Cinetopia, City Center Stadium 12, Cornelius 9 Cinemas, Division Street Stadium 13, Evergreen Parkway Stadium 13, Hilltop 9 Cinema, Lloyd Center Stadium 10 Cinema, Lloyd Mall 8 Cinema, Moreland Theatre, Movies On TV Stadium 16, Oak Grove 8 Cinemas, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Roseway Theatre, Sandy Cinemas, Sherwood Stadium 10, St. Johns Twin Cinemas and Pub, Tigard 11 Cinemas, Wilsonville Stadium 9 Cinema.