Things — and people — heat up in this third chapter in the “Twilight” saga. Bella (Kristen Stewart) begins by quoting Robert Frost’s famous poem about whether the world will end in fire or ice. That will be more than a metaphor as she must decide between Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner), both more than human, and both utterly devoted to her. Both, too, have sworn to keep her safe, and at times during this chapter that forces them into a grudging and very uneasy alliance.
Bella met Edward, a vampire, and they realized they loved each other in “Twilight.” And then in “New Moon” being separated and almost losing each other showed them that they could not be apart. But it also gave Bella a chance to grow close to Jacob, a shape-shifter who is part of a wolf pack. In this chapter, Bella and Edward are back together and she wants to become a vampire so they can stay together forever, even though it would mean giving up everyone else she has ever cared about. But Jacob insists that he loves her and is better for her. “You wouldn’t have to change for me,” he tells her.
And at graduation, Bella’s friend Jessica (“Up in the Air’s” Anna Kendrick) addresses the class, telling them that this is not the time to make irrevocable decisions.
Edward does not want her to change. He misses his human life and knows what it would mean to give it up. And his sister Rosalie tells Bella she feels the loss of her dream of living in a normal world. Bella worries that she might lose what it is that Edward loves about her if she becomes a vampire. But if she does not, she will lose him as she grows old while he stays forever young.
Edward and his family are benign vampires, living among humans and confining themselves to a sort of vampire vegetarianism, with animals as their only source of blood. But two groups of evil, destructive vampires are after them, Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, taking over from Rachelle Lefevre), bent on revenge because Edward killed her lover when he attacked Bella, and the Volturi, a ruling body that destroys any members of the vampire community they believe put them at risk of exposure.
Director David Slade ably takes over from Chris Weitz and Catherine Hardwicke, staying consistent with their vision but demonstrating his own take on the key elements of the story, adolescent longing and primal physical confrontations. Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, continues her skillful adaptation of the books, respectful of the source material but translating it for cinematic story-telling. They maintain a connection that makes the the Northwest settings and the intensity of the fantasy battles feel like a physical manifestation of the between the teenage angst and desire.
Stewart and Pattinson still have the chemistry that launched dozens of magazine covers and Lautner really comes into his own in this chapter, showing more confidence and maturity as his character grows up. Like the book, this chapter has more action, more romance, and more drama, and sets us up very nicely for the grand finale.