SDCC: New Moon footage brings down house

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

After 11 minutes of comparatively unimportant footage from Summit's upcoming films Astro Boy and Sorority Row, moderator Eric Moro introduced director Chris Weitz and stars Ashley Greene, Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson for a preview of the upcoming Twilight sequel, New Moon. To describe the scene as Beatlesque hysteria Thursday at Comic-Con in San Diego would be to undersell the volume and intensity of the attendees' enthusiasm, but it should come as some small comfort to boyfriends and fanboys (as opposed to fangirls) that the footage screened seems like a vast improvement over the quality of the first film.

Explaining that New Moon appealed to him because "it dealt with all of these emotions that everybody feels," Weitz introduced a clip from the film in which Jacob (Lautner) and Bella (Stewart) share an intimate moment while he tries to teach her to ride a motorcycle. After their hands briefly intertwine when he shows her how to manipulate the throttle and brake, she slowly takes off down a dirt road, only to find herself racing past images of Edward (Pattinson); distracted, she crashes the bike, and Jacob races to make sure she's all right. As she sits up, Jacob notices her head is bleeding and removes his shirt to blot the blood from her forehead.

Suffice it to say that Jacob removing his shirt elicited the biggest reaction, but what stands out most about the scene is how much more sophisticated and well executed it was than virtually any of the action scenes in the first film. And while the scene might not quite qualify as action, it promised a generally better and more cinematic experience for folks who are still on the fence about Twilight, or otherwise contemplating how many times their significant other will drag them to see it.

Describing the differences between Twilight and New Moon, Lautner said, "Jacob goes through a lot in this film," but Pattinson said the increased technical challenges actually made his work easier. "I did very little," he confessed. He said that most of his work involved standing on a green box while "machines did all the acting, which is what I like." But Stewart observed that Bella had a strength that could sometimes be construed as selfishness: "She's intent on doing what she needs to do for herself, just feels what she feels and that's it, especially with [Edward]."

Lautner indicated he feels more kinship with Jacob in Twilight than in New Moon. "I like Jacob more in his pre-transformation scenes, because that's when he goes wacko." But when Pattinson was asked how much he shares in common with Edward Cullen, Weitz interrupted, joking, "He's very cold to the touch, and his skin feels like marble. He glows like a diamond when the sun hits him." Pattinson himself had little to add, although he did admit he "looks a little like Edward."

In reference to the fan reaction videos, Weitz said that he "could not be more pleased and tickled by them," although he added that "they are incredibly amusing." But as the start of production on the next Twilight gears up, the actors expressed excitement about working with 30 Days of Night director David Slade, while Lautner indicated he was specifically anticipating exploring the chemistry between his character and Pattinson's. "I look forward to when me and this guy have to become friends to protect Bella," he said.

Before the end of the panel, Weitz confessed that his last experience—working on New Line's epic adaptation of The Golden Compass—was "terrible," and then went on to set up a clip which, quite frankly, he should and can be much more enthusiastic about. In the scene, Alice (Ashley Greene) drives Bella through the winding streets of Italy as passersby wearing red cloaks make way for them. Explaining to Bella that only she can save Edward, Alice lets her out of the car as a processional reaches its destination in a sunny square. As she clumsily pushes her way through the crowd, she emerges from the mass of bodies onto the lip of a fountain, across from which Edward is unbuttoning his shirt and planning to step out into the sunlight to kill himself.

In slow motion, Bella runs toward him, providing the most beautiful and exciting shot of the footage screened. As Edward finished unbuttoning and removing his shirt, Bella runs to him, yelling, "Stop, Edward!" But before she can reach him, the screen goes to black, and the film's logo replaces their impending clinch on the screen.

It's easy--and perhaps not undeserved--to make fun of the enthusiasm the crowd had for the film, and of course Pattinson in particular. Indeed, squeals of excitement frequently obscured both questions and answers during the panel. But as a genre film that even remotely has a possibility of entertaining the folks who attend conventions like Comic-Con, New Moon truly looks superior to its predecessor, even if it's not quite destined to replace the rest of the crowd's excitement for Avatar or any of a dozen other decidedly more masculine properties. New Moon opens Nov. 20.