It's Friday morning, and the opening midnight screenings of "New Moon" have come and gone. But it's not just devoted vampire lovers and werewolf fiends who got early looks at the film. Premieres and screenings have taken place across the country, and loads of folks have already been able to see the second installment in Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" vampire series.
Now, let's be honest, if you're a committed Twilighter, you surely already plunked down some cash for an opening weekend trip to the cinema and are counting the minutes until showtime. Or maybe you're sitting on the "Twilight" fence, unsure if all the breathless enthusiasm for Edward and Bella can possibly live up to the hype. Well, the "New Moon" reviews have flooded in to help you decide. Agree or disagree, here are what the critics are saying about the film.
Perhaps the most notable difference between "Twilight" and "New Moon" — aside from Taylor Lautner's new muscles — is the look and style of the film after a new director came on board the franchise. "Director Chris Weitz ('The Golden Compass') has crafted a film with visual flair and polish, particularly in the action sequences of werewolves vs. vampires," writes USA Today's Claudia Puig. "Fortunately, he is more sparing with the tight close-ups and swirling shots that typified 'Twilight' director Catherine Hardwicke's dizzying style."
And then, of course, there are the film's three leads. Not all critics were taken with their performances, but many gave them props. "Kristen Stewart is a little twitchy ('Can't she get through one scene without playing with her hair?' a friend of mine sniped afterward) but her antics and moody moping are perfectly appropriate to the troubled-teen character," declares Stephen Whitty of the New Jersey Star-Ledger. "As for her co-stars — well, they do exactly what they need to do, which is embody two separate kinds of wish-fulfillments for the fans. A newly buff Taylor Lautner is hunky, often shirtless — and very much the Bad Boy (complete with motorcycle and delinquent friends) every girl is warned about. And Robert Pattinson — all tousled locks and malnourished torso — has all the troubled anguish of the Sensitive Soul No One Understands."
Our own Kurt Loder was thrilled to see Lautner take over from Pattinson for a large part of the movie. "Last year's sensitive hunk, with his pasty face and glum, mopey demeanor, is no match for this year's actual hunk; and Jacob — vibrant, funny and madly muscular — romps off with the picture," he says.
The supporting cast come in for especially high praise. "Michael Sheen takes a break from playing historical figures like David Frost and Tony Blair and gets to overact shamelessly as Aro, the head of the vampire council known as the Volturi," says the Boston Globe's Ty Burr. "Better yet, there's Dakota Fanning, God bless her, showing Stewart how it's done in one nifty scene as a vampirette with sadistic mental powers and old-school movie presence. Anna Kendrick also walks away with her one scene as Bella's tart high school pal, Jessica."
While many critics acknowledge how the film serves its base, they argue that "New Moon" won't hit home for those less familiar with franchise mythology. "[E]xpect this film to satisfy its fans," explains Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle. "Everybody else, get ready for a bizarre soap opera/pageant, consisting of a succession of static scenes with characters loping into the frame to announce exactly what they're thinking. Then they spell out their personalities for us. Here is an emotionally tortured vampire. Here is a perky, friendly vampire. And don't forget the vampire who is a dedicated physician."
So while not every critic may get the "Twilight" phenomenon, fans undoubtedly will. " 'New Moon' is not all love and hisses," says the Toronto Star's Peter Howell. "Although tangled romance is more the emphasis this time out — 'Romeo and Juliet' allusions are driven home like a stake through the heart — there are action set pieces designed to thrill genre movie lovers. They'll likely scare the daylights out of everyone else."
Check out everything we've got on "The Twilight Saga: New Moon." For young Hollywood news, fashion and "Twilight" updates around the clock, visit HollywoodCrush.MTV.com.