New Moon eclipses all the box-office competition

Not since Harry Potter first cast a spell over cinema audiences has a franchise based on a series of best-selling novels been as totally critic-proof as The Twilight Saga.

The good-looking cast could probably stare silently into the camera for two hours and fans of Stephenie Meyer's teen romances would still flock to the multiplexes in their millions.

Thankfully, Chris Weitz's eagerly anticipated rendering of the second installment in the four-book saga is both entertaining and more polished than its predecessor.

Hunky male leads Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner spend an inordinate amount of time with their shirts off, the latter sporting a washboard chest and abs that must have taken hours of work in a gym.

New Moon is too long – 15 minutes of gloom and adolescent angst could easily have been excised from the opening act, but the target audience is unlikely to complain.

Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg sensibly spends the entire middle act establishing the love triangle that sustains not just this film but also the next, Eclipse, due in cinemas in July 2010.

This is soap opera writ large, complete with a cliffhanger finale that leaves the audience teetering on the edge of their seats until next summer.

The love affair between teenage misfit Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) reaches a crossroads, and the paths ahead all lead to heartbreak.

Edward and the Cullen clan – Dr Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), Esme (Elizabeth Reaser), Alice (Ashley Greene), Jasper (jackson Rathbone), Emmett (Kellan Lutz) and Rosalie (Nikki Reed) – are forced to abandon the close-knit community of Forks, Washington if Bella is ever to be safe.

Abandoned by her soul(less) mate, the teenager becomes a shadow of her former self until her relationship with buffed-up family friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) takes an exciting, new turn.

Bloodthirsty predator Laurent (EdGathegi) returns to deal Bella a fatal blow at the behest of vengeful Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre) but a new protector is there in the girl's hour of need.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon is glossy froth but it's extremely well made, apart from some of the digitally generated werewolves.


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