The wait is over
To say the Twilight saga is just another popular teen romance would possibly be the biggest understatement of the decade and would be likely to get you ambushed by angry teenage girls.
The best-selling series by Stephenie Meyer not only revives an obsession with vampires and instils unrealistic expectations in young girls, it goes beyond a love story to become a cultural phenomenon. What's more, it has the power to split the female population into opposing sides - Team Edward and Team Jacob.
Regardless of which side they fall of the vampire-werewolf divide, young girls will flock into cinemas this Thursday for New Moon, the second instalment of the four-part story. The hotly anticipated follow-up to Twilight - which grossed more than US$350 million worldwide despite its very humble budget - is set to work another movie miracle thanks to the presence of the hyperventilation-inducing Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner.
The movie opens at Bella's (Kristen Stewart) 18th birthday party. A tiny paper cut turns the celebration into the end of the vampire-human love story. In order to protect the clumsy, stubborn girl, vegetarian vampire Edward (Pattinson) decides to desert her. Heartbroken and numb, Bella sleepwalks through her senior year until she discovers she can feel Edward's presence whenever she's in trouble.
Helping her overcome her misery is best friend Jacob Black (Lautner), a member of the Quileute tribe, sworn enemies of the vampires. But just as Bella starts feeling alive again, Jacob's attitude - and physique - changes abruptly. Before Bella can make sense out of the chaotic love-triangle, she is forced to embark a journey to Italy to save her true love.
New Moon is directed by Chris Weitz, who takes over from Catherine Hardwicke who helmed Twilight. Weitz has been widely praised for faithfully adapting works like About A Boy and The Golden Compass. Millions of Twilighters are praying that New Moon will capture the brooding romantic vibe of the story, unlike its mediocre precedent. To stay true to the original, Weitz consulted the author on even the tiniest details.
'It was vital for us to really honour Stephenie's creation and the fans that love the Twilight series,' says producer Wyck Godfrey.
'What we didn't want to do was take her books and try to reinvent them. Chris [Weitz] fell in love with the books and he knew how to bring the story to life and keep it rooted in reality. That was essential.'
The story also acts as a bridge to what is still to come, plot-wise. As well as inheriting the likeable Cullen clan from the first film, Weitz has to cast and introduce two major families to the saga - the Volturi vampires and the Quileute Wolf-pack.
Joining the Volturi clan are British actor Michael Sheen as the majestic Aro and Dakota Fanning as the sweet-faced but fearsome Jane. The brotherly Wolf-pack consists mainly of new actors of Native American descent who, with the help of cutting-edge CGI, elegantly transition from humans to horse-sized wolves.
The addition of the two families may mean audiences have yet more characters to remember, but most importantly they have had a major impact on the atmosphere of the films and even the filming process.
'The Wolf-pack brought a lot of energy to the set,' says Stewart. 'They were always working out and practising wolf cries ... They're warm and fun and frisky,' adding, perhaps rather dryly that the werewolves are 'full of life in a way the vampires aren't'.