[Warning: Spoilers ahead]
More shirtless boys
We all hoped to get a glimpse of Edward's alabaster chest in Volterra, but who knew we'd get to see so much hot werewolf skin? Thankfully, the Wolf Pack run such high temperatures and explode away their clothes so frequently that cut-off jeans and no shirt are their shared ensemble of choice.
We get more fights, including an awesome Volturi throw down.
New Moon the book is infamous for its slow pacing, thanks to Bella's crippling depression (see below). So it's a good thing that the film throws in fistfights, wolf skirmishes, and chase scenes to liven things up a bit more. Our favorite: watching Volturi guard Felix put the smack down on our precious Edward, a scene crafted for the film.
Instead of talking to herself, Bella sends emails to Alice
New Moon, like all of the Twilight books, makes frequent use of Bella's internal voice-overs to tell us what's going on in that angsty head of hers. In New Moon, Bella writes emails to her lost BFF, Alice, to work through her issues. We still get the voice-overs, but they're cleverly disguised as Bella's messages to Alice, and therefore much less "Vampire Diaries." (Also, creating a movie email address for Alice was a clever way to sneak in product placement for Apple's MobileMe email application.)
Bella's (a little) less mopey than she is in the books.
Much of the book is devoted to Bella's heartbreaking, months-long break-up depression, so it's a good thing that the film condenses her lost period a bit for the sake of storytelling. Critics complain already that Bella spends so much time staring into space, pining over Edward; if only they knew how much more we/she suffer in the books! Thankfully, Rosenberg's script snaps Bella out of her funk and moves on, sort of, in a relatively short span of time.
Bella's months-long depression, in the blink of an eye
Fans were wondering how Chris Weitz would treat the infamous "lost" months of Bella's depression, which are depicted by blank pages in the book. After all, October, November, December, and January fly by as voids of nothingness to the girl. Weitz and Rosenberg's solution? A clever scene where Bella sits listless in front of her window as the camera moves around her to show the changing seasons outside. The trick captures her melancholia and is perfectly punctuated by Lykke Li's haunting, wistful track, "Possibility."
Edward doesn't hide Bella's photos.
In the book, when Edward decides to break up with Bella and leave town, he also sneaks into her room and hides her photos of him so that she'll have no reminders at all that he existed – a complete and total abandonment. (Can you imagine a world without pictures of RPattz? It would be horrible, indeed.) In the film, we see him in her room, but there's no messing with photographs, which would have been an unnecessary minor plot point anyway. Plus, those folks who think Edward's a little stalker-like might have been even more creeped out by him rifling through her stuff. Instead, we get the full impact of Edward's absence in Bella's misery.
Jacob gives Bella a dream catcher.
One new scene in the film has Jacob giving Bella a dream catcher for her birthday, killing two birds with one stone in the process: giving her a present when Edward feels he cannot and putting the mack on her with a big bear hug right in front of Edward. Bella hangs the dream catcher above her pillow, but unfortunately for her, it doesn't help keep the nightmares away.
Bella goes for a bike ride at One Eyed Pete's.
Bella's attempt to put herself out there by going to Port Angeles with Jessica takes a dangerous (and hilarious) turn when she accepts a ride with a burly, beefy biker in order to hang on to her visions of Edward. In the book, she stops short of hopping on the chopper, but in the film she takes a full-on joyride with a stranger. How boring would it have been if she'd just turned around and walked back to safety?
More snarky Anna Kendrick
Besides giving Bella her very first brush with danger, the biker scene serves another purpose: letting Anna Kendrick shine. As Jessica, Kendrick once again steals every scene she's in, and Bella's foolish biker episode gives her some of her very best frenemy lines of dialogue. Bonus: Kendrick's blissfully ignorant snark attack on zombie movies.
Two words: Face Punch
In addition to the zombie genre, New Moon has a little something to say about stupid action flicks. One of the best additions to the script involves Bella, Mike Newton, Jacob, and a popular (fake) blockbuster movie entitled Face Punch. (Tagline: "Let's DO this!")
