New Moon: Twilight Shows More Skin, Adds Zombies!

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130 minutes. That’s the running time of “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.” And at minute 125, audiences of swooning tweens around the world will let out an audible gasp before erupting into cheers. At least that’s what happened late Wednesday on New York’s Upper West Side, when the very first “New Moon” audience lost its collective marbles. Let’s be honest: There were tears of joy in the lobby afterward.

This climactic Big Surprise really isn’t a surprise to anyone; it plays out just as it does in the book. But then again, the “Twilight” film franchise hasn’t been about surprises, but about managing and satisfying expectations. Even after the first film frustrated some fans with its inept acting, the vast majority have still lined up to eagerly await Thursday night’s premiere of chapter two. And so that’s why we all were there last night for round two, tweens all around us squirming in their seats, giddy to see Edward strut, Jacob show off his new chiseled abs, and Bella bite her lip as she swings between heartache and ecstasy.

But, alas, I’m not here to provide a full summary or review. We’re not here to pass judgment on the whole “Twilight” fad. As far as we’re concerned, more fantasy in the world makes us happy, and even if Robert Pattinson can’t act worth a lick, one more vampire in the world is cause for celebration.

I’m here for first impressions – to break down the five bold and beautiful “New Moon” moments that definitely rocked the house last night:

- Far and away the best sequence of the film is the showdown between Victoria and the werewolves, a rather elaborate chase sequence filmed from overhead, as the vampire zigzags through the trees to the electronic pulses of Thom Yorke’s “Hearing Damage.” I was reminded of some of those elaborate, long-form chase scenes from “Fellowship of the Ring,” and for a moment we are allowed to step away from the sappy speeches and saccharine romance to indulge a moment of actual terror in the woods. All scored to Yorke’s tortured, traumatic voice.

- A close runner up is the showdown between Paul and Jacob – two of the various men in “New Moon” who run around without the basic comfort of a t-shirt (hope they’re wearing sunscreen). With Bella being threatened by the remainder of the pack, Jacob sprints from the house, jumps over her, and mutates in front of our eyes, launching himself into a vicious wolf-on-wolf scrap that sends both animals hurling at the camera. It’s the speed that makes this duel so impressive – there’s a real ferocity to the way these behemoths move. When they fall, the Earth shakes.

- And then there’s Edward’s striptease. So as it turns out, when a vampire gets really sad, sometimes he is tempted to take his clothes off and step into the sunlight. Sometimes the director has some fun with where he crops the image. And yet Bella, who sprints to save her naked Beau, doesn’t seem to notice that it’s all hanging out there, for the world to see. Just a quick peck on the lips, and the red robe. Really?

- Unlike Edward, Bella doesn’t get naked when she’s depressed. She jumps off cliffs into the ocean instead, hoping for a quick rush of adrenaline. In one of “New Moon’s” spookiest moments, Bella is pounded below the water’s surface by the incoming surf and Edward’s face slowly rises up to meet her from the ocean depths. It’s a slow, creepy, haunting reveal that’s stark and breathtaking – surely that something would have made Jean Vigo proud. Oh who am I kidding, there’s no way “New Moon” fans are catching that reference.

- And yes, zombies! Early in the film a heartbroken Bella, trying to get over Edward, hits up the movies with Jessica. What film do they choose? A zombie thriller – in fact, a zombie film that Jessica criticizes for its pretentious commentary on consumerism. It’s a funny line, and a playful backdrop; as if vampires and werewolves weren’t enough!