Visions of RPattz dance in Bella's head.
While Bella's hallucinations of Edward in the books are purely auditory, there's no way that would fly in the film. So Weitz injects plenty of pretty Rob Pattinson shots throughout the entire duration of Edward's absence, scrumptious visions that come and go like wisps of smoke. And really, there's tons of RPattz bookmarking New Moon, so we don't miss him all that much. (What am I saying? There's always room for more RPattz!)
Victoria is definitely in the water.
When Bella is drowning after cliff-diving in New Moon, we clearly see Victoria swimming toward her in the water right before Jacob pulls her out of the water – something that was hinted at, but kept ambiguous, in the books. We like it better this way, as it makes Bella's danger more present and, let's be real, gives Rachelle Lefevre a little more to do, considering that she has exactly zero lines in the whole movie.
Bella hits Paul in the face
In a film packed with phasing wolves and marble-cracking vampire fights, it's nice to see Bella get a little action. Angry that they've brainwashed her beloved Jacob, Bella confronts the Wolf Pack, shoves Sam Uley, and smacks Paul right in the kisser! Sure, it seems a little out of character, but at least in this moment, Bella is an agent of action and not merely reacting to the people around her. Plus, it leads into Paul's transformation and Jacob's mid-air phase, and the huge revelation of the Quileute secret.
Carlisle's Volturi painting comes to life.
Instead of waiting ‘til the end to meet the Volturi, we get an early peek at them when Carlisle's painting comes to life as Edward explains their history to Bella. Thank goodness! It would be such a waste to have even less of Aro & Co. in New Moon than the brief sequence we already get.
Victoria attacks Harry Clearwater.
While tracking the Wolf Pack – and slyly covering their footprints – Harry Clearwater suffers a fatal heart attack in the woods. But in the film, we see that Harry's heart attack comes from the shock of being attacked by Victoria, who is seen stalking Charlie's hunting party from up in the trees. The change here allows plot points to converge, as the ensuing wolf pursuit of Victoria runs parallel to Bella's fateful cliff-jump into the ocean. And again, it gives Rachelle Lefevre something to do.
New Moon has way more funnies
Credit Rosenberg for injecting more sly humor into New Moon, which was especially necessary in this installment. Supporting humans like Jessica, Mike, and Charlie add levity to their scenes with the somber Bella, while more subtle winks, like the comparison of werewolfiness to a "lifestyle choice" and Bella's transatlantic ride aboard a Virgin Atlantic airplane, display a self-aware sense of humor.
Jacob and Bella almost kiss. Twice
New Moon is Jacob's movie, so Rosenberg rewards him with not one, but two almost-kisses. If you look closely, their lips ACTUALLY TOUCH the second time!
Jacob and Edward face off in the woods – just not when you expect.
If you've read New Moon, you're already expecting the tense "treaty" discussion between Jacob and Edward. Rosenberg wisely juggles the timeline a bit, placing it before the key conclusion (see #19), and adds one last phase for the furious Jacob. (It's the closest Bella's two men come to blows in New Moon.)
Rosenberg saves the best for last, leaving Bella (and us) with the biggest possible cliffhanger. Again, the re-jiggered placement of the scene works better cinematically, and leads into the next film, Eclipse!
When Aro "sees" Alice's vision of the future, he lets her, Edward, and Bella go with the knowledge that sometime soon, Bella will become a vampire. As a special treat, the film shows us Alice's vision of Edward and Bella running through the woods (alas, in giggle-worthy outfits and slow motion). But after the snickers die down, think about exactly what you are seeing and you'll realize that it's essentially a preview of sorts… of something with the initials B and D!
That said, there are a couple of changes that don't work so well. Jacob's mood swing in the theater and subsequent threat of physical violence to poor Mike Newton seems incredibly out of character. Later in the film when the phone rings in Bella's kitchen, Jacob definitely knows it's Edward on the phone (as opposed to thinking it's Carlisle as in the book), which makes him more of a jerk.
Did you notice other differences between The Twilight Saga: New Moon and Stephenie Meyer's book?